No visit to Orlando is complete without a trip to the seashore. And, fortunately, great beaches on the Atlantic are only about an hour away from the City Beautiful.
They possess distinctly different personalities, so whatever your mood, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for you.
Beaches are listed from north to south.
This spirited city is famed for cars, racing, arts, culture and heritage. Tradition demands you roll down your car windows and cruise the hard-packed sands of its beach.
But you can do it all in Daytona: enjoy watersports, motorcycle racing, kart racing, deep sea fishing and golfing, plus world-class dining and shopping.
Make sure to investigate its legendary pier, and don’t forget to zoom over to Daytona International Speedway. If you want to spend a night or two at the beach, this destination is ideal because it offers an abundance of accommodations right on the Atlantic. (58 minutes / 53.81 miles from Orlando)
Ponce Inlet features a wide beach, thick with sand you can drive on, watersports that include parasailing, jet skiing, fishing and renting a speedboat, and even a handsome lighthouse – Florida’s tallest – that challenges you to climb it.
If you have an aversion to high rises and crowds but love adventure, nature and awe-inspiring beauty, this getaway is for you. (1 hour 8 minutes / 61.60 miles from Orlando)
The very definition of a perfect daytrip from Orlando, this charming enclave is renowned for its surfing, but that’s just the tip of the sandbar.
You can cruise its hard-packed sand in your car until you find the perfect spot for your beach towel.
Enjoy an array of watersports or fabulous fishing, or just kick back by the waves. Save some energy to discover its quirky shops and vibrant arts community. And don’t miss digging into a generous burger or fresh seafood at Breakers, an open-air restaurant located smack-dab on the beach. (1 hour 3 minutes / 55.66 miles from Orlando)
Picture impressive dunes giving way to vast sweeps of empty sand, the music of the surf and wind and nothing more, and you’ll have Canaveral National Seashore about right.
This utterly tranquil escape boasts the longest expanse of pristine shore in Florida. Fish, swim, go hiking, or just unwind on the beach. Make sure to bring snacks, bottled water, sunscreen and insect repellent since you won’t find them in the park. (1 hour 15 minutes / 64.55 miles to north entrance from Orlando)
For the quintessential Florida beach experience, escape to popular Cocoa Beach. Make sure to explore its 800-foot pier, a historical landmark boasting five restaurants, four bars, gift shops, fishing, and free live musical entertainment.
Indulge in parasailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, or learn to surf on its gentle waves. Save time to discover the Ron Jon Surf Shop. It’s the world's largest surf shop, encompassing 52,000 square feet chock-full of beach gear. (1 hour 9 minutes / 59.57 miles from Orlando)
The small towns of Satellite Beach, Melbourne Beach and Indialantic feel like old-time Florida, devoid of crowds, T-shirt shops and pretention.
Nestled between the Banana River, the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic, these Space Coast destinations are brimming with nature, water sports and outdoor recreation of all kinds, never mind generous, mostly-empty beaches rich with cinnamon-hued sand.
A turtle-walk with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society is a not-to-be-missed treat. (1 hour 13 minutes / 67.35 miles; 1 hour 21 minutes / 74.11 miles; and 1 hour 25 minutes / 75.96 miles from Orlando, respectively)
* Estimated driving times and distances are according to Mapquest
All photos by Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA