The 19 Best Beaches Near Orlando for Families

19 Best Beaches Near Orlando For Families

Looking for the best beaches near Orlando for families? This post will share the top beaches to visit with kids that are an easy day trip from Orlando, plus some hidden gems away from the beach, too!

Many families visit Orlando for the theme parks, but adding a trip to the beach can elevate your family vacation to the next level!

No matter how much you and your kids love Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando, sometimes you just need a change of scenery. While these parks can be the happiest and most magical places on earth, the crowds can also leave the entire family feeling overstimulated and crabby. Thankfully, Florida beaches are some of the best in the world and just a short drive away!

If you’re taking an extended Disney Vacation, consider scheduling a day trip to another destination in Florida. There are spectacular beaches, laid-back beach towns, and quirky state parks all within a two-hour drive of Orlando. Breaking up your Disney vacation with an adventure to one of the many beautiful spots in Central Florida can preserve the magic of your time at the parks.

Here are the closest beaches to Orlando to add some sun and sand to your Disney or Universal vacation.

19 Best Beaches Near Orlando

Best Beaches Near Orlando For Families

1. Cocoa Beach

Surf’s up, dude! Head to Cocoa Beach for surf-inspired fun and possible manatee sightings depending on the time of year. This is my top pick since it’s the closest beach to Orlando.

Ron Jon Surf Shop’s flagship store is located in Cocoa Beach, so take your time browsing through two floors of beach gear, home decor, apparel, and souvenirs. Then, take advantage of Ron Jon Surf School and enjoy private or small group surf lessons.

Grab a Key lime pie nearby at the Florida Key Lime Pie Company, then head to the beach to enjoy the sun and surf. Cocoa Beach Pier is one of the more popular spots to hang out, but Lori Wilson Park is one of the best beaches for families.

Drive to Manatee Sanctuary Park in Cape Canaveral a few minutes away for lovely views and a chance to spot manatees during the winter months. You can also go mini-golfing or check out the Museum of Dinosaurs.

Plan Your Visit:

  • Just a 1-hour drive from Disney World.

2. Sarasota

If it’s a white sand beach you’re craving, head southwest from Disney to beautiful Sarasota. Not only will you find plenty of kid-friendly attractions in Sarasota itself, but you’ll also love exploring the keys off the coast. Siesta Key is one of the most renowned, with wide white sand beaches, an adorable downtown area, and plenty of ice cream shops to keep everyone happy. You’ll feel like you’re on a tropical getaway for a day!

Stop by O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill where you can sit at a picnic table in the sand and let the kids play while you enjoy a laid-back dinner with drinks. Bring sand toys to keep them occupied!

Don’t forget to swing by Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, then make your way to Big Cat Habitat to see lions, tigers, and bears! We also loved Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Plan Your Visit:

  • ~1 hour 45 minutes from Disney World.

3. Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach is the perfect place for sugary white sand and clear waters. This Gulf Coast beach is a popular destination in Florida and was recently named “Best Beach in the South!”

Visit Pier 60 for the day, where you can purchase souvenirs along the fishing pier, take your kids to a beachside playground in the shade, or try your hand at some water sports.

Be sure to stay for the sunset celebration! This is a great place to catch the sunset. My only note? Arrive early. Parking is hard to come by and expensive!

Other activities to add to your day at Clearwater Beach: take a dolphin cruise or the ferry to Caladesi Island State Park, a barrier island off the coast of Clearwater in the Gulf of Mexico. This would be a chance to see an unspoiled beach and kayak through some mangroves.

You also must stop at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the Dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movie.

4. New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach is one of those surf towns that exudes laid-back vibes on the Atlantic Coast. This lesser-known beach has more locals than tourists. Like Daytona Beach to its north, you can drive on the hard-packed sand for a fee of $20/day and enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the ocean. This is a popular spot for surfers, and my kids were fascinated watching them catch the waves.

When you’re done with the beach, wander around Flagler Avenue, full of boutiques, candy shops, and unique restaurants. Visit the Ponce Inlet to climb the tallest lighthouse in Florida and explore the Marine Science Center with touch tanks and a turtle rehabilitation center.

Plan Your Visit:

  • ~1 hr 10 minutes from Disney World on the east coast of Florida.

5. St. Augustine

St. Augustine has history, culture, shopping, beaches, kid-friendly attractions, and gorgeous architecture; there’s truly something for everyone here. It’s also known as the nation’s oldest city and potentially the site of the Fountain of Youth. Everyone needs to check this city off their bucket list at some point!

St. Augustine Beach is one of the best family beaches with a wide stretch of sand and a beachside splash pad! The beach is a huge draw for families, but there is so much else to do in this ancient city.

Start with a trolley tour of St. Augustine. You can sit for the full tour and learn all about the city’s history or use it as transportation with the hop-on, hop-off option. It stops everywhere! Some recommendations include the Colonial Quarter, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the Castillo de San Marcos, and wandering St. George Street, a pedestrian-only stretch of shops and restaurants.

For animal lovers, check out the Alligator Farm and stay for one of the feedings. It’s fascinating!

