In the midst of Cocoa Beach lodging bounty, Wakulla Suites caught my attention for its throwback vibe. First opened in 1965 as apartments for folks working in the space program at close by Cape Canaveral, Wakulla became a hotel in 1972 when Pat and Cliff Mischler bought it and turned the apartments into two-bedroom suites.
As I drove along the stretch of Atlantic Avenue in Cocoa Beach where chain hotels seem to have edged out many mom and pop establishments, Wakulla Suites offered the old-school Florida feel I was after. The pitched roof of the buildings, the Tiki style statues in the midst of the hotel’s lush gardens, and the barbecue grills offer a combination of kitsch and exotic mixed in with homey touches.
The suites that include a kitchenette equipped with pots, pans, dishes, utensils and anything else you might need to cook meals are spacious enough that a family of four or five can spread out a bit. One bedroom has a double and a twin bed, and the other bedroom has a king. Plus, there’s an eating area with tables and chairs connected to the living room. The color scheme leans towards cheerful with lemony yellow walls and vibrant patterned furniture to reflect a casual tone of a laid back Florida stay.
Wakulla is not a place of studied sleekness. Instead, it’s where you do need to clean the sand off your feet before you enter the suite, but otherwise, make yourself at home.
If you hang out at the pool like we did, you might find yourself observing a large family birthday party. Generations come back every year for family vacations. With a poolside room, it’s easy to keep track of the comings and goings of a couple of youngsters who are old enough to explore the property on their own but who still need a watchful eye close by.
A game room and shuffle board add entertainment for variety until its time to head to the white sand beach just across the street at the back of the hotel. Guests can borrow beach towels from the hotel’s front desk.
The garden is not your typical arrangement of tropical plants that people have in their smaller version as home decor, but grow gigantic when outdoors. There are those plants, but there’s much more along the well place pathways. Twenty six countries are represented in the variety. The result is a mini botanical garden of sorts complete with signage that tells the names of the plants and their origin.
If Disney World or Universal Studios are part of your plans, Wakulla Suites is not a bad option for combining amusement park fun with a beach vacation. It took me a little over an hour on a Monday to get to the Magic Kingdom with minimal traffic. We left Wakulla Suites at about 8:30 am. and were in line at Space Mountain by 11:00. After a day of hitting up most rides and attractions including three parades and the fireworks, we were back in our rented car at midnight and in Cocoa Beach at 1:00 a.m.
Wakulla Suites is also a perfect hub for exploring other attractions. The Kennedy Space Center Complex is minutes away. Also, a day or half-day trip to Titusville where you’ll find the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is another interesting option.
I booked my stay at Wakulla Suites through Hotels.com. Currently the room rate for next weekend is $188. I paid less. If you wait until June, the rate is $147. You can also book through the hotel, either through the website or the old fashioned way. Call.
Wakulla Suites, 3550 N Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, FL; 800-992-5852