If you’re headed to Orlando
, the chances are that high flying adventures at Walt Disney World
are at the top of your agenda. Or at the very least, an action packed city break.
Yet if you're anything like us, you will also love to pair your thrills with time to chill. And since the Sunshine State has an abundance of spectacular beaches, it would be a shame not to see one or three while visiting. All within easy driving distance of Orlando, they promise soft, golden sand, sparkling waters and a lovely escape from the busy city.
No matter if you travel east or west from Orlando or for how long, eventually you’ll hit one of Florida’s best beaches. From Clearwater
and St. Pete
on the west coast to neighbouring Daytona Beach
and New Smyrna Beach
in the east, Florida arguably has some of the best beaches in the world. It’s not all about laying on a sunlounger either - snorkelling, surfing, kayaking and cruises are plentiful, along with outstanding seafood restaurants, beach bars and outdoor adventures.
Appropriately named, Clearwater Beach
has some of the clearest and calmest waters on Florida’s coastline. Located on the beautiful Gulf Coast
, you can spend your days swimming and lounging on the sand, before catching one of the epic sunsets this area is famous for. Pier 60 is a fun place both during the day and after dark, with food, music and other live entertainment; there’s always something new going on at Clearwater Beach.
Sitting not too far from Tampa
, it takes around two hours to reach from Orlando, meaning you can do it in a day trip - but it’s recommended you spend a few days here to truly appreciate it. Other activities perfect for families, such as kayaking and paddleboarding are available from rental shops along the 2.5 mile beach, or check out Clearwater Marine Aquarium to learn more about the dolphins and turtles that live just offshore.
Distance from Orlando
: 105 miles / Approx. 2 hours by car
St. Pete Beach
Brightly coloured umbrellas dot the powder-soft sands at St. Pete Beach
, also on Florida’s Gulf Coast just a short distance from Clearwater Beach. Ever-popular, St. Pete won TripAdvisor’s ‘Best Beach in the USA’ award and is a standout choice if you can only choose one beach to visit near Orlando. Towering over the landscape is the famous Don CeSar Resort, along with various excellent restaurants, bars, cafes, museums and shops.
Much like its neighbour, St. Pete enjoys some of the state’s best sunsets and you’re highly likely to see one, since this beach area gets an average of 361 days of sunshine per year! With its calm, shallow waters and wealth of activities and attractions in the neighbourhood, St. Pete’s is ideal for families with younger kids, who need entertainment after a few hours playing in the surf.
Distance from Orlando:
110 miles / Approx. 2 hours by car
New Smyrna Beach
Heading over to Florida’s gorgeous Gold Coast, you’ll find New Smyrna Beach just an hour from Orlando. On a tranquil beach, backed by houses, you can find a spot to lie in the sun or read a book. It’s not short of restaurants and attractions, they’re just set back from the beach around Flagler Avenue and Canal Street, meaning you can have the best of both worlds. Although the water can be choppy, it is possible to swim, but this beach is far more suited to those keen on adventure sports.
New Smyrna Beach is frequently featured in the likes of National Geographic as one of the best surf destinations on earth, and has a fantastic range of adapted surfboards and kayaks for those with disabilities. New Smyrna Beach is also a wonderful place for kids to see wildlife, such as the many loggerheads and green turtles that hatch here between May and October, not to mention the dolphins that play in the waves, which you can spot on a cruise. Its close proximity to Orlando, rugged beauty and peaceful atmosphere make this one of the most underrated beaches in Florida.
Distance from Orlando:
55 miles / Approx. 1 hour drive by car
A brilliant beach popular with spring breakers, famous for the Daytona 500 NASCAR race and renowned for its pristine golden sands, Daytona Beach will be a hit with visitors of all ages and interests. Daytona Beach is also the name of the city, with the beach itself being just one of a 23 mile stretch of paradise shoreline. The beach is lined with hundreds of hotels, resorts, restaurants, cafes, amusement arcades and entertainment venues so you certainly won’t run out of things to do. Away from land, pick from a plethora of water sports such as sailing, SUP, windsurfing, parasailing and swimming depending on how adventurous you’re feeling.
Distance from Orlando
If you visit in February, plan ahead as you may even be lucky enough to catch the Daytona 500 in real life - Daytona is the headquarters of NASCAR and the city draws thousands for the huge event at Daytona International Speedway. Any kids or adults with a love of racing will love the spectacle, and besides the race, there’s a tonne of shops and exhibits about racing for fans. Widely known as the ‘World’s Most Famous Beach’, the beach was originally used for testing and racing cars thanks to its wide, smooth swathe of sand, where you can now pull up a deck chair and relax.
: 55 miles / Approx. 1 hour drive by car
Located to the southeast of Orlando, Cocoa Beach
is one of the closest beaches to Walt Disney World, making it the ideal option if you want to head straight from the parks to sparkling blue waters and alabaster sands. It’s a quick, straight road from Orlando, meaning it’s super simple to reach in just over an hour and the short drive makes it popular with both locals and tourists. On top of the beach itself, Cocoa Beach is known as the gateway to the Kennedy Space Center
so any space enthusiasts will be thoroughly occupied while staying here. For little ones who don’t want to be astronauts, there’s also the wonderful Wizard of Oz Museum which brings the movie to life through immersive exhibits.
A quintessentially Floridian beach, Cocoa draws surfers from all around; however its gentle waves are best for those wanting to learn. Most notably, it’s also home to the world’s largest surf shop, Ron Jon Surf Shop, which is packed with equipment, clothing, souvenirs and more. After exhausting yourself on the waves, don’t miss strolling down the main pier, which is lined with shops, entertainment and great seafood restaurants.
Distance from Orlando:
60 miles / Approx. 1 hour drive by car
Ready for adventure?
Browse our Orlando Package Holidays 2024 & 2025
for more inspiration or visit Florida Fly Drive Holidays 2024 & 2025
to see the USA your way.