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The 11 best beaches near Orlando

Scope out the best beaches near Orlando for day trips and long weekends away. Get ready for absolute serenity

Megan duBois
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Megan duBois
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When most people think of a vacation to Orlando they think of the iconic theme parks, spectacular dining, and even the multitude of spots for nightlife. But what you should also think of is the beach. Even though Orlando is landlocked, it's just a short drive to some of the best beaches in Florida

These beaches are ideal for day trips with your family in tow or as long weekends away with friends. No matter what you're looking for in a beach there's one for every type of traveler too. From the raging Spring Break vibes in Daytona Beach to the old-school feel of Vero Beach, travelers will find their ideal spot nearby. 

Even though you could hit the manmade beaches at places like Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park or Universal's Volcano Bay, there's nothing like the real thing. While in the stunning beach towns don't forget to hit up the local restaurants that are likely serving some of the freshest seafood around, and even the locals-only tiki bars. You'll thank us later.

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Best beaches near Orlando

About two hours southeast of Walt Disney World is Vero Beach, home to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. The area is known for the vast sea turtle nests that pop up every summer along the shores and sand dunes. If you're traveling to the area to see the turtles, you want to plan for between May and October. Going down to the beach at night to watch for hatchlings is fun, but be sure to take a red light with you, so you don't distract the turtles as they make their way to the ocean.

 

Cocoa Beach is the perfect spot for people who love all things space. It’s very close to the Kennedy Space Center Complex, so you can see rockets lift off right from the beach. The hour drive from Orlando makes this a great location for day trips – and watersports and fishing excursions are abundant. The beach is also known as the surf capital of Florida. There are plenty of beach shacks and surf houses that offer lessons on the sport if you want to learn. 

 

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Just a few miles south of St. Augustine is Flagler Beach. Parking for some of the beach access points is on the side of the road, and you’ll spot cars parked in nearby sandy areas to get down to the water. The beaches connect to the intercoastal waterways, where families will bring their boat or paddle board out for the day. This stretch of sand is known for great shelling and shark tooth hunting, along with decent surf conditions. All in all, this is a great recommendation for a family-friendly beach. 

In about one hour, you can be in New Smyrna Beach, making this one of the closest day trip destinations from Orlando. While exploring the area, be sure not to miss Canal Street for beach-front shopping and dining and art galleries. The beach is also one of three areas in Florida where driving on the beach is allowed, so there’s no need to lug all of your essentials from a parking lot down to the sand with you. Just be sure to stay on the packed sand when driving and parking. Trust us, the soft sand is a pain to try to get out of at the end of the day. 

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Daytona Beach is known for its spring break crowds and racing fans (it is home to the Daytona 500), but there is more to the area than grubby beach bars and race cars. Each summer, the Daytona Beach Bandshell hosts free concerts featuring a variety of musical acts. The boardwalk is typically buzzing with people enjoying carnival-style games and rides. There are also plenty of restaurants and ice cream shops to pop into throughout the day to cool off and grab a bit to eat before getting back in the water. 

The nation’s oldest city is home to glittering beach waters and a thriving beach-front community. The two-hour drive from Orlando might seem long, but you’ll definitely want more than one day exploring the beach and city. After lounging on the sand, you can explore the Castillo de San Marcos, an old military fort near the intercoastal waterway, or climb the stairs at the St. Augustine Lighthouse all the way to the top for scenic views of the city. When hunger strikes, head to A1A Burrito Works, which is serving up huge burritos, tacos, and its version of a crunch wrap. If you have a car with four-wheel drive, you can even drive yourself onto the beach at various access points, but be sure to watch for kids running too close to the area with cars. 

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St. Pete Beach is the quintessential beach town filled with pastel-colored buildings and white picket fences. For the perfect Instagram photo, stay at the historic Don CeSar Hotel, which opened its doors for the first time in 1928. If you aren't staying here, you can still snap a photo of the hotel from the sand. The beach is actually located on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, which offers great views of the sunrise and sunset each night. The bursting beach town is filled with art galleries, shops, and restaurants that are alluring and welcoming.

Along the Gulf Coast, you’ll find Clearwater Beach, where the waters are tame, and the vibe is relaxed. The beach is perfect for those who love jet-skiing, paddle boarding, or parasailing in the morning before getting cleaned up to explore the area. While the beach area is more for tourists, there are some unique local activities. Be sure to check out the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which has a fantastic sea turtle and dolphin rehabilitation center. Do not leave without trying a grouper sandwich at one of the local restaurants – a lunch favorite in the area.

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If you’ve ever seen old surf movies from the 50s and 60s, then you’ll instantly know the feel of Indialantic Beach, where island life is top of mind for residents and visitors. The beach is about an hour away from Orlando, and totally worth the drive. All the quintessential beach activities can be done here, from shelling to body surfing. After spending time on the shore, do a little food tour around the area, where cheap eats abound. Some of our favorites are Long Doggers and Nini’s Cuban Cuisine.

Ponte Vedra Beach is just over two hours away from Orlando and is perfect for a weekend getaway. The area is known for hosting the PGA Tour at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The beach is a great spot to search for shark teeth (look for small and shiny black objects in the sand). Most of the beach is lined with multi-million dollar homes and hotels, so you might have to park a short walk away from the access point to the beach. When night falls, try out some of the local breweries and restaurants that call the area home.

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Jacksonville Beach has become one of the top destinations in northeast Florida. Parking is limited so try to arrive as early as possible and keep your car parked in the same spot if you want to explore the nearby bars and restaurants like Eleven South and TacoLu. Even though the Jacksonville Beach Pier is closed from damage sustained during a hurricane, you can still get great views of the ocean from nearby rooftop bars and balconies. The beach is a favorite with the younger college-aged crowds since it's close to the University of North Florida, and 3rd Street is known for its bar-hopping scene. 

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