By Gary McKechnie

In any town that’s grown up quickly, it can be tricky trying to find the heart of the city, the place where everything began.

It’s a lot easier in Cocoa.

On the west side of the Banana River, Historic Cocoa Village is the oldest part of town. There are sections of cobblestone streets that date back to the 1890s and buildings (now restored) that were here at the turn of the last century; places like the 1916 Porcher House and the still active 1924 Cocoa Village Playhouse.

Architecturally, Cocoa Village is almost frozen in time, but when it comes to retail and restaurants it’s right up to date.

All enveloped within the heart of modern-day Cocoa, this is a charming little district that’s easy to see on a casual stroll, one that will take you back to an era before shopping malls. There are several dozen boutiques and gift shops, plus antique stores, sidewalk cafes and art galleries -- and a bounty of street festivals and parties.

Historic Cocoa Village is easy to reach. When you’re on Route 520 heading to or from Cocoa Beach, just watch for the road to turn into King Street on the west side of the bridge that spans the Intracoastal Waterway; find Brevard Avenue and take a walk into history.