Melbourne, FL

Cornthwaite John Hector is credited with founding Melbourne, Florida and was its first postmaster. It is said that Hector preferred a different name, but Mrs. R. W. Goode is credited with the suggestion for naming this small community nestled in a natural harbor of the Indian River Lagoon.

To the north, a sister settlement known at Eau Gallie began to grow. Ultimately, the two communities merged, officially becoming one town in 1969. Even today, Melbourne features two distinct downtown areas.

Barge traffic dwindled after the railroad roared into Melbourne in 1893, but the most dramatic change took place in 1919, when the entire downtown area was destroyed by fire.

Today, space travel is more the norm than train travel and the Space Coast itself is known as the high-tech center of the Southeast, with major technology corporations and technical schools in the area.

If it’s fun you’re after, you will have no problem occupying every moment. If you enjoy outdoor pursuits such as fishing or golf, you’ll find abundant opportunities for both. The Brevard Zoo offers up the wild side, and Space Coast Stadium draws baseball fans to watch the Washington Nationals during Spring Training and the Brevard Manatees in the summer. Special events such as the Grant Seafood Festival and Brevard Arts Festival take place throughout the year.

When temperatures soar, however, there are plenty of things to do indoors. There are many museums and galleries; entertainment ranges from Broadway shows to local theater productions. The Brevard Symphony Orchestra and community bands present performances year-round.

Cocoa Beach, FL

Situated in the middle of Florida’s Atlantic coast, Cocoa Beach caters to the young and the young at heart. It’s all there: sun-drenched beaches, the historic pier, championship golf courses, fine dining and shopping, and, every once in a while, the magnificent sight of the space shuttle launching from Cape Canaveral.

Just six miles long and barely a mile wide, Cocoa Beach is on a barrier island bounded by the Atlantic to the east and the Banana River Lagoon to the west. It’s a hot surfing spot and the home of the world’s largest surf shop, but waves aren’t the only lure. Located where two climatic zones–the subtropic and temperate–meet, Cocoa Beach attracts wildlife that is indigenous to both, in addition to the coastal and migratory species you might expect to see.

This location, so hospitable to wildlife, is a natural playground for humans, too. It’s perfect for swimming in the ocean, kayaking the Banana River or just watching dolphins leaping out of the water.

In spite of being a major tourist destination–the population swells to 30,000 during the peak season and another 2.4 million people are “day visitors”–Cocoa Beach is home to almost 13,000 residents who care deeply about their tropical paradise. As space exploration advanced, the town has grown from the small beach community it was in the 1920s to a vibrant yet laid-back town. The population is a blend of locals, retirees and vacationers.

While there are more than 2,400 single-family homes and 5,500 condominiums, only about 40 percent of Cocoa Beach homes are year-round residences. The rest are second homes or rental properties.

For permanent residents, life is good in Cocoa Beach. There are plenty of fine shops and boutiques–including the world-famous Ron Jon Surf Shop–and dining options, from fast food to upscale fare. A 27-hole golf course lures duffers to the Cocoa Beach Country Club, which is open to the public and includes an Olympic-sized city pool and tennis complex. But Cocoa Beach’s most important asset is the friendly locals, who are happy to share their place in the sun.

Rockledge, FL Homes

The city of Rockledge, located on central Florida’s fast-growing Space Coast, is surrounded by a wide variety of recreational, educational and just plain fun activities.

That hasn’t kept the city from creating its own special brand of home-grown entertainment, however. In 2006, Brevard County’s first incorporated municipality hosted events including car shows, a “Trash Bash,” an Independence Day picnic, a music festival and a holiday lighting ceremony, parade and decorating contest. More of the same was planned for 2007 and well into the future.

According to Sperling’s Best Places, 2014 data shows just over 32% of the Rockledge population is 55+. Although this doesn’t qualify the Rockledge as a full-fledged retirement destination, there’s no denying the city is attracting retirement age homebuyers looking for Rockledge homes for sale.

And, for those who enjoy a little mystery with their fun, there’s Ashley’s Restaurant, the alleged home of ghosts who take great pride in playing tricks on employees and guests. According to legend, one of them is Ethel Allen, who was either killed by a train on the nearby tracks or murdered in the bathroom. Another of Ashley’s spectral residents reportedly is a young man who met an untimely death on the railroad tracks or on the highway in front of the building.

Regardless of its past, Rockledge is looking to the future. Incorporated in 1887 on the shores of the Indian River Lagoon, its economy once depended on citrus fruit and tourism. Today, however, with the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral nearby, local businesses focus mainly on the aerospace industry.

