Florida Beaches Near Airports: Straight From Plane to Sand
By Saundra Amrhein
Visitors who fly to Florida can be sinking their toes into the sand on a beach within minutes of claiming their luggage.
Given its terrain, its position as a peninsula, favorable weather, and the bounty of air travel options, the Sunshine State has one of the greatest spreads of Florida beaches near airports.
In a state where slightly more than half of all visitors arrive by air, travelers landing at one of the Florida’s four major hub airports are never more than a 45-minute drive to the beach. In many cases, at both the large and smaller airports, the sand and surf are less than 15 minutes away.
“You can go on the roof of our parking garage and see the ocean,” said Steve Belleme, business development manager at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Some mornings Belleme stops by the beach to take pictures of the sunrise before heading to work, having clocked the distance so he won’t be late. The drive: 13 minutes.
Arrivals to Orlando International Airport – positioned smack in the middle of the state – can take advantage of beaches on both coasts. The closest? A straight shot east to Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, less than 50 minutes away.
The proximity of Florida’s beaches to airports is somewhat inevitable given Florida’s shape and coastline which at about 1,350 miles is the longest in the continental United States, second only to Alaska’s. Well more than half of the Sunshine State’s coastline or 825 miles is made up of sandy beaches.
And of Florida’s 19 commercial airports four are so-called Large Hub airports – the most of any state in the country. They include Miami International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Orlando International Airport and Tampa International Airport.
“Your vacation experience starts minutes after you land,” said Alfredo Gonzalez, senior vice president of partnership development with Brand USA.
Here’s a breakdown of regions of the state, the nearby airports (categorized as Large, Medium, Small and Non-Hub commercial airports), and distances to the nearest beaches:
Northwest Florida Beaches Near Airports
Northwest Florida Regional Airport – near Fort Walton Beach (Small-Hub) 7.42 miles to Fort Walton Beach and nearly a dozen powder-white beaches, emerald waters, and family-friendly resorts.
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport – Panama City (Small-Hub) 12.08 miles to Panama City Beach and 27 miles of white-sand beaches and turquoise waters along the Gulf of Mexico, home to two state parks, waterfront restaurants, and dozens of artificial reefs.
Pensacola International Airport (Small-Hub) 10.10 miles to Pensacola Beach with more than 20 beaches and beach parks on sugar-white sands, plenty of shopping, lodging, beach bars, and a fishing pier-observation post protruding 1,471 feet into the Gulf of Mexico.
Tallahassee Regional Airport (Non-Hub) About 80 miles to Keaton Beach, wild and natural with picnic areas, a fishing pier, prime scalloping waters and year-round fishing.
Northeast Florida Beaches Near Airports
Jacksonville International Airport (Medium-Hub) About 30 miles to Jacksonville Beach and vast stretches of gorgeous beaches, a fishing pier and water activities. 18 miles to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island on Florida’s northeast border, with 13 miles of pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, a quaint downtown, boutique shops, upscale resorts and cozy bed-and-breakfast inns.
Daytona Beach International Airport (Non-Hub) About 5 miles to Daytona Beach and its famous wide beaches (that you can drive on), surfing and Daytona Beach Pier, with a Ferris wheel and other boardwalk fun.
Central Florida Beaches Near Airports
Orlando International Airport (Large-Hub) 52 miles to Cocoa Beach, on Florida’s Atlantic coast near the Kennedy Space Center, with an adjacent restored riverside community full of shops, restaurants, galleries, and studios, plus great surfing opportunities and a host of other nearby beaches and nature preserves.
Orlando Sanford International Airport (Small-Hub) 33 miles to New Smyrna Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast, with wide golden-hued sands and a drive-on beach. Listed on World’s 20 Best Surf Towns, it includes a thriving arts community, shops and cafes. There’s also Apollo Beach, stretching to the Canaveral National Seashore and historic New Smyrna Beach Sugar Mills Ruins.
