VACATION IDEAS: ROAD TRIPS
A Florida Dream Trip You Can Take NOW
If you've got three days and a tank of gas, the beautiful beach towns of Florida's "Space Coast" make for a perfect winter getaway!
Down the street, we checked into the oceanfront South Beach Inn (1701 S. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, southbeachinn.com, doubles from $90), where our basic room had a pull-out couch and was comfortably big enough for my family of four, before heading to dinner. On the north edge of town, we discovered Roberto's Little Havana (26 N. Orlando Ave., Cocoa Beach, robertoslittlehavana.com, Cuban sandwich and black beans $7.25), a cozy, family-run spot specializing in seafood and Cuban fare. I opted for a savory Cuban sandwich, served with an ample side of black beans topped with freshly cut onion.
Cocoa Beach to Melbourne
From Cocoa Beach, Highway A1A winds south past a series of appealing, well-maintained public beaches. My family didn't make it 20 minutes before pulling over to get some sand between our toes. At the beach across the street from Patrick Air Force Base, we found gentle waves and a foot-friendly, sandy bottom. You can always see pelicans bobbing on breaks, and if you arrive early enough, as we did, you can spot what the natives boast about, too—regular visits from families of dolphins.
Next door, locals also favor family-run Sun on the Beach (1753 Highway A1A, Satellite Beach, sunonthebeach.co, breakfast $7), where the owners import their own brand of Lowcountry cooking to Florida. "Everybody comes here," our waitress told us without a gram of false modesty. And for good reason. At lunch, fried chicken dipped in buffalo spices is served on top of buttermilk waffles. But even food this good couldn't keep us indoors for long.
After lunch, we made a stop at Hatts Diving Shop in Melbourne (2006 Front St., Melbourne, hattsdiving.com, open-water scuba class from $299). "We want to introduce all different kinds of people to scuba diving," says co-owner Starr Hatt, who exudes the implacable calm of someone who's spent a fair bit of time underwater. Hatts offers an open-water scuba course where, for the cost of renting equipment and gassing up a boat, you and your family (kids must be over 12) get easy-to-follow instruction to help get you face-to-face with the sea world's own version of Technicolor. Yes, theme parks are fun, but it's also nice to be reminded that when it comes to locations where you can find once-in-a-lifetime thrills, it's not such a small world after all.