Florida is well known for its sunny shoreline and year-round beach weather. This state contains 825 miles of sandy beaches, which is plenty of space to accommodate the millions of people that visit these beaches each year.
Orlando is located right in the middle of the state, so many of these beaches are easily accessible from this city. Families who travel to Orlando to visit one or more of the theme parks often enjoy taking a break from that crowded atmosphere to spend time lounging on the sand or floating in the waves at one of the nearby beaches.
The following eleven beaches are the best beaches for families that are within easy driving distance of Orlando. Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to the Orlando resort area and typically draws the most people. Vero Beach contains a Disney Beach Resort, making this an obvious beach destination for families who enjoy the Disney experience.
Flagler Beach provides the most peaceful beach experience and also allows dogs. With so many wonderful beaches near Orlando, families may have a tough time deciding which one is right for them.
1. Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach, an hour’s drive from Orlando on the Atlantic Coast, is close to the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. So if people time their visit well, they can see rockets launch into space from here.
The waves at Cocoa Beach are amazing and families with kids who enjoy surfing and boogie boarding will love this beach. Many people also come here to learn how to surf. Lessons can be booked at one of the surf houses located at the beach.
People rent bikes and explore the area or stroll along the Cocoa Beach Pier. They also visit the largest and most famous surf shop in the world called Ron Jon Surf Shop.
Plenty of restaurants are located along the beach and pier in Cocoa Beach. People can find all kinds of delicious foods and refreshing beverages without having to look hard. The most difficult part of any trip to Cocoa Beach is trying to decide what to do first.
2. Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States and it is one of the best beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
This beach is a two-hour drive from Orlando and has white sand that looks like sugar and feels soft enough to sleep.
The relaxed vibe and gentle waves of Clearwater Beach make it an ideal place for kids to swim. For more fun and adventure, families can rent jet skis or paddleboards and play around on the water.
The clear, calm waters of this beach create the perfect place for children to learn how to snorkel. After kids are tired from swimming and playing in the sand, they can visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see their dolphin and sea turtle rehabilitation center.
Before making the trip back to Orlando, plenty of restaurants at Clearwater Beach can serve up some delicious seafood that will satisfy everyone in the family.
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3. Vero Beach
Credit: Vero Beach Florida / Facebook
Vero Beach is an approximate two-hour drive from Walt Disney World. For the families who love Disney and want to combine their Disney theme park vacation with a trip to a beach resort, then Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is the place to stay at this beach.
Located on Florida’s Treasure Coast on the Atlantic Ocean, this part of the coastline is littered with Spanish shipwrecks that were carrying treasures. Occasionally, these treasures wash ashore along this beach, and people love beachcombing here, hoping to find something exciting.
Treasure hunting is not the only thing to love about Vero Beach. Swimming in the surf and kayaking in the Indian River Lagoon provide families with fun activities.
Visitors often go to the beach at night with a red light to watch turtles that climb up on shore to lay their eggs or see the baby turtles hatch and make their way into the ocean. Families find plenty of fun when they visit Vero Beach.
4. Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach, a ninety-minute drive from Orlando, is famous for the Daytona 500 car racing event and popular as a spring break destination.
But this beach has so much more to offer families who want to enjoy an epic beach vacation. A long boardwalk parallels the shoreline and is lined with entertainment for kids like an arcade and thrill rides at Screamer’s Park.
In the summers, live music is performed at the Daytona Beach Bandshell at the northern end of the boardwalk.
Children really enjoy playing on the white sands of Daytona Beach. The wide shoreline gives families plenty of room to spread out and children plenty of space to run around. The waves are gentle and perfect for kids to swim and play in the surf.
Lifeguard stations are dotted along the shoreline where lifeguards can keep an eye on swimmers. Daytona Beach offers many activities, and families will want to spend more than a day enjoying everything there is to do.
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5. Canaveral National Seashore
The Canaveral National Seashore is a ninety-minute drive from Orlando. Families can watch rocket launches at the Kennedy Space Center from this shoreline, although they should plan to arrive a few hours in advance to secure their access to the park.
This pristine shoreline offers families a chance to see some of the threatened and endangered wildlife species that call this park home, including manatees and sea turtles.
Children and adults swim in the clean, clear waters and gentle surf that characterizes this shoreline. In addition, hiking, horseback riding, paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing provide additional ways for people to explore the waters and try to see some of the wildlife that lives here.
One thing of which families should be aware is that there is a nude beach at this national park. The beach is clearly marked, and signs are posted warning people well in advance of their arrival at that part of the shoreline.
Parents should pay attention and make sure they do not accidentally wander somewhere they see something they cannot unsee.
6. Flagler Beach
Flagler Beach has a low-key, beach-town vibe without all of the touristy glare that many beaches offer. It is located on the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida and is a ninety-minute drive from Orlando.
