Answers from Our Experts (2)
The best thing about Orlando is that you are right in the middle of Florida's East Coast and West Coast. If you’re looking for a beach, you’re just about one hour to one-and-a-half hours away from the best beaches in the country. Let’s say you want to check out the Gulf of Mexico. The West Coast of Florida is gorgeous with powdery white sands and clear blue water. Clearwater Beach is the best beach to go to on the West Coast that is closest to Orlando. Clearwater is a great place to take your family or spend the day with friends.
Heading over to the East Coast, Cocoa Beach is Florida’s surf capital and famous for its Ron Jon Surf Shop (it's also home to professional surfer Kelly Slater). Cocoa Beach is about 45 minutes to an hour away from Orlando and is a great beach for the younger crowd. You’ll see a lot of college students here on spring break, and a lot of surf competitions.
It takes at least an hour to get to the beach from landlocked Orlando; whether you travel east or west depends on your personal preference. Many will choose Cocoa Beach, an easy sixty-mile trip from downtown Orlando, because it’s the closest and has the most name recognition. But honestly, there are better beaches.
In the Daytona area, families favor Bethune Beach, which is located a few miles south of New Smyrna Beach near the Canaveral National Seashore. Unlike New Smyrna, no cars are allowed on Bethune Beach. There is free parking as well as restrooms and showers at Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park.
If you’re looking for the best, then Clearwater Beach is where you’ll want to travel. It’ll take just over two hours to get there, but once you arrive you can sink your toes into the sugary white sand and float in the warm, turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In general, Florida’s west coast tends to be prettier and cleaner than the east coast. If you’re headed west, consider checking out Bradenton Beach's Cortez and Coquina beaches. They are a little less bustling than Clearwater and Coquina Beach has loads of free parking. When it’s time to get out of the sun, you can stop into nearby Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium or do some shopping at St. Armand's Circle, both of which are only about 13 miles away towards Saratota.