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Orlando offers beautiful beaches within an easy day trip, as taking a break from all the family-friendly attractions and theme parks to soak up the sand and the sun is really a must. There are some fabulous stretches just an hour away, and if you don’t mind a little longer drive, there are even more possibilities that open up within a couple of hours of Orlando. Pick your favorite and start planning that unforgettable day at the beach.
Dubbed the “World’s Most Famous Beach” due to its hard-packed sand, Daytona Beach is a popular Atlantic Coast beach. It’s attracted countless people from across the globe for car racing for more than a century and is just an hour from downtown Orlando. It still hosts the world-renowned Daytona 500 and other NASCAR races and visitors can also drive right on the beach as well as enjoy free summer concerts, movies, and fireworks.
New Smyrna Beach may not be as well known, but here you can enjoy gorgeous white quartz sand and some of the best surfing in Florida, all just an hour from Orlando. The “locals beach” for many Orlandoans, it offers wide, smooth sands ideal for activities like riding bikes right through the surf. In town, historic Canal Street is the place to go for delicious eats and beach-themed shopping.
Located along Florida’s Space Coast, Cocoa Beach is also just an hour from downtown Orlando offering a long and scenic stretch of sands for soaking up the sun, building sandcastles, playing volleyball, surf fishing and more. The water is warm and you know the surfing is going to be good with 11-time World Champion surfer Kelly Slater getting his start here.
The Canaveral National Seashore offers an ideal view of NASA’s Cape Canaveral launch station, making it a perfect destination for watching a rocket launch, along with 57,000 acres of pristine coastline, one of the longest in the country. You’ll find some of the quietest stretches for sunbathing and swimming, along with opportunities to glimpse endangered animals like sea turtles and manatees.
About 90 minutes from Orlando, Melbourne sits along the Atlantic coast and boasts miles and miles of unspoiled sands and popular beach parks. Paradise Beach and Park has some of the clearest blue waters and the softest sands in the region yet it offers a quiet escape from the crowds. It’s staffed with a lifeguard for safe swimming and it’s also great for sandcastle building and tranquil strolls. In the beachside park you’ll find sand volleyball courts, covered picnic areas, kids’ play equipment and restrooms. Melbourne Beach is also the home of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, popular for viewing sea turtle nesting in June and July.
St. Augustine Beach is farther away, a two-hour drive from Orlando, but it’s worth the extra time to enjoy the beautiful white sands here. Crescent Beach, in particular, offers some of the most unspoiled stretches with never-ending views of the virtually empty coastline. More active pursuits can be enjoyed at nearby Vilano Beach, from parasailing to Sea-Doo rentals. Nearby, you can also head into St. Augustine to enjoy the rich historic delights of the oldest city in the United States.
Located on a barrier island sandwiched between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico, Clearwater Beach is one of Florida’s most beautiful and most famous stretches, worth the two-hour drive to get there. The 2.5-mile span of powdery white sands is edged by aquamarine waters that are ideal for activities like jet skiing and parasailing. It’s a great place to swim with lifeguards keeping a close watch and the sea clear and shallow, as well as to watch for dolphins that frequently pass by. You’ll find lots of beachfront tiki bars and concessions selling things like ice cream and renting water sports gear, and there’s a large beachfront playground for the kids too.
For those who want to enjoy great golf and time at the beach, Ponte Vedra can be reached within a 2.5-hour drive from Orlando. It’s home to the famed 17-hole island green and the highest white sand dunes in the state. There are gorgeous creeks and lagoons that wind through the natural area of Ponte Vedra Beach to explore, along with sharks teeth, both fossilized and more recent, to find.
An hour and 40 minutes from Orlando, Vero Beach offers peaceful stretches of sand along with a wide range of water sports. You can take advantage of surfing and kayaking lessons, and while walking the pristine white beach, you’re likely to meet more pelicans and turtles than humans. Indian River Lagoon, nestled between the mainland and the barrier island, is the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern hemisphere, with over 3,000 species of plants and animals residing here. Kayak tours led by a nature guide are available here through the Florida Outdoor Center.
St. Pete Beach is a little over a two drive from Orlando, but your reward will be to experience gorgeous, strikingly white sands that are frequently named among the top five beaches in the country. The soul-soothing stretch is postcard-perfect and offers dazzling turquoise waters for all sorts of activities – be as relaxed or as adventurous as you desire. Afterward, you can enjoy the small-town charms of the town, strolling the main street, Corey Avenue, which is lined with all sorts of eclectic shops.