People Sitting on a beach Near Orlando

Top 5 Best Beaches Near Orlando, Florida for a Family Vacation

Orlando, Florida, usually evokes images of exuberant theme parks, with children wearing mouse ears and meeting their favorite characters. However, many families may not realize that this magical city is also the gateway to some of Florida’s most serene and enchanting beaches.

Just an hour’s drive from the whirlwind of excitement that is Orlando, the picturesque shores invite families into a world of tranquility and fun. With gentle waves lapping at the shores and the sun caressing your skin, it’s hard to believe that this beach paradise exists so close to the bustling theme parks.

It’s the contrast that makes it special; where else can you explore the wonders of Harry Potter in the morning and build a sandcastle kingdom in the afternoon?

Table of Contents

Why Beaches Near Orlando?

Why choose between the animated world of theme parks and the natural beauty of beaches when you can have both? The beaches near Orlando allow families to craft a multifaceted vacation. After the sensory overload of the theme parks, the peaceful beaches serve as a perfect retreat.

Beach view

These beaches are not just stretches of sand but offer a treasure chest of experiences. From the excitement of spotting dolphins in the waves to the simple joy of a family picnic with the setting sun, there’s an undeniable magic in the air.

Moreover, the proximity to Orlando means you can fluidly switch between the adrenaline-fueled adventures of the theme parks and the calm respite of the ocean without spending hours on the road.

A Perfect Family Getaway

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all family vacation, and that’s why the beaches near Orlando are so extraordinary. Whether your family is composed of thrill-seeking surfers, wildlife enthusiasts, or sandcastle architects, there’s a piece of paradise for everyone.

Little ones can be pirates for the day, searching for seashells and treasure along the shore, while the teenagers ride the waves on surfboards. History enthusiasts in the family will love exploring the rich cultural heritage of the coastal towns. Parents and grandparents can unwind, with their toes in the sand, and enjoy a good book or perhaps join in on the fun and games.

And after a day of adventure or relaxation, there’s nothing quite like gathering the family to watch the sunset over the ocean, with the promise of more adventures to come.

Gearing Up for the Beach Experience

Before you set out, let’s ensure that you have everything you need for a day on the beach.

Must-Have Beach Accessories

beach accessories

You’re going to want to have beach chairs, an umbrella, plenty of towels, and beach toys for the kids. Don’t forget the camera to capture the memories!

Sunscreen and Safety Tips

It’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s rays so make sure you pack sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses for everyone.

Keeping the Kids Entertained

Bring along beach games, like a frisbee or a beach ball. Consider also bringing a small selection of buckets and shovels for building sandcastles.

Picnic Ideas for a Beach Day

When you’re at the beach, you’re going to need snacks and lots of water. Think about packing sandwiches, fresh fruit, and crackers for a light lunch.

1. Cocoa Beach: A Classic Family Favorite

Cocoa Beach pier

Just over an hour’s drive from Orlando, Cocoa Beach is one of the most accessible beaches to the city.

1.1 Attractions and Activities

At Cocoa Beach, you can experience a myriad of water sports. Go for a banana boat ride, try windsurfing, or go fishing on the pier. Don’t forget to visit the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop!

1.2 Tips for Visiting Cocoa Beach

It can get busy during peak season, so aim to arrive early. There’s parking available for a fee.

1.3 Where to Stay

There is a variety of accommodations from hotels and motels to beachfront cottages and rental condos.

1.4 Cocoa Beach’s Historical Significance

Cocoa Beach has been a beloved destination for decades, known as a surfer’s paradise.

2. New Smyrna Beach: A Surfing Paradise

Sea Waves of the New Smyrna Beach

Another beach that’s about an hour’s drive from Orlando, New Smyrna Beach offers a quieter atmosphere.

2.1 What Makes it Special?

Known for its incredible waves, it’s a surfer’s paradise. Plus, it’s less crowded than Cocoa Beach.

2.2 Local Cuisine Recommendations

New Smyrna is famous for its seafood. Stop by JB’s Fish Camp for some local flavor.

2.3 Surfing Lessons for Kids

There are several surf schools that offer lessons for children as young as seven.

2.4 New Smyrna Beach’s Rich Culture

This beach is not just for surfers. It’s known for its art galleries, boutique shops, and live music venues.

3. Canaveral National Seashore: An Untouched Beauty

A bit further afield, Canaveral National Seashore is pristine and perfect for nature lovers.

3.1 Natural Wonders and Wildlife

It’s one of the best places to experience Florida’s natural beauty. You might even spot sea turtles or manatees.

3.2 Tips for a Smooth Visit

This is a protected area, so make sure to leave no trace. This means pack out all your trash and leave the shells and wildlife undisturbed.

3.3 Environmental Education for Kids

The park rangers offer educational programs for kids about the local ecosystem.

3.4 The NASA Connection

Visit the nearby Kennedy Space Center. You might even be lucky enough to see a rocket launch!

4. Daytona Beach: A Blend of Adventure and Relaxation

Known for its NASCAR history, Daytona Beach offers much more.

4.1 Attractions and Activities

Daytona has one of the few beaches where you can drive right on the sand. There’s also Daytona Lagoon water park and the Museum of Arts and Sciences.

4.2 Dining Options

For a casual beachfront meal, try Ocean Deck. Or for something more upscale, try Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse.

4.3 Family-Friendly Events

From car shows and concerts to festivals and art shows, there’s always something happening in Daytona Beach.

4.4 The Daytona International Speedway Legacy

Take a tour of the Speedway to learn about its rich history.

5. Clearwater Beach: White Sands and Clear Waters

Venture a little further to the Gulf Coast and find Clearwater Beach, known for its powdery white sands.

5.1 Exploring Pier 60

Pier 60 is a popular spot for fishing and watching the sunset. There’s also a daily festival with street performers and craft vendors.

5.2 Marine Life Encounters

Visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale.

5.3 Watersports and Boat Tours

Rent paddleboards, go jet skiing, or take a dolphin-watching cruise.


Orlando may be known for its theme parks, but don’t overlook the nearby beaches. From the surf culture of Cocoa Beach to the natural beauty of Canaveral, there’s a beach for everyone.


  1. What are the top activities for kids on these beaches?
    • Sandcastle building, surfing, wildlife viewing, and beach games.
  2. Are there any unique historical or cultural aspects to these beaches?
    • Yes! Cocoa Beach has a rich surfing history, while New Smyrna Beach is known for its arts.
  3. What are the best dining options near these beaches?
    • Seafood is a must. Try JB’s Fish Camp in New Smyrna or The Garlic.
  4. What educational experiences can kids have at these beaches?
    • They can learn about conservation at Canaveral National Seashore or about space at the Kennedy Space Center.
  5. What is the best time to visit these beaches?
    • Spring and fall are ideal, as the weather is pleasant and they are less crowded.

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