The Space Center includes the Astronaut Memorial, dedicated in 1991 to the memory of those who died while participating in the U.S. space program.

At the nearby Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge visitors can see an assortment  of native birds, reptiles and animals, including alligators, raccoons, bobcats and armadillos, as well as birds who are just passing through on their way north or south.

Port Canaveral, the third largest cruise ship port in the United States, is also home to the largest scallop fishery in the world, as well as boat ramps, parks, beaches and campgrounds. Other nearby attractions include Cocoa Village, which features tree-lined streets, shops, a gazebo, a picnic area and festivals throughout the year; the Indian River Lagoon, which offers boating, water-skiing, fishing and sailing; and Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area, where fishermen will find snook, redfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

Wild Cat Saloon: Historic Cocoa Village, FL

By Charles W. Skelly and Donna Sheriff (Mostly Fact)

GRANDPA HARDEE SAYS that when Cocoa was still a settlement called Indian River City, there was nowhere a man could get a drink to lift his spirits unless he went all the way to Titusville. The trip alone deserved a healthy drink, but then you had to come all the way back.

Rightly enough, some enterprising young man began to bring a supply of liquor back home with him and sell a drink or two in the store on Delannoy Avenue.

Now who it was that thought a place of this kind needed protection I don’t know. Or perhaps some wife was trying to discourage patrons from entering the building. In any case, somebody went out into the scrub and captured a wild cat and chained him in front of the door.

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Mosquito Beaters and Memories, Cocoa Village, FL

Brian Sherman

HISTORIC COCOA VILLAGE, within easy driving distance of Florida’s bustling theme parks in Orlando and virtually within hearing distance of the thunderous rockets that soar skyward from the Kennedy Space Center, provides a relaxing link to the past amid the cacophony of the present.

Bordered by the Indian River, State Road 520 and Brevard Avenue, Cocoa’s restored downtown offers a wide variety of businesses, an active calendar of events and a glimpse of what life was like in coastal Florida long before families flocked to Disney World and scientists turned the fantasy of space travel to reality.

Cocoa, a town of almost 17,000 people on Florida’s central coast, was founded by fishermen in 1860. The first commercial building was constructed in the early 1880s in what was then called Indian River City. Apparently, U.S. Postal authorities deemed the name too long for a postmark. Several different stories are still in circulation concerning how the name Cocoa was chosen. The city survived a disastrous downtown fire in 1890 and a brutal freeze in the winter of 1894-95 that destroyed the area’s citrus crop and crippled the industry that had given the Florida coast a taste of prosperity.

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21 Riverside: Cocoa Village, Florida

By Stacy E. Domingo

NESTLED ALONG THE EAST COAST of Central Florida, 21 Riverside is a modern condominium that is surrounded by the echoes of the prosperous past. Located in the Historic Cocoa Village, the condominium offers a stunning river- front penthouse that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway and provides 180-degree views of the Indian River, the Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Village and Merritt Island.

Imagine witnessing history-making launches from your 10th-floor wraparound balcony or daydreaming about the many carefree cruise ships entering and leaving Port Canaveral. It is not easy to find places that willingly embrace the past while observing the future, but 21 Riverside in Historic Cocoa Village pulls it off with élan.

This spacious penthouse with 10-foot ceilings offers a gourmet kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances, cherry cabinetry, granite counter tops and a butler’s pantry that includes
additional appliances such as a wine cooler, extra refrigerator and dishwasher. The three bathrooms are luxurious, and hardwood, carpet and marble tile flooring is throughout the residence.

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Whitley Bay: Cocoa, Florida

Whitley Bay Condominiums appear to have it all—spacious, elegant floor plans, desirable amenities and outstanding views.

But in speaking with Jan Petersen, an agent with Luxury Real Estate, the most wonderful part of living at Whitley Bay is the “sense of community.”

“Residents like being able to walk across the street and have a cup of coffee or a nice dinner at one of the fine restaurants or cafes,” Petersen continues. “It’s a very charming look into yesteryear. The shopkeepers are friendly. There is even a turn-of-the-century style hardware store where you can buy a nail and be treated as though you bought a Rolls Royce.”

