This Lively Florida City Is The Perfect Budget-Friendly Spot For A Beach Vacation

Taking a well-earned vacation can be expensive, especially if you want to visit the most popular destinations. Florida attracts around 140 million tourists each year, but it can be a major drain on your funds: Orlando can cost a fortune if you want the full experience, and Miami is also pricey if you plan to make the most of everything it has to offer. The good news is that there are some lesser-known Florida beach towns that make for a great holiday without hammering your budget. Enter Palm Bay, a lively coastal community that has plenty to enjoy without breaking the bank.

Increased cost of living has sadly been a concern for millions of people over the past few years, so it's only natural that vacationers should take this into account when planning a trip. Palm Bay is a great balance, offering all the amenities you'd want while also keeping prices down. In 2024, it was ranked as one of the cheapest beach vacations thanks to a cost of living that was well below the national average (per Kayak). 

Sheltered from the Atlantic swells by the barrier island of Melbourne Beach and enjoying warm weather most of the year, Palm Bay is conveniently located within easy striking distance of Florida's big attractions and some underrated budget-friendly beaches. It is just over an hour's drive to Orlando and about 50 minutes to Cape Canaveral, meaning you can save your pennies by staying in Palm Bay and then spend your money on more expensive day trips to the most-visited tourist attractions.

Things to do around Palm Bay, Florida

Situated on the Space Coast within easy reach of gorgeous sandy beaches and waterways like the Indian River Lagoon and Turkey Creek, there are ample opportunities for cost-effective family fun and outdoor activities around Palm Bay. It's a short drive across the Melbourne Causeway to reach the barrier island and spend the day on acres of sand at Canova Beach Park and Spessard Holland Beach Park, both ideal for families without the crush of visitors you might expect at more touristy locations on the Florida coast. 

Back on the mainland, the Indian River Lagoon is great for both water lovers and nature spotters; the estuary is one of the most biologically diverse in the United States with over 4,000 documented species making it their home. The shallow waters are ideal for kayaking, fishing, and paddle boarding. At Turkey Creek Sanctuary, you can spot manatees, tortoises, alligators, and a wide variety of birds. More good fishing can be found further inland at Stick Marsh, one of the top spots for catching trophy bass in Florida.

On dry land, cyclists are well-catered for with several bike trails around the Palm Bay area, and strollers can enjoy the botanical garden at Florida's Institute of  Technology campus free of charge. Entry to Andretti Thrill Park isn't exactly cheap, but it's a fun day out with a wide range of rides and attractions. 

Eating and drinking around Palm Bay

There are plenty of dining options around Palm Bay, and eating out is generally cheaper thanks to the low cost of living in the area. Keep an eye out for offers, like at Lazy Turtle Riverfront Grill & Tiki Bar, a fun spot overlooking the water that serves up reasonably priced seafood and diner-style staples with happy hours on selected drinks. The Shack Riverfront is another tiki-themed restaurant and bar with wallet-friendly weekly and monthly specials, like all-you-can-eat fish deals and bottomless cocktails. It also has live music and other events nightly.

Other places worth checking out are La Estancia de Luisa, a Colombian restaurant serving up lunch specials and mix plates at a snip; and the Broken Barrel Tavern, a lively spot offering regular deals on BBQ and American classics. If you prefer to wash your meal down with a pint of the black stuff, Meg O'Malley's Irish Pub in nearby Melbourne has a variety of specials throughout the week. It's also a great spot to celebrate St. Patrick's Day if you're in town in March. For unpretentious soul food classics, tuck into wings, ribs, and barbecue plates at Skeebo's Rib Shack, which is so unpretentious, it doesn't even have a website! With cheap eats like these and plenty of outdoor activities that don't cost much, Palm Bay is a great spot for a cheap Florida getaway.