Just because Orlando is known for its theme parks doesn’t mean you can’t also get your beach fix when in this Central Florida city. Plan a day trip and unwind at one of these five beaches.
Grab a board and hit the waves in one of the top places to surf on the East Coast—Cocoa Beach. Just 60 miles east of Orlando, travelers can also pay a visit to the world’s largest surf shop, the flagship of Ron Jon, go deep-sea fishing or engage in other water sport activities such as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
Cocoa Beach sits along the Space Coast, so named because this region is home to America’s manned space program and the Kennedy Space Center. A 30-minute drive north, discover Canaveral National Seashore, a quieter beach with trails, turtle eggs hatching (from March to October during nesting season) and incredible views, possibly including rocket launches.
If you’d like a day at the ocean along with a dose of art and history, head to New Smyrna Beach, 55 miles northeast of Orlando. Like Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna is renowned for its waves, but this town also has a thriving art community. Relax on flat, gold-toned sands and then enjoy shopping at galleries, boutiques and antique stores downtown. Top the day off by climbing to the top of Florida’s tallest lighthouse, Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse.
On the west coast of Florida, with its warm Gulf of Mexico waters and white-sand beaches, other options abound. Drive less than 120 miles southwest to St. Pete Beach, boasting 361 days of sunshine a year. Get up to date with your beach history at the 100-year old Gulf Beaches Museum. Then, grab a bite from inside RumFish Grill Aquarium, where you’ll dine while watching sea creatures in a 33,500-gallon aquarium.
Also on the west coast, Sunshine State explorers can enjoy Clearwater Beach (above). A little more than 100 miles southwest of Orlando, this beach city has a small-town feel. In spring, see sand transformed into giant sculptures during the 10-day Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival. Year-round, Clearwater also hosts nightly events known as Sunsets at Pier 60. Take in the sun’s last glowing moments while enjoying street performers and artisans from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.