Orlando has amazing waterparks and refreshing springs, but sometimes you just need to put your toes in the water at the beach. We aren’t located directly on the coast, but we sure are close! If you want to plan a day trip or weekend jaunt, we have your guide to the top 5 beaches closest to Orlando.
Cocoa Beach – 1 hour
Cocoa Beach is the closest beach for Orlando residents, located a little less than an hour from Central Florida. It’s well known for family fun, relaxing along the beach, a location for eco-tours or for deep-sea fishing. There are area attractions, such as the Kennedy Space Center (and the possibility of a rocket launch), museums and easygoing beach nightlife. Cocoa is also near Port Canaveral, the launching area of world-class cruise ships. The 900-foot long Canaveral Pier is one of the landmarks of this area. Cocoa Beach has 72 miles of Atlantic shoreline, and features several beaches. In addition to the Canaveral National Seashore, there is the 35-acre Jetty Park at Port Canaveral, which is one of the busiest parks in the county that offers covered pavilions and picnic areas.
One of the most accessible parks is Alan Shepard Park, named for astronaut Alan Shepard. There is plenty of parking and a picnic area, plus a boathouse. Sidney Fischer Park has picnic pavilions, and showers and restrooms, making it ideal for families. Lori Wilson Park encompasses 33 acres, and includes a 3,000-plus foot boardwalk. There are six dune crossovers and picnic areas. The park is perfect for enjoying wildlife.
Other parks in the Cocoa Beach area, all of which provide dune crossovers include Cherie Down Park, Robert P. Murkshe Memorial Park, Seagull Park, Hightower Beach Park, Canova Beach Park, Howard E. Futch Memorial Park, Indialantic, Spessard Holland North and South Beach Parks, Coconut Point Park and Bonsteel Park.
Ormond Beach – 1 hour
Located just north of Daytona Beach and a little more than an hour from Orlando, Ormond Beach provides a small town experience for visitors. Ormond Beach was chosen by millionaire legend John D. Rockefeller as one of the best places to live, and it was the location of the first automobile races, giving the community the title of “Birthplace of Speed.” In addition to beach activities, Ormond Beach offers surf fishing at the 900-acre North Peninsula State Recreation Area, and tennis, a fishing pier and picnicking facilities at Ormond Bicentennial Park. This quiet and relaxing location is also the home of the Tomoka River Paddling Trail, a state-designated Florida paddling trail around Tomoka State Park.
Daytona Beach – 1 hour
Daytona Beach bills itself as “The World’s Most Famous Beach,” and its well-publicized activities, such as Bike Week and the Daytona 500 have made it one of the most popular beaches on the Atlantic coast. Just about an hour from Orlando, Daytona Beach not only offers Florida’s sun and fun, but also permits vehicles on the beach, a treat for many visitors. It boasts twenty-one miles of beachfront with 11 miles designated for vehicles. There are many activities for visiting families, including Daytona Lagoon with its speed and tube slides and free oceanfront concerts throughout the summer (complete with free fireworks) and, in August, the Lifeguard Championships.
New Smyrna Beach – 1 hour
A quieter cousin of nearby Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach is located about an hour from Orlando. Not only does it have beach driving in designated northern beach locations but it also has access to the Ponce de Leon Inlet where surfing championships are frequently held throughout the year. The South end of New Smyrna Beach is the north entrance to the Canaveral National Seashore, offering 24 miles of coastline. In 2010, New Smyrna Beach was named one of Dr. Beach’s “10 Best Beach Towns in Florida.” Orlando residents have also named it one of their best beaches for several years, and in 2012, it made the top 20 Surf Towns by National Geographic Magazine.
Canaveral National Seashore – 1 hour
Canaveral National Seashore runs along 24 miles of beach line, about an hour from Orlando. It is unique because it not only includes a barrier island in its 58,000 acres, but also open lagoons, coastal hammock, pine flatwoods and offshore waters and is the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida’s east coast. Interestingly, the seashore is part of the 156-mile Indian River Lagoon, which has been the subject of many studies and research in recent years, and is an Estuary of National Significance. In addition to waterfowl and wading birds that visit the park, it is also the location where three species of sea turtles return to deposit their eggs each year.
The seashore begins south of New Smyrna and runs south to Titusville. It includes three beaches: Apollo Beach, a remote beach, where driving on the beach is not permitted; Playalinda, a well-known nude beach; and Klondike Beach, a true wilderness and at times, solitary 20-mile beach between Apollo Beach and Playalinda Beach, which is accessible from these beaches.
Flagler Beach – 1 ½ hours
The Flagler Beach Municipal Pier that has a lifeguard station, picnic tables and a decked restaurant, making the pier and Flagler Beach worth the hour and a half trip from Orlando. Crossovers to the beach that take visitors over the dunes are available at the end of every street, and are the only legal way to get to the beach. Cutting through the dunes is not only unsafe but destroys the vital vegetation holding the sand in place.
Visitors to Flagler Beach enjoy surfing, fishing, and kayaking, as well as walking along the beach. One note: sea turtle nesting season is from May 1 to October 31 and there are restrictions for using the beach so that you don’t disturb the sea turtles and their nests. Leashed dogs may be on the beach south of S. 10th Street and north of North 10th Street.
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