Have you ever had the perfect Florida day? There's something so remarkable about a day spent exploring a Florida destination you haven't been to before. This month my husband, son, and I explored a special place that is often overlooked: Historic Cocoa Village.
It's easy to focus on Cocoa Beach when you're headed out to the east coast. But just before you reach the shoreline you'll find the city of Cocoa, and within it is a charming shopping, dining, and recreation destination that was established over 100 years ago. Located along the Indian River, Cocoa Village combines a beach town setting with unique, historic charm. This walkable destination along Brevard Avenue, Harrison Street, and Delannoy Avenue is bustling with a blend of shops, restaurants, and art galleries. There's not a single chain business in sight.
Not to brag, but the day I had at Cocoa Village with my husband and son was pretty perfect. Here's how we explored, where we ate, and where we shopped.
After making the hour long drive from Seminole County, we parked on Maryland Avenue, just off Brevard Avenue and across from Murdock's Southern Bistro. It was just past 8:00 a.m. and we began walking north on Brevard Avenue, then turned on to Church Street and walked towards the water.
Soon we arrived at Cocoa Riverfront Park and I broke out into an ear to ear grin. This waterside park is host to many events throughout the year and offers beautiful views. Once my husband spotted a bench with a Jimmy Buffett song lyric painted on it, I felt right at home. Across from Cocoa Riverfront Park is a cute strip of restaurants (including Ryan's Pizza Pub) and other small businesses.
Right next to Cocoa Riverfront Park is Taylor Park. This quaint park was established in 1920. Painted benches, picnic tables, plenty of shade, and a playground make this a great spot to start your day if you arrive to Cocoa Village early. Our son played on the playground as we watched the Village wake up for the day.
While you're in the area, stop by Cozy Coffee and More, located right next to Taylor Park. I recommend the refreshing Sparkling Green Tea Lemonade.
Historic Cocoa Village Dining
The charming setting is perfect for outdoor seating at one of the many restaurants or cafes. There are enough choices you could plan to have every meal of the day here. Explore on your own, or join the Cocoa Village Food Tour with Village Food Tours for a tasty overview of the local options.
For an early morning sweet treat, head over to DA Bake Shop on Delannoy Avenue right across from Travis Hardware. The display case filled our sight with precious cupcakes and scrumptious looking donuts. We couldn't resist ordering some Key Lime Donuts, the perfect Florida sweet treat. If you see them in the display case, order them without hesitation.
For something light, or a midday pick-me-up, try Cozy Coffee and More near historic Taylor Park. If you're ready for brunch or lunch then consider OSSORIO Bakery and Café. There's not an official brunch menu here, but there are numerous sweet and savory items, plus the specialty coffee options are impressive. You can also order online, pick up at the window and walk just a few steps to Taylor Park or Cocoa Riverfront Park.
Lunch and dinner options abound between the many pubs and restaurants throughout the Village.
Our morning of exploration led to us being hungry and ready for lunch, so we grabbed a table at the back patio of Murdock's Southern Bistro. This casual spot is the perfect blend of beach town tavern and Southern Bistro. The menu is rather large and we could have easily ordered more, but we decided to share the Louisiana Hot Lobster, Spinach, and Artichoke Dip, and the Pulled Pork – at our son's request.
Both servings were massive. There was plenty to feed all three of us. The Louisiana Hot Lobster, Spinach, and Artichoke Dip gave me exactly what I wanted: classic hot sauce flavor among decadent creamy spinach and artichoke dip. Plenty of chunks of lobster filled the dip. The only thing that would have improved this starter would be toasted bread for dipping.
The Pulled Pork plate was piled high. A slice of garlic bread balanced on the edge with two sides of our choosing: sweet potato fries and jalapeño smoked gouda grits. Paired with some local craft beer, this meal was a southern delight. I regretted not getting the fresh catch fish, which was cobia and looked wonderful.
Check out George and Dragon English Tavern before you go. This tavern boasts an outdoor patio, a stage for live music, and a cozy interior. It's the perfect place to stop for a pint.
