But the good news is, there are plenty of beaches within easy driving distance of Orlando. So you can plan a fun vacation in Orlando, hitting the theme parks, and still take a few days to hit the beaches on either the west coast or the east coast.
To the west there are a slew of beaches in the Tampa & St. Petersburg area. From the Disney area, which is in south Orlando, it’s a straight shot down I-4 West for about an hour or so to get to the west coast beaches in Orlando.
To get to the east coast beaches in Orlando you just head up I-4 East (actually it goes north east) to the Daytona area. Or you can due east, for an hour or so, on Rt. 528 to the Cape Canaveral area. There are lots of choices for beaches in Orlando in both directions.
In the Daytona area there’s, of course, the world famous Daytona Beach. This is the legendary Spring Break and Bike Week capital. The hard packed sands started it all as the site of the land-speed record for autos over a hundred years ago. Daytona Beach is known for its excellent fishing both from the beach and also from the pier.
Flanking Daytona Beach is Ormond Beach to the north and New Smyrna beach to the south. The 3 mile long Ormond Beach is basically an extension of Daytona Beach accommodating the spillover spring breakers and bikers. Beach fishing is also very popular here.
Moving south from Daytona Beach, you come to Canaveral National Seashore. Starting at the northern tip (Ponce de Leon Inlet) there’s New Smyrna Beach with 10 miles of off-white silky sand. Besides being known for shark attacks, the beach here features a 1.5 mile long boardwalk through lush foliage of Smyrna Dunes Park. The beach also offers some of the best surfing waves anywhere in the U.S.
Moving down the Canaveral National Seashore, you get farther away from the more touristy atmosphere around the Daytona beaches. This national treasure has 24 miles of federally protected barrier island beach.
The two main beaches here are Apollo Beach and Klondike Beach. Apollo Beach allows horseback riding and camping (at designated beach campsites). May through October is the time when thousands of sea turtles hit the beach for nesting season.
About twelve miles farther south you will find Klondike Beach. This is considered a “backcountry beach” so no camping here and no facilities.
A little farther south is parking lot #13 which provides access to Playalinda Beach. This is the unofficial nude beach area. The beach is long and open so there is plenty of room to find a semi-private spot to shed the bathing suit.
South of the Canaveral National Seashore, on the other side of all the NASA facilities, you come to Cocoa beach.
This is the closest of all the “beaches in Orlando” and is a straight one-hour shot down Rt. 528 from Orlando.
North Cocoa Beach is the less family-friendly, more adult-oriented section. The South Cocoa Beach area is where most family vacationers go as well as surfers. The surf here is legendary.
Now let’s talk about the other beaches in Orlando meaning the beaches on the west coast. One of things that make this side popular is the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. From April through November the water temperature is in the 70’s and 80’s.
This stretch of Gulf coast runs from Tarpon Springs down through Tampa and St. Petersburg and includes many beaches along the barrier islands, mainland shore and Tampa Bay.
In the Tarpon Springs area, check out the beaches at Anclote River Park, Anclote Key Preserve State Park, Fred H. Howard Park, Sunset beach and Crystal Beach Live Oaks Park. These are mostly quiet spots great for family beach time, swimming, nature walks, shell collecting, and bird watching.
Below Tarpon Springs you come to the Clearwater – St. Petersburg area. Again, if you are looking for beaches in Orlando this is where you will need to go. Clearwater Beach is a great family beach with sparkling white sand, outdoor showers, fishing pier and nightly sunset celebrations at Pier 60.
There’s a narrow barrier island skirting the city of St. Petersburg and you will find a series of beaches all along the length of the island – Sand Key County Park, Bellair Shores Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores Beaches, Madeira Beach, John’s Pass park.
Then you come to the City of St. Petersburg Municipal Beach, St. Petersburg Beach and Treasure Island Beach. These are closest to the city and are the most popular and crowded beaches. Here you will find lots of typical beach oriented shops and restaurants along with picnic spots, bike paths, fishing spots. You are right next to downtown St. Petersburg with all the city has to offer.
One attraction in the city is The Pier Aquarium where you can watch the pelican feeding, take a sightseeing cruise to spot dolphins, get a bird’s eye view of the city from the top floor observation deck, and rent a surrey bike.
This is a quick overview of the available beaches in Orlando. Orlando may be land-locked but there are plenty of beaches nearby that can add some beach-time fun to your Orlando vacation ideas.