One of the top destinations to visit in Florida is Orlando, though many arrive shocked to realize it does not have a beach. Orlando is smack dab in the middle of Florida and has all the theme parks, pools and lakes you could imagine, but no beaches. Luckily, there are plenty nearby and I wanted to share what I think are the best beaches close to Orlando.
The beaches on this list are all within a two-hour drive of Orlando airport. This is a reasonable distance for a day trip to the beach and well worth it to experience the beauty of the ocean. Whether you are visiting Orlando for vacation or you live here, everyone could use some time to enjoy the waves and the sand. Here are the six best beaches close to Orlando as of 2023.
All-Around Best Beach Close to Orlando – Spessard Holland in Melbourne Beach Florida
If you are looking for a relaxing day at the beach, I think Spessard Holland in Melbourne Beach, Florida is the best beach to go to. I may be biased, because that is the closest one to me. However, I have visited all the beaches on this list and feel pretty confident about it.
This is a less developed section of the Space Coast and the beach has a tropical, natural feel to it. The water is clean, although sometimes wavy, and most patrons are respectful. This is also a common sea turtle nesting spot. If you visit in the late summer, you might be lucky enough to see some hatchlings!
The drive from Orlando takes an hour and a half and for the most part, is free of traffic. Once at the beach, there is ample free parking at the North and South Beach accesses. I prefer the north, because you can get fries or ice cream from Billie’s shack if they are open. There are restrooms and lifeguards at both, and I have never had an issue finding room to spread out on the sand.
Melbourne Beach is definitely quieter than other Florida beach towns, but I think that is part of what makes it special! If you are looking for a beautiful beach to spend the day at, Spessard Holland is one of the best beaches close to Orlando.
Most Secluded Beach Near Orlando – Canaveral National Seashore
If you want to check out the largest, undeveloped stretch of beach in Florida, head east of Orlando to the Canaveral National Seashore. This is a little over an hour drive from Orlando, but it feels like you have stepped back in time. The drive from the entrance offers stunning views of the water, vegetation and many rare birds.
It costs $20 per vehicle or it is included in the America the Beautiful National Park pass. This also includes entrance to the visitor center with a few interesting exhibits and displays. As far as facilities, the park is pretty bare bones with a simple bathroom at each beach access and no lifeguards, showers or water fountains.
When you visit, make sure to bring your own chairs, food and drinks and anything else you need for a beach day. It is at least at fifteen-minute drive to the nearest store. There are a total of thirteen beach accesses, but I recommend sticking to areas 1-3. This is because the beaches of area 5 and up are clothing optional. Unless you planned to wear your birthday suit to the beach, stick to these areas so that the views of nature are the only surprise you get!
The Closest Beach to Orlando – Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach
For those seeking for the absolute closest beach to Orlando, that would be any of the parks in Cocoa Beach. Of these, I recommend Lori Wilson Park, just south of the 520 Causeway. It takes a little less than an hour to drive to from Orlando and has free parking. It is usually not crowded, except during spring break. If parking is full, keep driving south to a metered spot or Murkshe Memorial Park.
This is a very large beach with picnic tables, grills, restrooms, a volleyball court and a playground. There is even a grassy dog park, but keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the beach. The shore has a shallower slope than most beaches on the Space Coast, so it is great for swimming and light body surfing too.
Cocoa Beach itself is a fun place to visit and I recommend grabbing a meal here or walking the pier after your beach day. It has a touristy vibe, but in a quintessential Florida way that is fun for vacations. People of all ages will enjoy a day trip to Cocoa Beach from Orlando.
Best Beach for Surfing – Grayce K. Barck North Beach in New Smyrna Beach
For those looking to catch some waves while staying in Orlando, I recommend going to New Smyrna Beach. This is where you can find the best beaches close to Orlando for surfing, including Ponce Inlet and Flagler Ave. However, my favorite park to visit for surfing and otherwise is Grayce K. Barck North Beach, which is an hour and fifteen-minute drive from Orlando.
