A Practical Guide to the Best Beaches Near Orlando

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Best Beaches Near Orlando

Did you know that no matter where you are in the state of Florida, you're never more than 60 miles from the coastline? Of course, how long it takes to get to a beach depends on traffic. And, it can be hard to decide which beaches near Orlando are the best. This practical guide to Central Florida area beaches will help you find the right beach for you.

What is the closest beach to Orlando?

Although Orlando is part of Central Florida, the majority of the Orlando area is a little closer to the east coast of Florida. And besides the slight lean towards the Atlantic coast, there is generally less traffic and congestion driving from Orlando to the Space Coast and the Volusia County beaches.

Let's take a look at some of the closest beaches near Orlando:

  1. Cocoa Beach
  2. Melbourne
  3. Titusville
  4. New Smyrna Beach
  5. Daytona Beach

Cocoa Beach

Location: Using the address 1300 N Atlantic Ave Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 puts you near the center of the stretch of Cocoa Beach
Best for: A great local beach with lots of nearby dining and shopping, and an easy drive
Parking and admission: Free at Lori Wilson Park (1400 N Atlantic Ave) and George McLeod Park Landmark (345 N Azure Ln)

For most people, Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Orlando. It is one of the easiest beaches to get to thanks to the 528 toll road, lovingly known as the “beach line,” directly connecting Interstate 4 with the Atlantic coast. A visit to Cocoa Beach isn't complete without stopping at Ron Jon's Surf Shop. And, the Cocoa Beach Pier is a popular tourist spot (but beware of the pricey parking charge).

Check out all these things to do near Cocoa Beach.

I love the beach town feel of Cocoa Beach. Besides soaking up the sun, I love driving around the neighborhoods to see the classic coastal styles. You can find plenty to eat around town. Some of my favorites are 4th Street Filling Station, Florida's Fresh Grill, and Rusty's Seafood and Oyster Bar.

Besides a charming beach area, Cocoa Village is nearby. This historic downtown area has fantastic dining and shops, and is wonderfully walkable.

Make a weekend getaway of it with our itinerary for Three Perfect Days in Cocoa Beach. Or, have a truly epic experience by following our Sunrise to Sunset Florida Trip.

Cocoa Beach sunrise
Image credit: Dani Meyering

Melbourne Beach

Location: 30 minutes south of Cocoa Beach, with beach access along A1A from 1st Street to Surf Road
Best for: A quieter, more relaxing beach that's still close to Orlando
Parking and admission: There are free lots along Atlantic Avenue / A1A starting at Ocean Avenue down to Surf Road, but they are small

Situated along Florida's Space Coast, the city of Melbourne is located a little less than 90 minutes from downtown Orlando. Melbourne Beach is quieter and more relaxed than Cocoa Beach. History Point Melbourne (194 Ocean Avenue) is a great place to start when visiting Melbourne Beach. Free parking along A1A fills up fast, so Melbourne Beach is best for early risers.

If you're coming from the Kissimmee / St. Cloud area, Melbourne Beach is closer to you than Cocoa Beach. And if you'd rather not get your toes sandy, Historic Downtown Melbourne and the trendy Eau Gallie Arts District are great to explore. Find more ideas in our guide for spending a day in Melbourne.

Playalinda Beach in Titusville

Location: Playalinda Beach is reached via Fla 402 (also known as Beach Road)
Best for: The ultimate Space Coast destination
Parking and admission: There is a park entrance fee of $20 for one vehicle, it is valid for 7 days

Not too far from Cocoa Beach is Titusville. It is about 30 minutes north of Cocoa Beach, so if you are coming from the north side of Orlando, towards Seminole County, it is convenient. Here you’ll find a smaller beach town with a charming historic downtown. Titusville celebrates the unique culture of the space program and is a very popular spot for viewing rocket launches. There aren’t as many public-access beaches here, but you will find a nice selection of restaurants and lounges. Make sure to also stop by Playalinda Brewing.

