Among the reasons to visit Cocoa Beach: Beautiful beaches, rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, maybe a chance to run into world-champion surfer Kelly Slater.
Steve and Donna Cayer have been collecting dinosaur and other ancient artifacts for years, and have operated The Dinosaur Store in Cocoa Beach since 1995. In a few months, they will reach a goal they have though about for years.
The Cayers are opening a two-story museum they expect will draw about 100,000 tourists and local residents a year, giving the Space Coast a new attraction.
The Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures is under construction on the second and third floors, above their storefront retail shop, just two blocks from the beach on State Road 520.
Tourism officials who got a sneak peak of the museum under construction a few days ago say they’re excited about its planned opening, and compare it to venues that generally would be found only in much-larger communities.
“This thing is unbelievable,” said beachside hotel owner Bob Baugher of Cocoa Beach, who has followed the Cayers’ progress in planning and building the museum for the last four years.
Baugher expects cruise lines to add the museum to their list of shore excursions when their ships make port-of-call stops at Port Canaveral. There will be so much to see, Baugher said, you can easily spend a half-day at the museum.
It also will give tourists who are spending their vacation at a local hotel another reason to extend their stay by a day, Baugher said.
Steve Cayer said the second floor will showcase dinosaurs, with about 25 percent of the exhibits consisting of authentic bones and eggs, and the rest fossil replicas. He said that’s similar to the ratio at other dinosaur exhibits around the country. Some of the dinosaur replicas will be have animatronic features.
The second floor also will include displays related to volcanoes, minerals, meteorites, birds, sea creatures and “the dawn of man.”
The third floor will focus on ancient African, Chinese, Egyptian, Inca and Mayan cultures, with about half the pieces authentic.