Here you can find plenty of parking, clean bathrooms, showers and picnic tables. The parking is free for Volusia County residents, but everyone else must pay the $20 fee. If you park here, you need to use the boardwalk to walk to the beach. For those who prefer to drive your car on the sand and park here, you can enter at Crawford Road or another beach access and drive to it, for a fee of $20 as well.
I find this to be one of the less crowded beaches in New Smyrna, but still close to the fun of Flagler Ave. The most serious surfers will want to head to Ponce Inlet, but there are usually excellent waves here and I enjoy seeing the surfers. For a day that feels almost like a visit to California, but with much warmer water, check out this park in New Smyrna Beach.
Best Dog Beach Close to Orlando – Fort De Soto Park
If you want to bring your dog with you on a beach day, you can find many dog beaches close to Orlando in this article. My favorite is Fort De Soto Park almost two hours from Orlando, over on the gulf in St. Petersburg. It is way more than just a dog beach though!
In addition to its white sand and clear calm waters, there is so much to do here. You can explore a historic fort, take a ferry to an island, rent a canoe or kayak, hike nature trails and even camp the night! There are also bathrooms, concession stands, pavilions, playgrounds and pretty much any amenity you could want at this over 1,000-acre park.
It costs $5 to park here and there are multiple areas for beach access. Dogs are allowed at the beach near bay pier, so you will want to head to the south end with your pup. The beach is off leash, so your dog can run around, but you must keep an eye on them. For those without pups, the north beach is the nicest beach section and has the most parking, but can get crowded. For a more secluded beach experience, you can check out the east beach. No matter how you spend your day at Fort De Soto Park, you are sure to have a wonderful day trip!
The Prettiest Beach Near Orlando – Honeymoon Island State Park
The last of the best beaches close to Orlando you will want to visit is Honeymoon Island State Park. This beach is in Clearwater and is one of the most beautiful beach spots imaginable. It takes two hours to get here from Orlando, and I recommend going early on weekends to avoid the long line that can form.
Once you are here, it costs $8 per vehicle to get in and that includes beach and nature trail access. The North Parking lot has the best beach access and access to the hiking trails as well as restrooms and pavilions. However, there is a pet beach on the south end if you brought your dog. For those looking to take the ferry to the even more secluded Caladesi Island, there is parking near the entry.
I prefer to bring a picnic lunch, but if you rather buy food, there are options here. Both Café Honeymoon and The South Beach Pavilion Café have fried food, sandwiches, ice cream and more. You can also get beach rentals like chairs and kayaks from the South Beach Pavilion. Regardless of what beach you explore at this four mile state park, you can expect clear water, white sand and beautiful views, especially at sunset!
Know Before You Go: The Best Beaches Close to Orlando
If you are looking for the best beaches close to Orlando, I hope this blog post can help! Whether you are searching for a gulf coast or east coast beach or one with certain activities, these six options are all excellent places to spend the day. Here are some things to keep in mind before heading to Orlando’s nearest beaches.
- All the beaches on this list take less than 2 hours to get to from Orlando in normal traffic. Be sure to check for traffic conditions before leaving, especially if you are driving towards the gulf coast.
- It is always easier to get parking in the morning, so leave as early as you can during spring break and nice weekend days.
- I recommend bringing a chair and an umbrella for a more comfortable beach day. The sun and sand can be very hot, especially between April and October.
- Check to make sure the beach you are going to does not have red tide or rough conditions before you go. The gulf coast beaches are especially prone to red tide and often the beaches close down when it gets bad.
- If you are strictly looking for the closest beach to Orlando, that would be Lori Wilson Park at Cocoa Beach. You can usually get there in less than an hour. The closest gulf beach to Orlando is Clearwater Beach, but I recommend going a few minutes north to Honeymoon Island to avoid the crowds and traffic.
- If you are visiting from Orlando, you will need to rent a car to get to the beach. Sometimes Ubers will take you there or you could find a shuttle, but renting a car will be the least hassle for sure.
What are your favorite beaches close to Orlando? Let me know if I missed any on this list! For more day trips around Orlando, check out my Central Florida attractions guide.