Planning a Central Florida vacation? Hanging out at some of the beaches near Orlando is a must. Although the region is most famous for Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, its beautiful beaches are the perfect spot to relax after a long day of roaming around the theme parks. Whether you want to spend the jet skiing, paddle boarding, or snorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico or sunbathing along the Atlantic Ocean coastline, find your tropical paradise with this complete Orlando beach guide!
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Ready to escape the busy city life? Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Orlando, only a one-hour drive east of downtown. Home to the Ron Jon Surf Shop, Cocoa Beach is the perfect place to stock up on beach equipment and souvenirs from the largest surf shop in the world. With two levels full of surf gear and beach clothing, you’ll find something for the whole family at Ron Jon.
Cocoa Beach is also the hometown of Kelly Slater, one of the world’s most famous professional surfers with more than 11 championship wins. If you’re interested in upping your surfing skills, swing by the Ron Jon Surf School. At the famed school, you can take private or group surfing lessons. After a day of surfing, you can relax on the Cocoa Beach Pier. Drink a cold beer and watch the surfers below.
One of the coolest places to see in Cocoa Beach, Lori Wilson Park is a great place to relax solo or bring the kids to play. It’s right on the coastline. You’ll get full beach access and views of the water. Use the picnic pavilions and grills to whip up a nice beach barbecue or explore the sand dunes and wildlife.
For more family-friendly beach activities, head to Daytona Beach, one of the most popular beaches on Florida’s East Coast. On certain weekends, you can also catch a race at the Daytona International Speedway. Be sure to attend the famous Daytona 500 NASCAR race if you’re in town in February.
The white sand at Daytona Beach is hard-packed, and driving is allowed on almost every area of the beach. Ample parking lots are also available if you don’t feel like getting your wheels dirty. In the evening, head to the Daytona Bandshell, where you can listen to free nightly summer concerts.
If you’re tired of the sand and sun, indoor activities count heavily in the top Daytona Beach attractions. Rides and arcades can be found all along the boardwalk. Go-karts and laser tag arenas are throughout the city as well. You can also head to Daytona Lagoon Water Park for waterslides and a lazy river for tubing.
Want to bask in stunning turquoise waters? Clearwater Beach is just a two-hour drive from the city. Located in Pinellas County, west of Tampa, Clearwater is one of the must-do Orlando day trips for sun worshippers. The soft white sand along the Gulf of Mexico is fantastic for sunbathing and chilling.
Clearwater Beach is one of the most famous beaches near Clearwater and St. Petersburg, known for its laid-back vibe and calm waters. The warm blue water offers perfect waves year-round for surfing, jet skiing, and parasailing. If you’re not interested in water sports, spend the day under a beach umbrella reading a book or watching the surfers.
Visiting Clearwater Beach in the evening? Pier 60 is where to go in Clearwater for nightlife. Watch the street performers during the nightly sunset celebration or go souvenir shopping at the handmade craft shop. Excellent dining and drinking options are also scattered along Pier 60.
Canaveral National Seashore
Looking to explore the wilderness of Florida? Canaveral National Seashore is one of Central Florida’s finest nature destinations. Make a quick day trip to this barrier island, close to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. The nearby beaches are also commonly referred to as the Space Coast since they are so close to NASA’s launching sites.
The pristine beach options at Canaveral National Seashore are endless, with choices like Playalinda Beach and Apollo Beach. Both are quieter than your average Central Florida destinations, making them some of the best beaches in Orlando.
Jetty Park at Port Canaveral is another great place to relax with the entire family. The park features large picnic areas and a fishing pier to cast your line from. Jetty Park also has a campground if you feel like spending the night in nature.
Trying to find Orlando’s more elegant side? Vero Beach is a paradise just outside of the city. It’s a common destination for golfing, water sports, fishing, and sunbathing on the wide beaches. Lovingly known as the heart of the Treasure Coast, Vero Beach is full of tourist attractions, including museums, art galleries, and a few parks.
The parks near Vero Beach are a common place to see manatees. Make sure to be on the lookout for the gentle giants as you hike near the rivers and inlets.
Nature tours are also available throughout the parks. Great tour guides will be all too happy to tell you all about the local wildlife. Make sure to check out the local restaurants in the historic downtown. They serve some of Central Florida’s tastiest Southern cuisine and freshly caught fish.
Also set along the Space Coast, Melbourne Beach is a favorite for locals and tourists and the perfect spot for adrenaline lovers. The waves at Melbourne Beach are higher than other Orlando beaches and are perfect for surfing. Snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, and deep-sea fishing are also popular activities here.
Melbourne Beach is one of the largest beaches in Florida. There’s always ample room here to lay out in the sun, play in the sand, or take a long walk.
Downtown Melbourne itself is an amazing stop with many shopping and dining options. Throughout the summer and spring, they have daily evening events, including concerts, cultural events, and workshops. Stroll along the streets and enjoy the many murals painted on the sides of the local businesses.
New Smyrna Beach
Only have 24 hours in Orlando left on your itinerary? New Smyrna Beach should be at the top of the list. Located in Volusia County, it’s one of the closest beaches to Orlando, with large sand dunes at nearby Smyrna Dunes Park, shallow waters, and undeveloped stretches of soft sand.
