The 8 Best Beaches Near Disney World
Disney's Closest Beach Destinations Discovered!
Each year, an impressive 75 million people visit Orlando to experience the Most Magical Place on Earth. Walt Disney World, the most visited vacation resort in the world, consists of four theme parks, two water parks, 300 dining outlets, a slew of Disney hotels, and countless shops and attractions – so needless to say, conquering it all from your home base Disney area hotel is all but downright impossible! Rather, when you’re ready to press pause on the action-packed theme park excitement, consider tacking on an overnight stay or a day trip to a beach escape to round out your trip to the sunshine state.
Though landlocked in Central Florida, Orlando is well-positioned to reach a number of the state’s best beaches within a few hours. So once you’ve had your fill of spinning teacups, character breakfasts, and hour-long lines, trade in your Mickey Mouse ears for flip flops and head to the shore.
Beaches Near Disney And Orlando
When you're taking a break from all the things to do in Orlando, these beach escapes – all within three hours of Disney World in Orlando – make for ideal getaway-for-a-day or post-theme park retreat options for relaxation. Whether fishing from a pier, snorkeling among colorful fish, seeking seashells, learning to surf, or simply plopping a towel down on a stretch of sand, you’ll discover endless opportunities for fun and sun.
1 | Anna Maria Island | “Old Florida” at its best, the laidback and natural Anna Maria Island, a two and a half hour drive from Orlando, invites visitors to settle in to a slower pace of life. You won’t find any high-rise condo buildings or hotel towers here – strict regulations govern the type of buildings and businesses allowed on the barrier island, allowing it to preserve its old-time feel. Pick a spot on the seven-mile strip of pristine white-sands and laze away the day, dip in the turquoise waters, fish from the Rod and Reel Pier, join a sea turtle watch, or pay a visit to the Mote Aquarium to see more than 100 species of marine animals including sharks, manatees and stingrays. Enjoy a full-service experience at Waterline Marina Resort & Beach Club where the on-site restaurant, Eliza Ann’s Coastal Kitchen, is a popular spot for wood grilled oysters, daily specials based on local catch and crab hushpuppies.
WHERE: 5325 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, FL 34217 | WHO: 941-238-6262
2 | Cocoa Beach | An hour east of Orlando, you’ll find some of the greatest swells on the East Coast in Cocoa Beach, the state’s surfing capital. Beginner surfers young and old can sign up for a lesson at Ron Jon Surf School or Cocoa Beach Surf Company, available on a private, semi-private or group lesson basis by the hour or half day. During the summer, kiddos can join a week-long surf camp session designed to help them feel confident in the water, learn surf etiquette and ocean safety, and practice surfing fundamentals so that they’re riding the waves by the week’s end. Surfs up! Come for the day, or stay at the beachfront Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort, a family-friendly Cocoa Beach hotel with a waterpark and complimentary trolley that transports guests to and from the world-famous Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier. A historic landmark on Florida's Space Coast, the pier stretches 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and is a great family-friendly place to fish, grab a bite of fresh seafood, enjoy amazing vistas over the ocean, or check out some live entertainment.
WHERE: 3550 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 | WHO: 321-783-2230
3 | Clearwater Beach | Clocking in at just a little over a two-hour drive from Orlando, Clearwater is often named among the country’s top beaches and it’s easy to see why. Colorful sunsets, white-sand shores and clear, shallow water make it an ideal beach destination for families. Stroll along the mile-long Beach Walk Promenade, head to Clearwater Marina and embark on a pirate-themed cruise with local legend, Captain Memo, and his crew, or visit Winter the Dolphin, made famous by Dolphin Tale, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. As the sun begins to sink into the Gulf of Mexico, head to Pier 60 to be a part of the bustling sunset celebration. At the nightly festivities, families can enjoy street performers, shop for unique souvenirs from artisans and crafters, and take in a beautiful west coast sunset. There are plentiful options for live music and good eats from beachside grills, tiki bars, and local spots offering fresh Floridian fare. Rest your head in soothing white sands and take in the unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico.