Plan Your Visit:

  • ~2-hour drive from Disney World.

6. St. Pete Beach

Head to the Gulf Coast for sunshine and white sand beaches. St. Petersburg, located in the Tampa Bay Area, is known for its year-round beautiful weather.

In St. Petersburg, visit the Salvador Dalí Museum, explore the sunken gardens, or go to Fort De Soto Park. The park is loved for its wide beach, tidal pool for kids to play in, and pirate ship playground. It’s often named one of the most family-friendly beaches in the United States!

Check out the new St. Pete Pier with a playground, restaurants, splash pad, waterfront walkway, and, of course, a beach.

Plan Your Trip:

  • ~1 hr 30-minute drive from Disney World.

7. Flagler Beach

If your family is yearning for a beach day but you want to escape the tourist crowds, Flagler Beach is perfect. This tiny beach town along the Atlantic Ocean is quiet, tranquil, and quirky. There are miles of unspoiled beaches with free parking on the side of A1A. A few blocks away from the Pier, you’ll find very few people sharing the beach with you.

The sand is cinnamon-colored and made from coquina rock. It’s still soft but sticks to your skin like crazy. Despite that, it looks incredible contrasted against the blue waves lapping the shore.

Flagler Beach has good surfing waves, so you can take surf lessons with your family, rent stand-up paddle boards or boogie boards, and just enjoy the ocean. Fish off the pier (it’s very affordable, and you can get your one-day fishing license at the minuscule shop on the pier).

Explore the shops and restaurants in Flagler Beach when you want a break from the water. Our favorite spots are the Golden Lion and Sally’s Ice Cream.

Plan Your Trip:

  • ~1 hour 30 minute drive from Disney World.

8. Daytona Beach

Don’t forget about Daytona Beach, the world’s most famous beach! If you can avoid the college spring breakers, Daytona Beach has a ton to do for families. Of course, the boardwalk and pier are the most famous attractions with carnival games, rides, a bandshell with free summer concerts, and tons of restaurants and candy shops.

Try the Riverfront Shops on Beach Street for a tour of Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, a coffee shop, and some adorable boutiques. Across the Halifax River, you’ll find Jackie Robinson Ballpark where the Daytona Tortugas play, which would make a very enjoyable family activity.

There’s also a children’s museum in Daytona Beach (Charles & Linda Williams Children’s Museum at the Museum of Arts and Sciences), and, of course, Daytona International Speedway is a must-visit for race car fans.

Plan Your Visit:

  • ~1 hour and 15 minutes drive from Disney World.

9. Canaveral National Seashore

Canaveral National Seashore is part of the National Park Service and a great stretch of undeveloped coastline. This barrier island in the Atlantic is right off the coast of New Smyrna Beach.

Beyond enjoying the sun and ocean, some of the best things to do at Canaveral National Seashore include seeing natural features like sand dunes and an open lagoon since the seashore is part of the Indian River Lagoon. Families can stop by the Apollo Beach Visitor Center to learn more! This beach is an easy drive from Orlando and is ideal for nature lovers.

Plan Your Visit:

  • 1 hour drive from Orlando.

10. Ormond Beach

Ormond Beach is a smaller beach town north of Daytona Beach and a great spot for families who want a quieter beach. Our family loved visiting Andy Romano Beachfront Park, where you can find a playground and splash pad. The beach is very wide, so there is lots of space to spread out in the soft white sand, making it the best place to go with kids!

Next, drive the Ormond Scenic Loop and enjoy the natural scenery. Along the way, you can stop at Peninsula State Park, Tomoka State Park, or Bulow Creek State Park! You can also see sea turtles nesting from December through April.

Plan Your Visit:

  • 1 hour drive from Orlando.

11. Vero Beach

Vero Beach is a slightly longer drive from Orlando at 2 hours, but you can keep the Disney theme going by staying at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort! Enjoy a Mickey Mouse-shaped pool or brave the Pirate’s Plunge Pool Slide before heading out to boogie board in the waves or relax on the beach.

Vero Beach is on the Atlantic Treasure Island Coast of Florida and one of the best areas for sea turtle nesting.

Vero Beach is the perfect choice for an extended stay at the beach before or after your time at the Disney Theme Parks!

Plan Your Visit:

  • 2-hour drive from Orlando.

12. Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville is another family-friendly beach to the northeast of Orlando, with the drive clocking in at around 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Beyond the beach, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is one of the best places to go with kids. We used to frequent this zoo when we lived in Florida and loved how many cool exhibits there are, in addition to playgrounds for kids!

Be sure to stop at Sweet Pete’s for some treats, and Sunshine Playground is one of the best to visit with kids.

Plan Your Visit:

  • 2-hour 15-minute drive from Orlando.

13. Fort De Soto

I mentioned Fort De Soto Park when I talked about St. Pete, but it’s so family-friendly it deserves a shout-out!

Fort De Soto, as the name suggests, has a historic fort you can visit, plus 7 miles of beach to choose from! There are many picnic areas where you can stop for a picnic lunch, plus a snack stand where you can purchase food, too!

