The Best Beaches Near Orlando for Fun Beyond the Theme Parks

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cabana rentals on the beach things to do in clearwater Florida
Cabanas Rentals near Pier 60 in Clearwater, Florida Photo Credit: Breeze Leonard

From theme parks to foodie fun to hiking, there is plenty to do in Orlando. But sinking your toes into a gorgeous white sand beach is not one of them! Luckily, it’s easy to add a little ocean time with a day trip or even a few extra days’ getaway to visit one of these beautiful Florida beaches near Orlando.

Here’s where to head for a little downtime after your theme park fun. All of these beaches are within a few hours’ drive of Orlando.

Atlantic Coast Beaches Near Orlando

Cocoa Beach is a favorite Florida family vacation spot
Cocoa Beach Florida. Photo credit: Melody Pittman

Cocoa Beach

One hour from Orlando

The closest beach to Orlando and Disney World, Cocoa Beach is located along Florida’s Space Coast (home to the venerable Kennedy Space Center).

This is the place to find a full-on kitschy beach vibe. And, of course, it’s home to the world’s largest Ron Jon Surf Shop — no surprise there since Cocoa Beach is considered to be the East Coast Surfing Capital.

Cocoa Beach Pier is place to go for bars, restaurants and additional gift shops. Or, extend the nature vibe with a dolphin tour, kayak adventure or walk along a nature trail.

Read More: Consult our beach day packing list if you’re planning to visit as an easy day trip. Or, if you plan to stay longer and rent a laid back beach house, you’ll want to consult our complete beach vacation packing list so you don’t forget anything you might need!

Labor Day Weekend Getaways include kayaking near St. Augustine, Florida
Kayaking near St. Augustine, Florida Photo credit: Terri Marshall

St. Augustine Beach

Two hours northeast of Orlando

St. Augustine offers the best of both worlds: the restaurants, hotels and attractions of a city with the laid-back relaxation of miles of beaches patrolled by lifeguards.

Once you’re done with the beach, spend a day or two exploring the many free things to do in St. Augustine and some terrific family-friendly restaurants.

Read More: 9 Best Honeymoon Destinations in Florida

New Smyrna Beach

One hour from Orlando

One of the family-friendliest beaches near Orlando, New Smyrna is a favorite of Terri Marshall. She and her grandkids have spent many joyous hours there building sandcastles, playing in the surf, fishing, kayaking and soaking in the small town vibe.

SheBuysTravel Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we’re traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.

Don’t miss a visit to Smyrna Dunes Park, a two-mile elevated boardwalk through sand dunes.

Read More: The best Florida resorts for families.

Things to do in Daytona - Daytona Beach looking south from Daytona Beach Pier, with a truck and many people on the beach and high-rises in the background.
Daytona Beach looking south from Daytona Beach Pier. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Flagler Beach

90 minutes northeast of Orlando

This beach is a great spot to watch the sunrise, build sand castles and surf. It’s also known for the tide pools at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park,

Plus, Flagler Beach is just 30 minutes north of Daytona Beach, home of the Daytona International Speedway and the Daytona 500 NASCAR race. The area is one of the most affordable Florida vacation spots, with many lower-cost beachfront hotels.

Vero Beach Florida walking on the sand
Vero Beach. Photo credit: Melody Pittman

Vero Beach

Two hours southeast of Orlando

This is the beach for Disney lovers because it’s home to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, a Disney Vacation Club property. Located on a quiet but beautiful stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, the resort offers gorgeous sand, beautiful water, a great pool and plenty of family-friendly dining and Disney-quality entertainment.

Vero Beach is home to sea turtles that come up on the beach at night to lay their eggs.

Read More: Save big bucks on a stay at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort by renting DVC points. We tell you how to do it in this post.

Other Atlantic Coast Beach Options

  • Canaveral National Seashore is a secluded and undeveloped natural beach.
  • Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area is a surfers’ mecca.
  • Port Canaveral’s Jetty Park is the place for sunbathing while watching the mega cruise ships sail in and out of the harbor. In addition, there are 14 miles of restored natural sand dunes south of the port that provide habitats for birds, sea turtles and other aquatic life. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral.
  • Melbourne Beach, also known as The Harbor City, has a wide variety of beach parks and access points with covered pavilions, public restrooms, nature walks, playgrounds, beach volleyball courts, showers, picnic tables and beach clubhouses.
  • Canova Beach Park is a pet-friendly beach option.
  • Amelia Island offers a lovely mix of history and beach fun.

Gulf Coast Beaches Near Orlando

AC Hotel Clearwater Beach - Sunrise Over Clearwater Bay with the Moon and Venus
Sunrise Over Clearwater Bay with the Moon and Venus. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Clearwater Beach

Two hours from Orlando

There’s a reason Clearwater Beach is one of Florida’s best beach towns and was ranked the #1 Beach in America by TripAdvisor in 2019. The setting is gorgeous, the sugar-white sand is soft and the sunsets are spectacular.

Plus, Clearwater Beach has everything you need for a beach day, including public restrooms and lifeguards.

Read More: Check out this list of things to do in Clearwater Beach and our favorite Clearwater beach hotels and must-try restaurants.

Sunset over St. Pete Beach as seen from Tradewinds Island Resorts. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist

St. Pete Beach

St. Pete Beach was voted TripAdvisor’s No. 1 Beach in the U.S. in 2021. The emerald-green waters and soft white sand beckon, but the St. Petersburg, Florida, beach area is among the busiest, with rows of shops, luxury resorts and great restaurants.

That also means there is no shortage of water sports available — from jetskiing to paddle boarding to parasailing, you can find just about anything in or near St. Pete.

Best Florida Beaches - Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is reminiscent of a Caribbean beach. Photo credit: Keri Baugh

Anna Maria Island

Two hours southwest of Orlando

Anna Maria Island lies off the coast of Tampa. Watch for dolphins playing and manatees swimming in the crystal clear waters along the seven-mile strip of beautiful white-sand beaches lining the barrier island.

Other Gulf Coast Beach Options

Having fun on Lido Beach in Sarasota. Photo credit: Maria Smith
  • Sarasota is the place to take eco-tours and learn about marine biology and Florida wildlife. Sarasota Bay is an estuary that serves as a nursery for baby fish, sea horses, sea stars, dolphins, sea turtles and manatees. Sarasota’s Lido Key has three beaches, a self-guided canoe trail, a multi-purpose field and a volleyball court.
  • Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County offers more than three miles of beautiful white sandy beach. The park is made up of five interconnected islands They are home to mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods and a documented 328 species of birds. Visit the fort, go kayaking, and play in the tidal pools and on a pirate ship playground.
  • Honeymoon Island State Park is an undeveloped 385-acre barrier island with four miles of sandy beaches, hiking trails, bird-watching and a dog beach.
  • Caladesi Island State Park, a ferry ride away from Honeymoon Island, was ranked #2 on Dr. Beach’s list of Top 10 Beaches in 2022. You also can rent a kayak and power your own way to the island, then hit the showers and changing room to freshen up. There’s also an on-site concession stand.
  • Treasure Island Beach is a budget-friendly beach with great swimming and gentle waves. Chances are you’ll be able to spot Loggerhead Turtles in the water.

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