Enjoying a Day at the Historic Cocoa Beach Pier
If you’re visiting our beautiful area, there’s one place you’ll probably want to go: the beach. The surf culture, soft sandy shores, and shining sun have been drawing travelers for decades! If you’re visiting the area, there’s one place that you should stop by: Cocoa Beach Pier. For 50 years and counting, both visitors and locals swear by its cold beer and jaw-dropping view. This week, I stopped by the Pier with our photographer and we grabbed some great photos for a chance to show you guys this historic location.
A Look at the Past: Building the Pier
Local fisherman Richard Stottler built the pier in 1962, over 50 years ago. Originally called Canaveral Pier, it was made using 2.5 miles of boardwalk and 40-ft pilings, stretching 800 feet out into the Atlantic. Not only did this make it an amazing fishing spot, but it was perfect to watch the launches that gave the Space Coast its name. The pier was known as front-row seating through the Mercury, Apollo, and Space Shuttle launches because of its proximity to NASA. I recommend trying to catch a NASA/SpaceX rocket launch from there, but you can expect it to be packed! If you want to catch a launch from this choice spot, make sure to get there early.
As you can imagine, the surfing industry was quick to make its mark on the pier and bring vacationers from near and far. In 1963, one of the original Ron Jon Surf Shops opened up on the pier. They had so many visitors that they moved to a larger location (which you can visit today)! Everyone from the local fisherman to famous figures came to Canaveral Pier, including astronaut Alan Shepard. Surf festivals, live concerts, and tropical bars popped up and flourished, which meant that Canaveral Pier did too.
Cocoa Beach Pier Today
Remodeling of the Pier took place in 1983, costing over $2 million. New restaurants and expansions marked a new era for the Pier, and they changed the name to Cocoa Beach Pier the next year. The renovations succeeded in growing the Pier’s popularity, and today there are over 1 million visitors every year. The Pier stayed with the Stottler family until Westgate Resorts purchased Cocoa Beach Pier in 2014 with the idea to repair the Pier and grow it.
While some locals grumbled about this change, the President/CEO Mr. Seigel said that he wanted to keep the same family-friendly feeling that he experienced there over the years.
Having lived in the area with my family for over a decade, I have watched the changes as they happened. It’s different from when I grew up here, but the fun and tropical atmosphere hasn’t left. I still love the pier and while some of the menus and prices have changed, the view is just as breath-taking as always! As a local, I don’t get to visit as often as I would like. Some changes have happened since the last time I visited, so let’s take a look at what you’ll see if visiting in 2017.
Parking is Half the Battle
The parking spots haven’t increased in ten years so it’s no surprise that we spent about 15 minutes finding parking! There is paid parking, with some metered parking spots and a big “gated” area for parking. This big area has a flat fee like many beach-side parking areas. I’ve seen the price range from $5 to $20 depending on the season. It was $15 that day.
Try to get meter-parking unless you’re planning an all-day trip. The current price is $2.00 per hour. I estimate that there are only about 40 to 50 of these spaces, and they fill up fast. Those who are staying at the hotels have the best deal: park at the hotels nearby and then walk a short distance to the beach! Even on a Tuesday at 2:00 p.m., the parking was packed and it took about 10 or 15 minutes to claim a spot. Currently, parking is free on weekdays after 4:00 p.m. This helps keep costs down when going for dinner or to see the sunset!
If you need any beach supplies, run by Trader Rick’s Marketplace. You’ll pay more for the stuff inside than you would at Walmart, but that’s better than a sunburn or being stuck without a towel! Be sure to admire the Florida landscape mural with dolphins, fish, and manatees on the outside. This has been around for as long as I can remember, and it’s a landmark for many locals.
Beers, Burgers, and the Best Views
In 1983, there was only one restaurant on the pier, but today there is no shortage of options to choose from! Each of the five bars and restaurants has similar food and full bars. Depending on where you sit, you see a different part of the beach and sparkling blue ocean. The different locations offer options for covered and indoor seating, and they stretch from the entrance of the pier all the way to the end of it.
Entrance: Keith’s Oyster Bar and Sea Dogs
The beach and beer go hand-in-hand for many people, so it isn’t surprising how many restaurants and bars there are at the pier. The first two that you’ll see when you walk up are Keith’s Oyster Bar and Sea Dogs.