Other Dining Highlights
- The Village Bier Garten
- Pub American
- Tapas and Tacos
- El Bodegon
- Village Ice Cream and Sandwich
- Village Idiot Pub
- Dog and Bone British Pub
- Cyderman's Barbecue
- Dirty Oar Beer Company
- Murdock's Southern Bistro
- Ryan's Pizza and Pub
Check out the Visit Cocoa Village website for an overview of available dining options.
Historic Cocoa Village Shopping
I had to exercise some serious restraint when browsing the diverse shops in Cocoa Village. I am thinking a return visit in the fall to do some holiday shopping will be on my schedule later this year.
There's plenty of shade as you stroll throughout the village. Even window shopping is a delight.
Exploring Harrison Street is an absolute must-do. This short street is precious to me because it curves around a few trees, and there's also an out cove with a bench that makes way for a tree. You'll also find quite a few charming shops and cafes.
Brevard Avenue is the main avenue of the village. As you might expect, being near a beach town, there are plenty of Florida and beach inspired shops. But you'll also find tons of art alongside specialty shops. Browse unique wines and gifts at The Wine Lady, and make sure to stop by the Village General Store. The Cocoa Village Playhouse is here, as are countless shops and restaurants including Threadneedle Street Mall. Highlights of this collection of shops includes Caroline's Records and Frankly My Dear clothing. The Toy Box is right across the street and is a great stop for any families.
One of the highlights from our visit was a stop at The Sunshine Shop. As a Florida native, I loved being surrounded by shelves stocked with Florida gourmet sauces, cocktail mixes, and more. There's also handcrafted art, jewelry, clothing, and house wares made in Central America. Purchases from this shop benefit fair trade village communities in Central America and local Floridian food makers.
Having our son with us meant we absolutely had to stop at Antilles Trading Company and Pirate Museum. This specialty store has authentic pirate costumes, fun kids toys, and a back room with rare finds like first edition books and props from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. We bought a few little treasures to take home and were offered free tickets to the adjoining Pirate Museum as a thank you for our purchase. The amount of detail and knowledge that is packed into Pirate Museum impressed all three of us. There are way too many displays and exhibits to number. A few fun photo opportunities made our visit even more memorable. It is only one room, with a small backroom, but it is very well done and full of interesting details.
Find a full listing of local shops here.
Add in a Visit to Rockledge Gardens
After our spectacular morning in Cocoa Village, we had one more destination on our itinerary. Just ten minutes down US 1, Rockledge Gardens is touted as a destination garden center. I had never heard the term, but when we pulled into the parking lot, I knew it was the perfect description.
After walking under the entrance archway, endless rows of beautiful flowers, lush plants, trees, and so many places to explore greeted us. Staff members ready to answer questions appeared at every turn. And then I heard the live music. A garden center with live music? I rushed toward the sound to find a duo strumming along and singing on the front porch of the Farmer's Market building.
Inside the Farmer's Market building I found stalls displaying handmade goods from local artisans. You can also purchase specialty beer or wine to take home or enjoy as you stroll through the gardens.
Make sure to stop by The Cypress Table, which is a catering company that has a small market onsite offering some of their own products, as well as products from artisans in the area. I regretted not bringing a cooler. The Cypress Table has lots of fresh goods to take home like handmade hummus, dips, a small selection of produce, and specialty meats. The bacon looked incredible and had I brought a cooler bag I would’ve gladly brought some home. Many of these goods are sourced from local vendors and creatives, and The Cypress Table's space showcases these unique goods. Don’t make the same mistake I did!
I do not have much of a green thumb, so browsing the gardens was more about scenery and daydreaming. But it is such a lovely environment, especially with the live music. There's even a private event area, ideal for weddings.
Before we left Rockledge Gardens we stopped at the River Road popsicle and coffee stand. I was thankful for the dairy free options so my son could enjoy one. We went with the Grapefruit Lemonade popsicle for him, and I selected the Butterscotch Bliss bar. We sat among the gardens, enjoying our refreshing popsicles. It truly had been a perfect Florida day and wrapping up here made for the perfect ending.
All images by Dani Meyering