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Cocoa Beach on top spring break destination list

List published by USA Today

Nicole Stednik, originally from Australia, and Michelle Perry, from Massachusetts enjoying Tuesday afternoon at Cocoa Beach, which has been nominated as one of the top Spring Break destinations. Scenes of beach goers at the end of Minutemen Causeway
Nicole Stednik, originally from Australia, and Michelle Perry, from Massachusetts enjoying Tuesday afternoon at Cocoa Beach, which has been nominated as one of the top Spring Break destinations. Scenes of beach goers at the end of Minutemen Causeway (Florida Today)

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Cocoa Beach has gone through a transformation over the years as a spring break spot. It may be a little calmer these days than it was in the 1960s and '70s. But, apparently, the beach that bills itself as "world-famous" still rates a strong mention.

Local 6 News partner Florida Today reports that USA Today this week put Cocoa Beach on its list of the 20 best spring break beach destinations. Now, it has opened up voting to the public as part of its "10 Best" series of travel features.

In addition, Playalinda Beach in the Titusville area has been named as one of the 20 best beaches in Florida and will be part of a similar online voting process.

"It's nice to be recognized and to be on the list," Space Coast Office of Tourism executive director Eric Garvey said.

Although Garvey is looking for more, to be on top of the list when the voting ends March 16.

Garvey's office has begun to spread the word on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, encouraging fans and followers to vote for Cocoa Beach as the top spring break beach destination and Playalinda as the top Florida beach.

"We'll use all our channels to connect with our fan base," Garvey said.

Admittedly the competition is tough. Cocoa Beach, for example, is going up against such spots as Cabo San Lucas and Cancun, Mexico; Santa Monica and Venice Beach, California; and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Plus, five other Florida destinations, Daytona Beach, Naples, Palm Beach, Panama City Beach and the South Beach area of Miami, are on the list.

Garvey said he isn't worried that the in-state competition might takes votes away from Cocoa Beach.

"It just reflects how popular Florida is as a spring break destination," Garvey said.

Garvey expects Cocoa Beach to do well in the voting.

"Cocoa Beach is cool, it's authentic and it's low-key," Garvey said. "It's a great, classic beach town. And it has great diversity of experiences."

In addition, Garvey said, Cocoa Beach is becoming a spring break gateway for college students and families taking cruises, with nearby Port Canaveral being one of the world's busiest cruise ports and cruise lines marketing spring break packages.

Michelle Perry, 25, has been to South Beach in Miami for spring break, but chose Cocoa Beach for a vacation from her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

"Our beaches are unique, but they're covered in snow," she said.

She and her friend, Nicole Stednik, 27, were pleased with their choice of Cocoa Beach to spend a few days away from the cold weather in Massachusetts.

"It's gorgeous," she said. "It's pretty."

Stednik, who is from Australia and is spending 18 months in Massachusetts, was on a Brevard beach for the first time.

"It kind of reminds me of home," she said as they sat on the beach at the end of Minutemen Causeway. "I like it."

Chris Putnam, 23, and Jerrell Hunter, 24, spent spring break in Cocoa Beach two years ago and were back this week with two other friends.

"It's a real relaxing spot to be," Putnam said.

Brevard County Commissioner Jim Barfield, who has lived in Brevard County since the 1960s, said he's pleased to see Cocoa Beach and Playalinda Beach recognized.

Exposure in a national publication like USA Today will be good for local tourism businesses and the overall economy, Barfield said.

The somewhat-isolated Playalinda may seem like an obscure choice as one of Florida's best beaches. But, Garvey said, for the beach experience itself, it's no surprise Playalinda is on the list.

"The focus of that list is on getting out onto the beach," Garvey said. "Playalinda is like stepping back in time. It's fairly isolated and secluded. It's an amazing beach."

Sal Giammarusti, his wife, Meghan, two young children and a nephew, made a day trip to Cocoa Beach from their Walt Disney World-area hotel. The family lives in Detroit.

"It's nice," he said. "You walk onto the beach, and it's welcoming."

Scott Jeavons, who owns Shore Things, a shop on Atlantic Avenue just off Minutemen, said Cocoa Beach is a beach destination not just during spring break.

"We get a lot of people who know somebody in Cocoa Beach," Jeavons said. "A lot of people come here, because somebody told them about the neat feel. It is one of the great small towns on the east coast of Florida."