Are you new to Orlando and ready to dip your toes in the sand at the beach? Why not?! Florida boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and many are only a short drive from Orlando. A great benefit of Orlando is that you have many options for beautiful beaches regardless of where you are located. If you’re wondering which one to visit, take a look at our picks below. All are easily accessible by car and, under normal conditions, are within a two-hour drive from Orlando.
Distance from Downtown Orlando – 56 miles
Distance from Disney World – 62 miles
Distance from Universal Studios – 60 miles
Cocoa Beach is located on the Atlantic Coast and is the closest beach to Orlando. This family-friendly beach features a pier with several restaurants, shops, and an ice cream stand. Most people know Cocoa Beach by its flagship store, Ron Jons Surf Shop. Since Cocoa Beach is located only a few miles from Port Canaveral, you will often see cruise ships sailing out to sea in the evening, and if you’re lucky, you could even witness a rocket launch. There is an abundance of public beaches with easy access to Cocoa Beach. If you are looking for a quieter and less crowded area, try one of Cocoa Beach’s many parks. Our favorite is Lori Wilson Park, located next door to the Hilton Cocoa Beach.
Driving Tip: Cocoa Beach is an easy drive from Orlando, but keep in mind the tolls on 528.
Distance from Downtown Orlando – 58 miles
Distance from Disney World – 72 miles
Distance from Universal Studios – 66 miles
One of the most well-known beaches in Central Florida is Daytona Beach. This lively and active beach is home to the Daytona 500 and one of the largest Bike Weeks in the country. Daytona also features a pier and lots of activities for children and families. One of the more unique features of this area is that you can drive on the beach. For a small admission price, you can drive down the sands and park your car within feet of the ocean.
Driving Tip: Daytona Beach can be accessed from most of Orlando through I-4 and I-95. These major roadways are often congested during peak hours, so make sure you check traffic conditions before starting your commute.
New Smyrna Beach
Distance from Downtown Orlando – 57 miles
Distance from Disney World – 71 miles
Distance from Universal Studios – 75 miles
South of Daytona Beach is New Smyrna. If you are looking for a low-key and less populated beach, then New Smyrna may be for you! This area is less commercialized with fewer restaurants and hotels, making it an ideal “locals” beach. Like Daytona, you can drive on the beach in many of the areas, but you can also find portions of the beach where vehicles are not allowed.
Driving Tip: New Smyrna Beach can be accessed from most of Orlando through I-4 and I-95. These major roadways are often congested during peak hours, so make sure you check traffic conditions before starting your commute.
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Distance from Downtown Orlando – 118 miles
Distance from Disney World – 93 miles
Distance from Universal Studios – 99 miles
Recently named as one of Florida’s top beaches, Clearwater Beach is growing in popularity year after year. If you are looking for powder sand, wide beaches, and numerous hotel, restaurant, and entertainment options, then take a look at Clearwater! Located on the Gulf Coast, west of Orlando, this beach is possible to visit as a day trip but makes an ideal overnight trip. Regardless, you will want to stay for the gorgeous sunset, which has garnered its own event on Pier 60. There are numerous activities for families, including a pirate boat ride and the nearby Clearwater Marina where you will find the famous dolphin, Winter. For adults looking for nightlife, the oceanside resort Shepards, hosts live music on most nights.
Driving Tip: Clearwater is easily accessible from Orlando through I-4. Try to avoid arriving in Clearwater Beach during peak times since heavy traffic may cause a backup on the causeway. For day trips, we recommend beginning your commute early and plan on arriving in by 10:00 am. Also, during busy holidays parking can come at a premium. For day trips expect to pay $16-$40 to park near the pier.
Distance from Downtown Orlando – 138 miles
Distance from Disney World – 125 miles
Distance from Universal Studios – 133 miles
Siesta Key requires a longer drive than some of our other recommended beaches, but let us assure you, it is totally worth it! This barrier island is located west of Sarasota and benefits from powder sand and sunsets that can take your breath away. Siesta Key is an 8-mile-long, crescent-shaped barrier island easily accessible by one of 2 bridges connecting it to the Mainland of Sarasota. You can find four main areas, Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach, Turtle Beach, and Siesta Key Village, each with their own, unique character and charm.
Siesta Key has recently gained attention from an MTV reality show filmed on location, but don’t let that deter you. We find that there is a great mix of nightlife and bars as well as family-friendly activities.