The town of Cocoa Beach, familiar to anyone who ever watched the 1960s space age sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, sits south of the Kennedy Space Center. Long before there were space shuttles, or even NASA, Cocoa Beach was home to the Cape Canaveral Air Station, the launch site for the unmanned space probes of the late 1950s, including the first U.S. satellite (Explorer 1), and the famous “astro chimps” (Gordo, Able, and Miss Baker, who were sent into orbit to test the effects of weightlessness). The air station, which is accessible through the Kennedy Space Center complex, has historical exhibits and dozens of missiles, from today’s Patriots back to German V2s (which were fired at England during World War II and provided the engineering basis for the American rockets of a decade later). The on-site museum includes early computers and other equipment, housed inside the blockhouse from which the first launches were controlled.
Though space travel is clearly on the minds of many residents, especially personnel stationed at Patrick Air Force Base here, another focus is catching the perfect wave: Cocoa Beach is surf center of the Space Coast. Along with a clean, 10-mile-long beach, the town also holds a batch of good-value motels, located within a short walk of the waves. Choose from chains (including a Motel 6), or check out the garish pink Fawlty Towers (100 E. Cocoa Beach Causeway/Hwy-520, 321/784-3870, $85 and up), which for fans of the eponymous British sitcom is sadly devoid of John Cleese or put-upon Juan. It is, however, walkably close to the beach, and right next door to Cocoa Beach’s main event, the massive Ron Jon Surf Shop (4151 N. Atlantic Ave., 321/799-8888, daily 24 hours a day), the place to buy or rent surfboards, body boards, or bicycles.