Not only does Florida have an almost year-round summer, it’s also home to some truly beautiful and unspoiled beaches.
First-time visitors to the central Floridian city of Orlando might be surprised to find out that the place so often associated with eternal sunshine isn’t actually on the coast (that’s Miami). But while the city itself is landlocked – the closest thing to beaches in Orlando being the banks of Lake Eola or Blizzard Beach water park at Disney World – it doesn’t take long to reach the coast.
Whether you’re looking to sunbathe and swim on the Atlantic coast within easy reach of Orlando, or you want to head west for the invitingly warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find your ideal stretch of sand in Florida. Here are some of the best beaches near Orlando.
Daytona is one of the most famous beach resorts on Florida’s east coast, mainly because of its NASCAR associations. Its beach is 23 miles of white sand just a short drive on I-4 from Orlando, bordered by a great selection of bars and restaurants.
There are designated areas where you can drive onto the sand, helpful if you have young kids in tow, and the famously choppy Atlantic offers good surfing for those who want more than just sitting and relaxing. Yaya’s Beach Bar, the iconic Froggy’s biker bar and Mai Tai are all great spots for a beer or a cocktail in the sun, while Joe’s Crab Shack is a local institution, thanks to its generous buckets of crab. Read our restaurant guide for more great places to eat in Orlando.
If you’re after something a touch quieter and less touristy than Daytona, then Cocoa Beach is bound to hit the mark. About an hour’s drive from Orlando, this beach community is a haven for surfers and is home to a museum dedicated to the sport, as well as an enormous surf shop.
It’s also located very close to Kennedy Space Center and the launch pad is even visible from the northern parts of the beach. As with all Atlantic beaches, the water can be a bit nippy, but you’ll soon get used to it. Head away from the pier for the quieter stretches; the area around Lori Wilson Park is especially pretty. If you get hungry, Fat Kahuna’s is the place for fresh seafood.
Heading west on I-4 brings you to the most popular Gulf coast beach for Orlando visitors and locals alike. It’s not just swimming and sunbathing here, as this is a beach with more than enough activities to keep the whole family entertained, from dolphin spotting and parasailing to the popular Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise.
You can also pop over to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to meet Winter, the star of Dolphin Tale. If you’re looking for something a little quieter and more picturesque, take the ferry to Caladesi Island State Park, which isn’t just the best beach near Orlando, but one of the most idyllic spots in the state.
North Beach, Fort De Soto
It’s about a two-hour drive from Orlando, but if you want to get away from the tourist spots and find somewhere that feels authentically Floridian, North Beach is paradise.
Forget crowded, wide stretches of sand and overwhelming food and drink options, this is the seaside as nature intended. Wildlife is plentiful, including dolphins and rays, and there are places around the beach where you can hire a kayak and explore the waters. If you want to eat while you’re there, then you’d be advised to pack a picnic or head into nearby Tierra Verde and find a restaurant.
Book your flights to Orlando now and take one step closer to kicking back on a fabulous Floridian beach.