We've got a step-by-step itinerary for a wonderful day in Titusville.

Playalinda Beach in Titusville is where to head for beach access. This beautiful beach is housed within a natural reserve, the Canaveral National Seashore. FYI: it is home to a nude beach (around parking lot 13, the farthest pier). If you wish to avoid this area there is plenty of space — just park at one of the lots before parking lot 13. And if you prefer to explore the nude beach, well, you know where to go!

Space View Park monuments in Titusville
Space View Park in Titusville | Image credit: Dani Meyering

New Smyrna Beach

Location: Volusia County, closest beach to Seminole County and West Volusia County
Best for: Charming small-town feel with great local dining and shopping
Parking and admission: Free parking in select small parking lots along Flagler Avenue and side streets – walking involved, parking lots closest to the beach are $20 per day

New Smyrna Beach is small, but mighty. Charming small businesses make up this town, and there are plenty of great restaurants for a delicious meal. Locals call New Smyrna Beach “NSB” and you're sure to see “NSB” stickers on cars as you approach the area. Plentiful beachside parks give you another way to enjoy the beach. One of my favorites is 27th Avenue Beachfront Park, with its beachside playground and picnic facilities. There is also a dog-friendly beach at Smyrna Dunes Park (though it is very popular on the weekends and usually reaches capacity by 11:00 am).

Make a weekend getaway of it with our Three Perfect Days in New Smyrna Beach.

Important note: Driving on the beach is allowed through most of New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach. Please be extremely careful around children.

Daytona Beach

Location: North Volusia County
Best for: Exciting atmosphere and lots of activity
Parking and admission: Driving on the beach access is $20, free parking at 834 N. Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, free parking at 611 S. Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, you can also park for free at Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach as long as you dine at the onsite restaurant or have a spa appointment

Perhaps the most well-known beach on Central Florida’s Atlantic coast is Daytona Beach. Home of Daytona International Speedway and the famous Daytona 500 race, this beach allows cars to drive and park right on the sand, in honor of the original Daytona 500 races taking place on the beach itself. It is one of the most visited beaches near Orlando.

Personally, I find Daytona Beach to be too busy and congested. However, Daytona Beach is a must-do if you're new to Florida or you're showing people around Central Florida. If you want to enjoy the excitement of Daytona Beach and experience a romantic atmosphere, the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach should be on your list. Whether you do a weekend getaway at the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach or stop by for brunch, it is one of the best features of this area.

Brunch done Hard Rock style | Image credit: Stephanie Patterson

What is the nicest beach near Orlando?

The answer to this is certainly subjective and open to opinion. Still, there's no denying there are a few favorite beaches among locals.

New Smyrna Beach is my favorite among the Atlantic coast beaches near Orlando. A small, coastal town feel exudes from the New Smyrna Beach area. Flagler Avenue is full of great local restaurants and shops, with the beach itself at the end.

On the Gulf site, St. Pete Beach is considered to be among Florida's nicest beaches. The surrounding area is more metropolitan than natural relaxation, but offers plenty of options including art museums, breweries, eateries and more. Plus, the St. Pete Pier is a must-do attraction with dining, local artisans, and a fantastic playground.

New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach | Image credit: Arlene Laboy

What beach is closest to Disney World?

  1. Cocoa Beach
  2. Melbourne

Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Walt Disney World. From the attractions area, you can head down Toll Road 528, known as the Beach Line, and be on the sand just about an hour. It is a unique beach town because of Port Canaveral and its beautiful cruise ships, as well as its proximity to Cape Canaveral, former home of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and current home of the SpaceX and ULA private space initiatives. Disney Cruise Line's main port is here because of Port Canaveral being so accessible to Walt Disney World Resort.

FYI: If you're visiting from out of town and do not have your own transportation to Cocoa Beach. there are a few options. Cocoa Beach Shuttle is a great option, with the ability to make reservations in advance. Florida Shuttle services multiple cities throughout the state of Florida.  If you're booked on a Disney Cruise and staying at Walt Disney World, there is dedicated bus transportation from Disney World to the Disney Cruise ships. You'll need to arrange this with Disney Cruise Line directly.