This golden sandy shoreline provides a beautiful place to surf, swim, and sunbathe. Many of the visitors to this beach, especially children, also enjoy shelling and hunting for shark teeth.
Flagler Beach also has pet-friendly sections at the beach, so families can enjoy swimming and playing with their leashed dogs at the beach all day.
Flagler Beach connects to the intercoastal waterways. People kayak, paddleboard, and boat all day through these channels. Many families enjoy the fishing pier at Flagler Beach.
Children enjoy walking down the pier to see what fishermen are catching and then throwing in their own line to see what they might catch as well. Flagler Beach makes an excellent peaceful beach vacation destination for families.
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7. New Smyrna Beach
An hour’s drive from Orlando, New Smyrna Beach is an idyllic beach location for surfers and sunbathers. This historic town on the Atlantic Coast attracts kids, teenagers, and adults with serious surfing skills.
The waves at this beach may be too large for young children, but the sand is a fun place for them to play. The sand at this beach is fine and packs well, making it easy for walking and playing. People can even ride their bikes on this sand.
New Smyrna Beach is one of only a few beaches in Florida where people are allowed to drive their vehicles. That means no one has to carry all of their beach gear from the parking lot to the beach.
When people get hungry and look for a place to eat, several local restaurants and quaint cafes provide a wide variety of cuisines sure to appeal to everyone.
The quiet and serene atmosphere of New Smyrna Beach combined with its legendary Atlantic surfing waves makes this an attractive beach destination.
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8. St. Augustine Beach
St. Augustine Beach has everything a family could desire in a beach destination. This beach is a two-hour drive from Orlando, but with all it has to offer, many families make the effort to visit.
Swimming and boogie boarding are popular activities at this beach. The pristine white sands at St. Augustine Beach are perfect for building sandcastles and for driving on with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Beach gear like chairs, umbrellas, surfboards, and more can be rented at shops along the beachfront. In addition, leashed dogs are allowed to accompany the rest of the family on this beach.
In St. Augustine, visitors can explore some of the area’s history by checking out the Castillo de San Marcos, a historic military fort, located near the intercoastal waterway.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse also draws visitors who want to climb to the top to catch a scenic view of the city and surrounding area.
Kids that want to fish can visit the St. Johns Country Ocean Fishing Pier. With so many activities to do, families will want to stay more than a day. Luckily, many lodging options with a wide range of prices are available.
9. Ormond Beach
Ormond Beach lies directly north of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Coast, approximately a ninety-minute drive from Orlando. This beach is far more rustic and laid-back than Daytona Beach.
Families that want to avoid the crowds and bustling atmosphere of Daytona would enjoy the tranquility of a vacation at Ormond Beach.
The sand at this beach is more coarse than others, making it less than ideal for building sand castles, but perfect for digging holes and burying one’s parents. Swimming, boogie boarding, and surfing keep kids moving and running in and out of the surf all day.
The amenities at this beach include restrooms, picnic tables, and a playground. Driving onto the sand here is permitted for a fee, but in some places, the sand is not hard enough to get off without a tow. Families that choose Ormond Beach love that it is quiet, people are friendly, and dogs are allowed to run around.
10. St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach is a typical beach on the Gulf of Mexico, approximately a two-hour drive from Orlando. The soft, white sand and turquoise blue waters are exactly what people expect the ideal Florida beach to look like.
What makes this beach a perfect, family-friendly beach is that there is no end to the activities that kids can do here. Kids at this beach swim, boogie board, kayak, paddleboard, and build sandcastles.
Occasionally, pods of dolphins can be seen swimming just offshore, adding magic to the beach experience. Because St. Pete Beach is located on a barrier island, both sunrise and sunset on this beach are picture-perfect.
Families that travel to St. Pete Beach should also visit the iconic and historic Don CeSar Hotel, a beautiful and famous landmark built in the 1920s.
11. Sebastien Inlet State Park
Sebastien Inlet State Park is well-known as “the premier saltwater fishing spot on Florida’s East Coast.” Families of fishermen love to visit this beach, located only a two-hour drive from Orlando, making it an easy day trip.
The waves along this fine-sand beach are also famous as some of the best surfing waves on the East Coast. Kids love to swim and surf at this beach. The turquoise blue waters are so clear that parents can easily teach kids how to snorkel here.
Many visitors to the Sebastien Inlet State Park come here to go shell hunting or to observe sea turtle nests. This park also contains two history museums, the McLarty Treasure Museum and the Sebastian Fishing Museum.
The Treasure Museum engages children’s imagination with stories and historical accounts of the Spanish treasure fleet in this area. The Fishing Museum educates people about the history of the area’s fishing fleet. Families that visit state parks usually find more than simply beaches to enjoy.