WHERE: 430 S Gulfview Blvd, Clearwater Beach, FL 37671 | WHO: 727-450-0380
4 | Vero Beach | Regarded as a small town with world-class luxury, Vero Beach is a nine-mile stretch of shoreline on Florida’s Atlantic coast, just an hour and a half southeast of Orlando. As part of the Treasure Coast, shipwrecks are a main attraction. Visitors have the opportunity to dive a centuries-old shipwreck and spot up to 400 species of marine life; watch as salvage boats and treasure hunters search for the long-lost loot from the 1715 wreck of a Spanish fleet; or visit the McClarty Treasure Museum, where jewels and coins found by local beachcombers are on display. Families will enjoy Vero Beach, which offers plenty of recreational options for fun in the sun, whether sliding into a Mickey Mouse-shaped pool, building sandcastles on the beach, or embarking on a kayaking adventure. Head to Waldo’s Restaurant, a local landmark dating back to the early 1900s, now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, for sunset views and seafood. You can’t beat casual outdoor dining with ocean views paired with great food!
WHERE: 9250 Island Grove Terrace, Vero Beach, Florida 32963 | WHO: 772-234-2000
5 | Daytona Beach | There’s no shortage of ways to stay entertained in Daytona Beach. Most famous for being home to “The World Center of Racing,” Daytona Beach’s 500-acre Daytona International Speedway complex recently underwent a $400 million upgrade and is a major attraction. Race fans and adrenaline seekers will relish in the opportunity to experience the famous track first-hand with the NASCAR Racing Experience, which puts you behind the wheel of an actual race car. On the beachside, the historic Daytona Beach Pier and neighboring thrill rides, games and amusements offer old-fashioned family fun at the oceanfront boardwalk. Just north, the city’s Oceanfront Park offers free live music at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, a scenic amphitheater made of coquina shells and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. More than 20 miles of sandy beaches offer swimming, surfing and the unusual opportunity to drive and park on the sand.
WHERE: 2637 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118 | WHO: 386-767-7350
6 | St. Pete Beach | Hop in the car and head west for just a little over two hours and you’ll reach the award-winning beaches of St. Pete, home to the iconic and historically grand Don CeSar resort. The 90-year-old hotel is cotton candy pink with a popular beach out front where you can rent chairs to lounge on the soft sand and order refreshing concoctions at the pool bar. For a less-crowded beach scene, head to Pass-a-Grille Beach, a quaint beach town on the southernmost end of St. Pete Beach.
WHERE: 3400 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, Florida 33706 | WHO: 844-338-1501
7 | New Smyrna Beach | Less than an hour from Orlando, New Smyrna Beach is just north of the popular Daytona Beach and loads less crowded. The 17-mile long charming beach town is known for its coastal architecture and personality. You’ll find a white sandy shoreline, laidback community, prime surfing location, local eateries, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and drivable beach. When you’re ready to grab a bite to eat, head to the south end of the beach to JB’s Fish Camp near Canaveral National Seashore, a local’s favorite for grouper sandwiches.
WHERE: 859 Pompano Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169 | WHO: 386-427-5747
8 | Playalinda Beach | Located inside Canaveral National Seashore, this pristine beach is relatively remote and features natural dunes. Thanks to its status as a national park, its shoreline is the longest undeveloped stretch of oceanfront on Florida’s east coast. There are toilet facilities in each parking lot, but no further amenities – so be sure to pack a picnic and any other essentials you may need. Just under an hour drive from Orlando, it makes for a perfect peaceful escape for the day. Note that beach entrance 13 allows for nude sunbathing, so families may prefer to stick to the earlier entrances to avoid a surprise.
WHERE: Florida State Road 406/402, Titusville, FL 32796 | WHO: 321-267-1110
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Last Tips on Best Beaches Near Disney World
With 825 miles of beaches in Florida to choose from, surf and sand is closer than you think – even when you’re in a landlocked city like Orlando. With a little bit of research, you can pick the perfect piece of paradise to explore before or after your trip to Walt Disney World to make the most of your vacation.
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* Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.