After spending the day on the white sandy beach, head to Flagler Avenue to explore some of the coolest places to go in New Smyrna Beach, including quirky shops and many restaurants. Almost all the dining options here are “mom-and-pop” places. You can be sure you’re getting amazing Southern hospitality. Most of the food is even made using traditional family recipes.
In this charming seaside town, you’ll also find art galleries and local boutiques on almost every street.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean, Ormond Beach is one of the top family beaches near Orlando. The 20-mile-long Tomoka River is just a few minutes away. It’s a fantastic place to go canoeing, paddle boarding, or kayaking.
North Peninsula State Recreation Area only has three miles of sand but is a must-see if you’re in the area. Enjoy the golden orange sand, take a short 2-mile hike on the Coastal Strand Trail, or have a relaxing picnic. You can also try surf fishing at the recreation area or try to catch something along the fishing pier.
In the evening, head to Granada Boulevard for dinner and shopping. There are also cultural events and festivals going on throughout the year.
Active beachgoers will love roaming around Ponce Inlet. The area offers some of the best water sports opportunities in the state, including parasailing and jet skiing. The coastline around Ponce Inlet is gorgeous, with hard-packed sand perfect for running, walking, or cycling.
The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is one of the top places to see in Orlando. It’s Florida’s tallest lighthouse at 175 feet. Climb the 203 feet to the top to marvel at spectacular views of Ponce Inlet Beach.
There’s also a marine science center nearby. Check it out to enjoy its amazing marine life exhibits and nature trails where you can climb and hike.
For a historic tour, head to Flagler Beach. Located between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine along the Atlantic Coast, the quiet beach town is a local favorite. Like nearby St. Augustine, Flagler Beach keeps its historic charms alive with its Spanish architecture.
Swim in the warm water or complete your summer tan along the wide stretch of sand. Head to the small downtown area for retro restaurants or bring your own lunch and eat at one of the many picnic tables.
Flagler Beach is also well-known for its vibrant vibe, boutique shops, and rooftop cafes. Local musicians also perform throughout the beach and downtown area.
If you’ve got time, extend your trip to St. Augustine. The top Saint Augustine attractions include historic military forts, Spanish colonial architecture, and, of course, more untouched beaches.
Fort de Soto Park
If your heart is set on camping as part of your beach vacation, Fort de Soto Park is an excellent spot. One of the coolest places to see in St. Petersburg, FL, Fort de Soto Park offers beautiful white-sand beaches, nature trails, and wildlife viewing.
After pitching your tent, head into the clear blue waters at one of the five islands nearby. All the islands are interconnected, making it easy to explore all or a few depending on your time constraints. With 1,136 acres of wetlands and vibrant plant life, there’s always more to see here.
Fort de Soto Park also hosts a large dog park; feel free to bring your furry friends along. After a day of hiking and swimming, you can take the kids to one of its playgrounds or eat dinner under one of the picnic shelters.
Caladesi Island State Park
Want to escape the bustle? Set your compass for the beautiful Caladesi Island State Park. Located just west of Dunedin, FL, about two hours from Orlando, the untouched barrier island is home to one of the most beautiful Florida Gulf Coast beaches.
Caladesi Island State Park is accessible only by boat or by foot from North Beach in Clearwater. As you stroll the island’s shoreline, you’ll bask in an unspoiled beach lapped by turquoise water.
Besides hanging out on the natural beach, Caladesi Island State Park offers plenty of other activities for more active travelers. For an unforgettable experience, paddle through the mangrove forest on a kayak or meander inland on its nature trail to the historic Scharrer Homestead under the shade of live oaks and old-growth slash pines.
Honeymoon Island State Park
Once connected to Caladesi Island, Honeymoon Island State Park is another gem on Florida’s pristine Gulf Coast. With more than four miles of natural beach, it’s a popular spot for solo travelers, families, and for a romantic getaway.
Although many come to relax in its calm, shallow water, there are more things to do in Honeymoon Island State Park than lazing on its pristine shoreline. Lace up your hiking shoes and hike along its 3-mile trail through its virgin slash pine forest. Along the way, keep on the lookout for wildlife, including eagles, great horned owls, gopher tortoises, and raccoons.
Sebastian Inlet State Park
One of the most popular Florida state parks, Sebastian Inlet State Park is famed for its big Atlantic Ocean breaks. Every year, surfers from around the world hit this undeveloped stretch of sand to ride its thrilling waves.
Even so, you don’t need to be a big-time surfer to enjoy a visit to Sebastian Inlet State Park. Stroll along the soft sands in search of shells or hit the jetties to cast a line into the Atlantic. On the Indian River Lagoon side of the park, the calm waters are perfect for taking to a kayak and exploring its maritime beauty.
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Sebastian Inlet State Park is located 19 miles south of Melbourne and less than two hours from Orlando by car.
Anastasia State Park
Covering more than 1,600 acres, Anastasia State Park has a little of everything for travelers. Although it’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches near St. Augustine, the park is also a Florida wildlife hotspot.
Peel yourself away from its four miles of quartz sand beaches to have a chance to spot osprey and eagles soaring through the blue skies above. Or strap on your hiking boots and trot along the Ancient Dunes Nature Trail to see its unique dune system and maritime hammocks up close.
You can reach Anastasia State Park from Orlando by car in about two hours.