Relax at These 6 Beaches Near Orlando

After visiting Orlando's theme parks, head to a nearby beach to unwind. Use Alamo's beach guide to find a beach close to Orlando that fits your vacation style.

There’s a reason Orlando is nicknamed the “Theme Park Capital of the World.” In 2015, 66 million visitors flocked to the Florida city that’s home to Walt Disney World, plus Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando.

After a thrilling time at the parks, you may want to relax at one of the many beaches just a short drive away. Pick up your rental car from one of Alamo’s nine Orlando locations and hit a nearby beach with tips from this guide.

While every beach provides visitors with unique experiences, a few of them seem tailor-made for specific types of vacationers.

  1. Best Beach to Surf: Cocoa Beach
  2. Best Beach for Art and History Lovers: New Smyrna Beach
  3. Best Beach for NASCAR Fans: Daytona Beach
  4. Best Beach for Science and Nature Lovers: Canaveral National Seashore
  5. Best Beach to Watch the Sunset: Clearwater Beach
  6. Best Beach to Enjoy Some Peace and Quiet: Honeymoon Island State Park

Best Beach to Surf: Cocoa Beach

  • About 60 miles from Orlando.
  • Public parking is available on the streets and in paid and free lots at oceanfront parks such as Alan Shepard Park, Sidney Fischer Park, Lori Wilson Park and Robert P. Murkshe Memorial Park.

Follow the aptly named Beachline Expressway toll road east from Orlando. Take a right at the Atlantic Ocean, and you’ll find yourself in Cocoa Beach. Pro surfer Kelly Slater got his start in the “Surfing Capital of the East Coast,” and you, too, can try catching waves with lessons from one of the local outfitters.

Prefer to stay dry? Watch the locals hang 10 — slang for when all 10 toes are on the nose of the surfboard — while you cast a fishing line from the Cocoa Beach Pier. Or tackle another water sport from the Thousand Islands Conservation Area; its flat waters are ideal for kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding or even motoring about on a pontoon boat. This oceanside town is also home to the world’s largest surf shop — the legendary Ron Jon Surf Shop flagship store — where you can find supplies for your day in the sun.

Sunrise at Cocoa Beach At dawn, take in the sunrise as you get ready for a morning of surfing at Cocoa Beach.

Best Beach for Art and History Lovers: New Smyrna Beach

  • About 55 miles from Orlando.
  • Public parking is available on the streets and in paid lots at beachside parks such as 27th Avenue Beachfront Park, Grayce Kenemer Barck North Beach Community Park, Esther Street Beachfront Park and Flagler Avenue Beachfront Park.

From Orlando, follow Interstate 4 east and take State Road 44 until you reach New Smyrna Beach, tucked between Cocoa Beach to the south and Daytona Beach to the north. One of “America’s Top Small Cities for the Arts,” this beach town features more than surf shops and ice-cream stands. The Atlantic Center for the Arts, an artists-in-residence community and educational facility, is located here. Plus, just steps from the beach, art galleries, boutiques and antique shops can be found throughout the downtown area.

The area is home to plenty of history, too, including the Turnbull Ruins, a coquina block foundation thought to be where New Smyrna’s founder, Andrew Turnbull (1718-1792), tried to build his mansion. You’ll also find the Eldora State House, which was built in 1913 and is one of two remaining buildings from the late-19th-century agricultural community of Eldora. Explore the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, Florida’s tallest lighthouse, which began guiding sailors in 1887. Climb the 203 steps and take in spectacular 360-degree views.

Rainbow at New Smyrna Beach See all the colors of the rainbow while lounging outside on New Smyrna Beach or inside one of the town’s many art galleries.

Best Beach for NASCAR Fans: Daytona Beach

  • About 55 miles from Orlando.
  • In addition to parking on the beach itself, public parking is available on the streets and in lots at the Sun Splash and Breakers Oceanfront parks.