Melbourne International Airport (Non-Hub) 7 miles to Melbourne Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast, with miles of unspoiled beaches, fishing snorkeling, and other outdoor activities with shopping and restaurants in Historic Downtown Melbourne. It’s an easy drive to the Kennedy Space Center, the Sebastian Inlet and the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Gainesville Regional Airport (Non-Hub) 58 miles to Cedar Key on Florida’s Gulf coast, with sandy beaches at the end of a historic fishing village turned artist’s community, with shops, galleries, fishing, back bayous, nearby secluded island beaches of the Horseshoe Beach fishing community, and thousands of acres of nearby wildlife refuge and preserve land.
Tampa International Airport (Large-Hub) 21 miles to Clearwater Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast at the center of Pinellas County’s 35 miles of white sandy beaches, including Tarpon Springs and its historic Greek sponge docks to the north, the award-winning Fort De Soto beaches to the south, and with gems in between such as the pristine Caladesi Island State Park, accessible by public ferry.
St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (Small-Hub) 12.3 miles to Clearwater Beach from this airport (which includes nonstop service to Canada) and the same offerings of Pinellas County beaches.
Southwest Florida Beaches Near Airports
Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (Small-Hub) 14 miles to Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast, with its popular stretch of sugar-sand beaches, strip of shops, bike rentals, kayaking and paddle boarding. It’s also about 7 miles from powdery white sand beaches in Sarasota and Bradenton counties, including the golf courses and tennis clubs of Longboat Key, the almost pure quartz-white sands of Siesta Key Beach, and Venice Beach where visitors can hunt for fossilized shark teeth.
Punta Gorda Airport (Non-Hub) About 33 miles to area beaches, including Stump Pass Beach State Park and other beaches known for light-green surf, white sands, great fishing, and numerous light houses.
Southwest Florida International Airport Fort Myers (Medium-Hub) About 23 miles to Sanibel Island, part of the barrier islands that make up Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods, with a three-mile-long scenic causeway connecting the mainland to Sanibel, known for its biking, sailing, and birding. Captiva Island, several miles north, is known as one of the nation’s most romantic beaches for its beauty and tranquility. About 47 miles to Marco Island, with beautiful beaches, unspoiled parks and nearby Briggs Nature Center, which features narrated boat tours, a half-mile boardwalk and self-guided canoe trips.
South Florida Beaches Near Airports
Palm Beach International Airport (Medium-Hub) 4 miles to Palm Beach’s golden sands on the Atlantic Ocean, a shoreline dominated by swaying palm trees, crystal-white sand and wide flat beaches leading to shimmering blue ocean waters. Popular with nesting sea turtles, which crawl onto the beaches and leave eggs during the summer, the county’s beach offerings include those in Jupiter, Juno Beach, Singer Island, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton with plenty of other beach towns, restaurants, wind surfing, kite running and fishing in between.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (Large-Hub) 3.5 miles to the coast at Dania Beach. Fort Lauderdale area beaches stretch 23 miles along the Atlantic Ocean from Deerfield Beach to Hallandale Beach. Guests can rent chickee huts, try jet skis, kiteboarding, birding and scuba diving, or just people-watch at the outdoor cafes along Hollywood’s Broadwalk.
Miami International Airport (Large-Hub) About 12 miles to Miami Beach. The Miami area boasts 16 beaches, including the world-famous South Beach, called America’s Party Beach. In walking distance to Art Deco buildings and restaurants and clubs along Ocean Drive South Beach is just one of the area’s beach charms. They also include Bal Harbour Beach to the north, with its mile-long jogging path and turquoise waters. To the south on the tip of Key Biscayne is Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Beach, a relaxing scene with its historic lighthouse and biking and walking trails.
Key West International Airport (Small-Hub) Smathers Beach is about 1 mile and the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is about 5 miles. In Key West, the southernmost point of the United States, Duval Street features lively street entertainment, bars and cafes. The Ernest Hemingway Home and diving opportunities to pristine coral reefs are nearby.