Our favorite spot in the park with kids was the pirate ship playground. You’ll also want to stop at North Beach, where you’ll find calm, shallow waters and tide pools for younger kids and toddlers to play.

​The entrance fee to the park is $5 per car.

Plan Your Visit:

  • 2-hour 30-minute drive from Orlando.

More Destinations Near Orlando Without a Beach

14. LEGOLAND Florida

Do you have any LEGO lovers in your family? Then LEGOLAND Florida is a must-visit during your time here. This theme park is made just for kids, and there is so much to discover and explore. Miniature cities in great detail made exclusively from LEGOs, a new virtual reality roller coaster (it was so cool!), a water park, Duplo Valley just for toddlers, and even a Botanical Garden in the middle of the park make LEGOLAND, Florida a unique experience.

Plan Your Trip:

  • Just a 45-minute drive from Disney World.
  • Prices for a 1-day pass:
  • Adults: $95.99
  • Children: $90.00
  • Details for planning your visit.

15. Blue Spring State Park

If you’re visiting Disney World during the winter months, head to Blue Spring State Park to see hundreds of manatees wintering in the warm crystal-clear spring. It’s a great way to take advantage of a slightly colder day (yes, we do get cold days in Florida) since you’re more likely to see manatees when it’s chilly out.

Wander along the boardwalks that wind through the park and stop at each of the lookout points over the river to marvel at the manatees congregating below. Though the water is a balmy 72 degrees, you won’t be allowed to swim if wildlife is congregating in the springs.

In summer, you can swim or rent inner tubes to float through the springs. You can also snorkel or scuba dive (if you’re certified), kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddle board, take a boat tour on the St. Johns River, or visit the Thursby House, a 150-year-old home that is now a museum.

Plan Your Visit:

  • Arrive early. The park closes when it reaches capacity (which it often does!).
  • The park opens at 8 a.m.
  • ~1 hour from Disney World.
  • Entrance to the park is $6 per vehicle.

16. Kennedy Space Center

As a Florida resident, Kennedy Space Center has been on my bucket list since we moved here. It’s a cool opportunity to see so much of our country’s history with space exploration all in one place! You’ll need a full day to visit because there is a TON to do and see, even with small kids.

There are emotional and educational IMAX movies, a bus tour where you can visit the Apollo/Saturn V Center, see the Space Shuttle Atlantis, train like an astronaut, have lunch with an astronaut, walk among a garden of rockets, play on playgrounds, and more. Depending on the age of your kids and interest in outer space, you might even need 2 days to see and do everything. We had a 1, 3, and 5-year-old when we visited and found 1 day perfect.

Plan Your Visit:

  • ~1 hour drive from Disney World.

17. Tampa Bay

Just an hour’s drive southwest of Disney World is Tampa Bay, a surprisingly wonderful city to visit with kids. Our family spent a lot of time on the River Walk wandering along and enjoying the view. You can take the hop-on, hop-off Pirate Water Taxi, which my kids loved, and get off at different stops along the river like the Children’s Museum, splash pads, parks, or Armature Works food court.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of zoos, Zoo Tampa is worth a visit with an entire section of the zoo designated for toddlers and small children with rides, petting zoos, and a splash pad. If you just can’t get enough of the theme park scene, check out Busch Gardens. Little ones will love the Sesame Street Safari of Fun section of the park as well as the Serengeti Express, a train ride safari.

Plan Your Trip:

  • ~1 hour from Disney World.
  • We stayed at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park just outside of Tampa.
  • Make sure to get the CityPass if you want to enjoy a lot of the attractions in Tampa Bay, including Busch Gardens. It will save you TONS of money.
  • Read my full guide to Tampa Bay with kids.

18. De Leon Springs State Park

This is another under-the-radar Florida gem frequented by locals. It’s a park with a fascinating history, from Native American use to a sugar plantation to an Inn and Casino. Now it’s owned by the government and preserved for our enjoyment. You can swim in the spring, which is a beautiful 72 degrees year-round.

The highlight of De Leon Springs State Park is the Old Spanish Sugar Mill and Griddle House, a restaurant where you get to cook your own pancakes and eat as many as you want! Each table has a griddle built into the middle of it, and once they bring you the batter and whatever toppings you ordered (chocolate chips, blueberries, peanut butter, strawberries, etc.), you can have a blast creating your pancakes the way you like them. It’s $5.25 per person, plus extra for toppings.

2024 UPDATE: The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is now closed.

Plan Your Visit:

  • ~1 hour 10-minute drive from Disney World.

19. Gainesville

Gainesville may not be a coastal city, but it still offers plenty of fun activities for families. One of the biggest attractions is the Florida Museum of Natural History, where entrance is free for the permanent exhibits. Temporary exhibits or extra experiences like the Butterfly Rainforest cost money but are priced reasonably.

Gainesville is also known for access to the great outdoors with plenty of parks and trails to choose from. So, get out in nature and get active with your kids. There’s no better way to take a break from Disney than hiking or biking to admire creation.

Plan Your Visit:

  • ~2 hours north of Disney World.

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