Though many associate Daytona Beach with spring break, the spot has attracted visitors to its 23 miles of beaches, boardwalk and pier year-round for more than 100 years. On the water, visitors can surf and swim. On the beach’s famous hard-packed sand, it’s easy to bike, go for a long walk, build sand castles—especially at low tide when the beach stretches 500 feet wide—or just soak in the sun’s rays.

Daytona Beach, Florida, USA beachfront skyline Take a dip in the ocean and a ride on a Ferris wheel at Daytona Beach.

When the sun goes down, Daytona’s nightlife heats up. From dancing and live music at The Bank & Blues Club to high-energy clubs like Razzle’s Nightclub, or quiet pubs such as Tir Na Nog Irish Pub, you’ll find a variety of fun. And, of course, you can get your motor revving annually at the Daytona 500. The running of the historic race takes place every February at Daytona International Speedway.

Best Beach for Rocket Science and Nature Lovers: Canaveral National Seashore

  • About 55 miles from Orlando.
  • Parking is available within the park.

Between Daytona and Cocoa beaches on Florida’s east coast lie 24 miles of undeveloped beach at Canaveral National Seashore. It’s less crowded than many of the other area beaches; you’ll find quiet solitude broken by soft sounds such as native osprey chirping and waves crashing onto the shore. Walk the short self-guided trails, some of which showcase piles of shells left by Timucuan Indians.

Cape Canaveral launch pad shore Catch a rocket launch from Canaveral National Seashore.

On the beach, look for tracks from when a mama sea turtle laid her eggs, or maybe witness a hatching during nesting season (March to October). Even amid all of the natural beauty, you can spot the launch pads of Kennedy Space Center just east beyond the park’s lagoon. If your timing’s right, you may even see a rocket launch.

Best Beach to Watch the Sunset: Clearwater Beach

From Orlando, head west on Interstate 4 to Tampa. Follow the signs along Interstate 275 to State Road 60 and continue on until the road ends on the sugar-soft white sands of Clearwater Beach. Clearwater’s broad beaches, turquoise water and nearby hotels, shops and restaurants make it one of the most popular beaches in the area. Clearwater Beach was No. 1 on TripAdvisor’s 2016 list of Top 25 Beaches in the United States and the only American beach to make TripAdvisor’s 2016 list of Top 25 Beaches in the World.

Mother Nature complements Clearwater’s incredible beaches every night when the sun dips below the horizon and casts deep shades of orange and stunning hues of yellow across the sky. Celebrate the sunset at Sunsets at Pier 60 with evening street performances. Keep an eye out for the elusive green flash as the sun disappears — a phenomenon that’s known to sunset-seekers but rarely seen.

Sunset at Clearwater As the sun’s bright colors set into evening oranges and hazy purples, count how many palm tree silhouettes you can spot beneath Clearwater Beach’s setting sun.

Best Beach to Enjoy Some Peace and Quiet: Honeymoon Island State Park

  • About 115 miles from Orlando.
  • Parking is available within the park.

From Orlando, drive west on Interstate 4 and State Road 60, then follow U.S. Highway 19 North through the small town of Dunedin. Take a left to Honeymoon Island State Park. The island got its name from a 1939 Life magazine contest for newlyweds; the prize was a two-week honeymoon stay on the island.

You won’t find high-rise hotels or condos, beachfront restaurants or lots of crowds in what was once a popular honeymoon spot. Rather, outstanding shelling, birding and snorkeling await, as well as several nature trails. Try the Osprey Trail, which offers half-mile to 2½-mile routes and takes you through woods where osprey, eagles and horned owls nest. Along the way, hikers can take a detour to Pelican Cove. Your pup is welcome here, too, so long as Fido stays with you and on a leash. There’s even a dog wash area for easy cleanup before hopping back into the car.

Honeymoon Island Escape to the beach at Honeymoon Island State Park for some relaxing alone time.

Headed to a Beach Near Orlando?

Rent a car at Orlando Airport or another Orlando location.

About the Author

Susan B. Barnes, aka travlin’ girl, is a travel writer who enjoys exploring the world as much as her own Florida backyard and sharing discoveries with her readers. Follow her travels online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.