Focus of the Week: Barrier Island

Stephanie Moss Dandridge  |  February 1, 2023

Market Trends

Focus of the Week: Barrier Island

The barrier islands of Florida are eagerly sought for their waterfront locations, clear blue waters, and private shorelines. Indeed, many of Florida’s barrier islands are popular destinations for tourists throughout the year. Areas well north of Palm Beach, like Melbourne Beach and Cocoa Beach, provide privacy and exclusivity for residents, with all the outdoor amenities characteristic of more popular barrier islands. Read the neighborhood highlights below when deciding if moving to Barrier Island is for you.

Melbourne Beach

With an area of only 1.4 square miles, Melbourne Beach is exclusive by nature of its geography. This small beach community stays quiet throughout the year, as you might expect of a residential area where the main borders are the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. Residents love fishing and boating and value family, privacy, and the island’s beauty.

Scenic views, crisp breezes, and stunning sunrises define the aesthetic of Melbourne Beach. Its character and history predate the explosion of tourism in Florida. Living here, you’ll find more historical buildings than luxury condos — a rarity for South Florida.

Far from being marooned, Melbourne Beach islanders enjoy proximity to the city of Melbourne, located just across the river to the west. They shop at Melbourne Square and stroll Melbourne Beach Market, which contains a deli, gourmet groceries, classy wines, and craft beer. Melbourne proper is also where you’ll find local schools and other municipal institutions.

In between city excursions, you can gaze at the horizon for dolphins, walk the beach, or patronize the mighty few restaurants on the island. There’s Sand on the Beach, renowned for serving the best crab cakes in Brevard County. Prized for its steak and seafood entrees, Djon’s Steak and Lobster House is conveniently located next to the island’s historic district. Newcomers are well advised to explore the Ryckman House and Ryckman Park as an informal initiation to the town.

Cocoa Beach

Surfing and shopping are two pastimes favored by Cocoa Beach residents. This is a barrier island of contrasts: the continuous line of its Atlantic Coast gives way to the fractured mini islands that pepper the Banana River to the west. Rockets launch spaceward from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to the north, and dolphins frolic along the eastern horizon. And you’d be hard-pressed to find two more different museums than the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and the Florida Surf Museum.

For our purposes, Cocoa Beach includes nearby residential areas like Crescent Beach, Merritt Island, and Cape Canaveral. We touched on the prominence of surfing: besides the museum, there are niche shops, surfing contests, and lessons available for newer skill and experience levels. Residents enjoy other aquatic activities like swimming, fishing, and kayaking through Banana River and its labyrinthine waterways. The wide, smooth beaches on the ocean are great places to relax with a book or picnic.

The logistics of Cocoa Beach make life here a breeze. You can shop without leaving the island at Cornerstone Plaza and White Rose Shopping Center. Locals frequent the Cocoa Beach Pier and cross the bridge for Cocoa Village, which features live music, quirky stores, and excellent restaurants. Cocoa Beach has a relatively large population for a barrier island — and its share of quality restaurants. Check out casual spots like Longboards Tiki Beach Grille (seafood), Long Doggers (excellent burgers), and Rock the Guac (Mexican faves).

The Cocoa Beach area can be as exciting or laid-back as you prefer. Anytime is an excellent time for recreation at places like Robert P. Murkshe Memorial Park, Sidney Fischer Park, and Lori Wilson Park. Space fans mark their calendars for NASA and SpaceX launches, which can be viewed from Shepard Park, and the Cocoa Beach Air Show each April.


Indialantic is similar in size, population density, and lifestyle to Melbourne Beach, its immediate neighbor to the south. This small town is eminently walkable and a perfect background for anyone who loves a low-key beach life filled with small pleasures like seashells and turtle-watching. It’s the ideal place to kick off your shoes and relax by the waves.

For such a small island, the downtown area of Indialantic has a surprising variety of restaurants. Residents treasure small businesses like The Blueberry Muffin, a great place to start your day with coffee and pastries. Most of the island’s lunch spots are casual — Bunky’s Raw Bar and Grill is exhibit A. Meanwhile, Skewers Mediterranean Grille is an excellent change of pace from the region’s many seafood restaurants.

Regarding architectural styles, Indialantic homes include cabanas, bungalows, and villas. Families and dog owners will appreciate the convenience of Canova Beach Park and James H. Nance Park. With sand and aquatic recreation at your fingertips, Indialantic is like a real-world answer to the figurative question of “finding your beach.”

Vero Beach

Like the barrier islands mentioned above, Vero Beach provides a low-key, slow-paced lifestyle with up-and-close views of the gulf coast. However, less than half of Vero Beach is a barrier island. Mainland Vero Beach is a denser community with an airport and a hospital. The Atlantic-facing island portion of Vero Beach is ideal for anyone looking for a second home in South Florida. Its gorgeous and family-friendly beaches are the main draw, while Vero Beach’s historic buildings establish a sense of permanence to complement the timelessness of the ocean.

With plenty of amenities and public spaces like the McKee Botanical Gardens and South Beach Park, Vero Beach deserves to be on your radar. To that end, working with local experts like Stephanie Dandridge is the best way to get information on lesser-known gems in Florida.

Ready to move to Barrier Island?

There are several things to love about the Barrier Island neighborhoods above. All provide private access to quality beaches without tourist traffic — perfect opportunities to unplug and relax.

Each island detailed above offers a unique luxury residential experience. If you want the best available help navigating the options available, contact experienced local agent Stephanie Dandridge to guide you through the process.

Stephanie Moss Dandridge

Stephanie Moss Dandridge

Luxury Real Estate Expert

About The Author

Fluent in five languages and with a background in Contracts and Law, a BS in Marketing, an MBA, and a MIM in International Marketing and Diplomatic Relations, Stephanie has elevated her business to an elite class of Real Estate professionals.
Counting among her clients numerous distinguished business and community leaders. Specializing in luxury oceanfront, waterfront, Intracoastal, and golf communities, she is trusted with the most exclusive properties in Brevard County due to her deep connections with the area.
Stephanie is skilled in developing rapport, trust, and open communications with everyone she works with. Consistently breaking records for the highest sales year after year, Stephanie is a critical asset in putting buyers and sellers together.

Work With Stephanie

Stephanie's extensive knowledge and connections in the Melbourne area have resulted in record-breaking sales year after year. Whether you are buying or selling, Stephanie provides the highest level of service possible and will help you get top value.