By Dave Berman Florida Today
Playalinda isn’t the most well-known beach in Florida.
But it finished near the top of a just-concluded USA Today online survey that asked readers to pick the best beach in Florida. Playalinda, near Titusville, ranked fourth among 20 beaches in the survey — and first among Atlantic Coast beaches.
In a separate USA Today online survey, Cocoa Beach ranked third among 20 choices for the best spring break beach destination, in competition that included beaches in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. It also was first among the six Florida entries, the others being Daytona Beach, Naples, Palm Beach, Panama City Beach and the South Beach area of Miami.
“I think it’s great news,” said Eric Garvey, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism. “It’s reflective of the attractive destinations we have, and of how popular Cocoa Beach and Playalinda are.”
Garvey said Playalinda being a little “off the beaten path, if you will,” turned into a plus in the rankings.
“It shows you how really special it is,” Garvey said, with its pristine and less crowded beach areas. “It’s a unique, isolated beach.”
The rankings come at a time when tourism on the Space Coast already is strengthening.
The Space Coast Office of Tourism and the Brevard County Tax Collector’s Office report that local Tourist Development Tax collections have risen for 15 months in a row, compared with year-earlier figures. That includes year-over-year gains of 29 percent in January and 26 percent in February.
The county collects a 5 percent tax on hotel room and other short-term rentals, and the trend in those collections is a closely watched indicator of the health of the local tourism sector.
Garvey said the gains have continued in February and March, although official figures have not yet been released.
“Hotels and restaurants are reporting the best March in quite a while,” Garvey said.
That’s especially significant for the local economy, since March typically is the peak of the tourism year in Brevard.
Garvey said visitors to the Space Coast have been a mix of high school and college students on spring break, couples and families with children. That includes Port Canaveral cruise passengers extending their vacations.
Garvey said he expects the Office of Tourism, local chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus will “spread the good news” about the high rankings of Cocoa Beach and Playalinda through advertising and social media.
During a brief discussion of the beach rankings at this week’s Brevard County Tourist Development Council meeting, there was an allusion to initial concerns from some in the tourism sector to the potential of Cocoa Beach being perceived as a rowdy college spring break town.
But Garvey said those concerns were unfounded. He said USA Today has a broad readership base, and “the poll reflects the fact that Cocoa Beach is a diverse, family-oriented spring break community.”
The spring break tourism period runs from the second week in March through Easter Sunday, which is April 5 this year.
The online voting, over four weeks, was part of an ongoing USA Today “10 Best” series of reader polls.
Garvey said the Office of Tourism used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encouraging fans and followers to vote for Cocoa Beach and Playalinda.
Top five lists
Best spring break beach destination
Best Florida beach
Source: USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards
Here is how Cocoa Beach and Playalinda Beach were described in the USA Todayonline competition:
Cocoa Beach: Located on Florida’s Space Coast, Cocoa Beach offers a spring break scene for any type of traveler. College revelers blow off midsemester steam along the beach (alcohol is allowed, glass is not) near the pier and Coconuts, while families can set up their beach towels along quieter stretches of sand slightly farther afield. Outdoor adventures, including wind and water sports, abound, so there’s always something to do.
Playalinda: The most easily accessible beach along the Space Coast’s undeveloped Canaveral National Seashore, it nonetheless requires a drive through the wildlife refuge and gorgeous sand dunes that buffer the NASA space complex to the south, which you can see in the distance. A number of parking lots accommodate sun buffs, surfers and nature lovers. Bathrooms are the only facilities.