Many of you may have visited Keith’s Oyster Bar back when it was Aw Shucks, a very similar spot for raw seafood and steamed shrimp. With an open-air, casual atmosphere, it fits in perfectly with the scenery. Get raw oysters, fish dip, and more while you listen to live music and watch the waves. You’ll be farther away from the water with a view of the beach along the left side of the pier.
Sea Dogs is a cute, colorful hot dog and ice cream “stand” with a walk-up window and outdoor seating. Located across from Keith’s, it’s extremely casual and perfect for a walk-and-eat opportunity. Or, you can sit on either side to view either the entrance of the pier or the beach volleyball area on the right. By the beach, you can see a cool, old anchor from a whaling ship that was recovered in 1984. I grabbed a hot dog and soda from here for a pretty good price and sat back to enjoy the sunshine!
When You Walk Inside
Up the ramp, you will find small gift shops and more places to eat and drink. A long-time favorite of locals and vacationers is the Boardwalk Bar. They have the standard apps like onion rings, fish dip, and wings. You can also grab a burger or shrimp while you sit and enjoy the view, but watch the wind. As you can see, it’s very open and relaxed. Enjoy colorful, create-your-own mojitos, daiquiris, and coladas along with specialty drinks. If you’re looking for delicious, fruity, and fun drinks, this is a good place to grab one! Or, if you’re in the mood for a classic, they’re always happy to serve you a cold beer.
Are you looking for a souvenir or t-shirt? Tropical Threads Boutique and The Pier Shop are happy to help you. These shops are located along the left of the pier boardwalk. Even if you aren’t in a shopping mood, they are good for ducking in and cooling off while you browse for souvenirs.
Pelican’s Bar and Grill: An Air-Conditioned View
I went to Pelican’s Bar and Grill back when it was Atlantic Ocean Grille. Since the Cocoa Beach Pier has changed hands, the restaurants have changed their names and Pelican’s is no exception. But while the name has changed, the inside has remained pretty similar.
It’s a spacious, air-conditioned dining area with nice seating and reserved decorations. The best part about eating here isn’t the food, but the view. There is the same gorgeous, open view out over the water from the large floor-to-ceiling windows. While the dining atmosphere is a little less casual and the price is a little bit higher, the view is worth it. I recommend this for a date night, but be prepared to shell out more money for the food and drinks. If you aren’t in the mood for a nicer atmosphere or you can go without the view, choose one of the more casual places to eat. Of course, that’s just my opinion!
Rikki Tiki Tavern
Rikki Tiki Tavern, the newest addition to the pier, is super cool. There is a big bar surrounded by tables right out on the end of the pier. Yep, it’s 800 feet out into the ocean! Even if you aren’t grabbing a drink or a bite to eat, you should stroll over to the area to peer over the side and enjoy the brilliant blue waves. Interested in fishing? You can cast off this part of the pier’s boardwalk for a small fee. It’s a popular location for locals.
If you’ve never been to a tiki bar, now is your chance! The design of the whole area has carved tiki heads with palm frond thatch overhead. With the wind blowing and the island music playing, you’ll definitely feel the vacation vibe! Rikki Tiki Tavern has a limited menu, but the drink options are plentiful. I will warn you that this is probably the windiest part of the pier so you should hold onto your napkins.
Tips for the Pier
- Happy hour for almost all of the bars and restaurants is 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. during the week. Call ahead or check the Cocoa Beach Pier website to double check if you’re around in the off-season.
- The back half of the pier costs money to get to. Either a fishing fee or a $2 spectator fee has to be paid. The trick to getting around the spectator fee is to buy a drink or souvenir before you go back here. They will waive all fees with proof of purchase from any pier store!
- Don’t forget about the beach. Shelling, surfing, and beach volleyball are all available next to the pier, and you can rent umbrellas and chairs to relax in. Underneath the pier is also a pretty cool sight!
If you want to check out an amazing, historic location, you should visit the Cocoa Beach Pier. Whether you’re on your own and looking for a hangout or finding a fun place for family, you’ll enjoy a day at the pier. With great food, cold drinks, and a killer view of the sea, how can you say no?