Alternatively, Melbourne Beach is 30 minutes south of Cocoa Beach and still relatively close to Walt Disney World.

What is the closest gulf coast beach to Orlando?

  1. Clearwater Beach
  2. St. Pete Beach
  3. Siesta Key

Although Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Walt Disney World, and the most direct route, some of the beaches on the Gulf Coast aren't too far either. Soft, lapping waves and warmer waters on this coast make for pleasant splashing any time of year. Be aware, traffic can get very congested.

The most famous beach on this side of the state is Clearwater Beach, whose calm waves and sugar-soft sand make it a very desirable destination. It is the most popular of beaches near Orlando. A nightly sunset celebration takes place on Clearwater’s Pier 60, where live entertainers and vendors line the pier as everyone gathers to watch Mother Nature put on a show. Just be aware that traffic can be very congested here, especially on the weekends. Affordable parking can be hard to come by; there are ample parking garages that run about $15 for three hours. (Sand Key is right next to Clearwater Beach and is a nice alternative for a quieter spot, though you will have to contend with Clearwater traffic.) Overall, it is a great destination and is where I just celebrated my anniversary with my husband.

Alternatives include St. Pete Beach and Siesta Key. Both have vibrant food scenes, white sand beaches, and crystal clear waters.

Have the perfect beach day with Florida beach gear from Bealls.

Quiet Beaches Near Orlando to Escape the Crowds

  1. Honeymoon Island (Gulf Coast)
  2. Egmont Key State Park (Gulf Coast)
  3. Jetty Park (East Coast)
  4. Ponce Inlet (East Coast)

Not too far from Clearwater Beach is Honeymoon Island. This beautiful Florida state park is on my list to get back to someday soon – I visited a few times as a kid, and now, as an adult, it is calling me back. You can rent bicycles and kayaks for the ultimate in beach-day recreation. You can also take a ferry to Caladesi Island for unspoiled natural beauty. Grab a bite to eat at the small cafe near the boat dock here or claim your piece of paradise and rent beach chairs and umbrellas to make the most out of your island time.

Another Gulf Coast destination with a private island feel is Egmont Key State Park. Just over an hour from the attractions area, it is one of the best beaches near Orlando. My husband and I loved exploring this island. We booked the Hubbard’s Marina Ferry, which departs from Fort De Soto Park near St. Pete. With this ferry you'll be on the island for three hours, giving you time to explore the beaches on both sides of the walkable island, explore the ruins, and more. Get all the details at Sail Away to Egmont Key State Park for the Day.

Jetty Park is one of my favorite beaches on the Atlantic coast. Because of the jetty at the end of its beach, the water is calmer than the other beaches in the area. It is also home to a campground, complete with cabins that are almost on the oceanfront. Camping at Jetty Park is a great romantic getaway.

Beaches near Orlando - Pathway to Jetty Park Beach with blue skies above soft beige sand, flanked by green seagrape plants
Pathway to Jetty Park Beach | Image credit: Dani Meyering

From Jetty Park, you can enjoy the beach, walk out on the pier, and watch cruise ships head out to sea in the afternoon. There are also restroom facilities near the parking lot, which is a rare and helpful feature.

Jetty Park is open daily from 7am to 9pm. Access to parking is available to Jetty Park Passholders only. An Annual pass, 3-month pass or Daily Pass must be purchased online prior to arrival at the park. No credit card or cash transactions can take place at the entrance gate – a parking pass / day pass is required and must be purchased online, in advance.

Finally, Ponce Inlet is a quiet beach near the Daytona Beach area. Although the southern tip of Ponce Inlet is open to beach driving, most of Ponce Inlet beaches are closed to vehicular traffic. Winterhaven Park in Ponce Inlet is a great choice for free parking and access to a quieter beach.

 

Feature image credit: Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier


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