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Island Pointe, Merritt Island, Florida

Anyone who has ever driven through Merritt Island, Florida knows that you can’t go far without encountering a body of water. Brevard County is fortunate to have a seemingly endless network of rivers, lakes and canals that provide some pretty spectacular waterfront locations. One of the newest and most luxurious condo communities in this coastal town is the elite gated residences of Island Pointe, a hard-to-miss set of sunny yellow buildings that stretch out into the Indian River. Built in 2006 by prestigious developer Homes by Towne, this riverfront complex is widely known for its luxurious floor plans and incredible views. Designed to provide every resident with the ultimate waterfront experience, every single condo in this community features a private balcony on the Indian River and a front row seat for some of the most breathtaking sunsets you will ever witness. Manatees and dolphins are spotted almost daily in the waters along the community boardwalk.

In addition to the amenities provided by Mother Nature, there are many other benefits to living in Island Pointe. The community features two heated pools with spas, an exercise room, sauna, recreation center with meeting/party room and community kitchen, basketball and tennis courts. There are also plenty of entertainment options outside the gates, with nearby marinas for the boating enthusiast, kayaking and canoeing spots for the nature lover, and several shopping and dining hot spots. Just across the bridge from Island Pointe is the picturesque area of Cocoa Village, known for its quaint storefronts, fine dining, shows at the Cocoa Village Playhouse, concerts at the amphitheater in Riverfront Park, and one heck of a fireworks display every Fourth of July!

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Cocoa Village, Florida

State Theater: past and present

By Norma J. Leighty Baird

THE STATE THEATER originally began as the Aladdin Theater. This theater was built in 1924 for approximately $80,000 by W. H. Bower Construction Company, a qualified company with 20 years experience in building quality homes and office buildings. The Aladdin Theater of Cocoa was a modern building in a progressive town on the central east coast of Florida, a town that was becoming well-known as a tourist area.

A dream of Fred Bryan and Herbert M. Cogswell was to have a more stable and pretentious facility for the type of entertainment they felt the town of Cocoa should have. From all accounts, many of the citizens of Cocoa were not in agreement with these two gentlemen. Apparently this did not deter them as they decided to look on this project as a “dream come true rather than an investment.”

As in a lot of cases, the dream became a reality. Cocoa and its citizens were proud of this building and Bryan and Cogswell for their tenacity. The Aladdin Theater was one of the finest theaters in the state and Cocoa was probably the only town of its size in the whole country to process “such a magnificent structure for entertainment.”

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Merritt Island, Florida

ONCE A KEY PLAYER IN FLORIDA’S BOOMING citrus industry, Merritt Island joined the space race in the 1950s and 1960s, its prosperity and popularity soaring along with the rest of the Space Coast, a vibrant and growing stretch of the beautiful central Florida shoreline.

In the mid-1800s, the area was known for producing world-famous Indian River oranges and grapefruit, and pineapples also thrived in the sandy soil. The small towns that once dotted the island–Georgiana, Courtenay, Tropic, Fairyland, Orsino, Angel City, Wilson and Indianola among them–have vanished, leaving Merritt Island to be administered by Brevard County. Water and sewer service come to the island’s residents from the nearby town of Cocoa.

Nearby attractions include the Kennedy Space Center, the Astronaut Hall of Fame the American Police Hall of Fame in Titusville, and the Veterans Memorial Center

Originally named Artesia, Merritt Island is located just six miles southwest of Cape Canaveral, the heart of America’s space program. Because of its central location in Brevard County, between Titusville and Melbourne, the area has developed into an economic hub, tucked between the Atlantic beaches to the east and the mainland cities of Rockledge and Cocoa to the west. There’s more to do on Florida’s Space Coast, however, than lounge on the beach, search for seashells and gaze at space shuttles soaring skyward. Residents and visitors enjoy golf, tennis, horseback riding, hiking, biking, surfing, water-skiing, windsurfing, snorkeling, boating, sailing and shopping. Parks provide playgrounds, picnic tables and barbecue grills, and nearby historic Cocoa Village offers tree-lined streets and a wide variety of shops, cafes and art galleries.

In addition to the Kennedy Space Center, nearby attractions include the Astronaut Hall of Fame; the American Police Hall of Fame in Titusville; and the Veterans Memorial Center, which includes a military museum.

And if you simply seek a peek at the unspoiled beauty of the Florida coast, you can visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, located adjacent to the Space Center. The 22-square-mile wetlands area, managed by the federal government, attracts more than 300 species of birds and also is home to ghost crabs, loggerhead and green sea turtles, raccoons, bobcats, alligators, manatees, dolphins, bald eagles, ospreys and even the elusive Florida panther. You can see many of them along the seven-mile-long Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.

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