THE 10 BEST BEACHES NEAR ORLANDO - (GO GLOBAL)
THE 10 BEST BEACHES NEAR ORLANDO
REACH TWO COASTS FROM ONE HOT TRAVEL DESTINATION
BY LAURA ANDERS LEE
When people think of a Florida vacation, two ideas to come to mind: theme parks and the beach.
With Orlando’s central location, vacationers don’t have to choose. The Atlantic coast is just an hour’s drive and the Gulf of Mexico lies 90 miles to the west. After spending time at Walt Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld take a day to relax at the beach and soak in the famous Florida sunshine. These are 10 beaches within a two-hour drive of Orlando.
Less than two hours southeast is the resort town of Vero Beach. The area is known for its posh downtown, gorgeous nature preserve on the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. Disney even opened its own beach resort here on Florida’s Treasure Coast so enjoy the best of both worlds if you’re not ready to part ways with Mickey Mouse. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort offers sing-alongs, campfires, kayaking adventures and a surf school.
Orlando’s closest beach is also known for its surfing culture. Cocoa Beach is the international headquarters for Ron Jon Surf Shop and its flagship store is the world’s largest surf shop. Open 24 hours a day, the store features everything from T-shirts and seashells to beach bikes, paddleboards and, of course, surfboards in addition to surf lessons.
While spring breakers congregate around the Cocoa Beach Pier for beach volleyball and partying, many families like the quiet of Lori Wilson Park where you’ll find free parking, restrooms and outdoor showers.
Port Canaveral is your gateway to the Caribbean on Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Whether it’s a free morning before a cruise or a day trip, there is a lot to discover on the Space Coast. The Kennedy Space Center is the birthplace of the U.S. space industry, with amazing exhibits like the Saturn V rocket that sent man to the moon, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and even thrilling rocket launches waiting to be experienced.
The Canaveral National Seashore and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge are ideal for spotting bald eagles, sea turtles, dolphins and manatees.
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Just to the north of Port Canaveral is “the locals beach” for many Orlandoans. Stroll the five blocks of Flagler Avenue from the river to the ocean for Old Florida shops, local boutiques and casual eateries. Third Wave Cafe and Outriggers Tiki Bar & Grille are a few favorites. The wide, smooth sands allow for fun beach activities like riding bikes straight into the surf.
The “World’s Most Famous Beach” is just an hour from downtown Orlando. Daytona Beach is all about the cars—a place to catch a world-famous NASCAR race or drive a car right on the beach. There are free summer concerts with movies and fireworks from May through October at the Bandshell and there’s plenty of entertainment at the nearby boardwalk and fishing pier.
For a more quiet corner, Ponce Inlet is home to Florida’s tallest lighthouse at 175 feet, built in 1835. For local shopping and dining Beach Street in downtown Daytona is popular and nearby Ormond Beach is home to John D. Rockefeller’s former beach house in addition to local dining hotspots on Granada Boulevard.
Quench a longing for the calm and clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico by heading to the appropriately named Clearwater. Just 20 minutes from Tampa, Clearwater is popular for its family-friendly beaches and attractions. Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a must-see, with the famous movie star Winter from “Dolphin Tale,” who swims with a prosthetic tail. Indian Rocks Beach is another relaxing spot for couples and families, free from high rises and crowds.
Travel south from Clearwater and arrive at the ever-popular John’s Pass Village, where the calm waters of the bay meet the Gulf of Mexico. From here, set sail on a sunset cruise or a daylong fishing excursion or just stroll the wooden boardwalk and check out the waterfront shops and dining options.
St. Pete Beach
At the heart of St. Pete Beach is the historic pink palace, the Loews Don Ce Sar Hotel—built in 1928 when America’s jazz age was in full swing. It’s worth a visit for dinner or cocktails to soak up the nostalgic, Gatsby-like atmosphere.
For a more natural experience, Fort De Soto is ideal. Plus, it’s home to one of the only dog beaches in the area. Make time to see the Salvador Dali museum in downtown St. Petersburg while heading out of town. The building itself is a work of art, and it houses the largest collection of the legendary surrealist outside of Spain. For more travel inspiration, go to wheretraveler.com.