Orlando is in the middle of the state, making it easy to travel to both the East and West Coast. Less than 60 miles from the beach, there are plenty of beaches you can visit as even a day trip. Read on to learn about some of my favorites.
Orlando is slightly closer to the East Coast, with large waves for those families looking to try out surfing or boogie boarding. The West Coast of Florida is not much further away and offers families clear waters and white sand.
Both coasts have beautiful beaches that families can enjoy. You don’t have to travel to another country for a tropical vacation. You can find some of the best tropical beaches right here in Florida.
Here is my list of the best beaches near Orlando for families to visit.
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Photo: Ashley Conway
New Smyrna Beach is one of the best beaches to visit if your family wants big waves and a charming small town to enjoy. Our family loves visiting New Smyrna Beach, and this beach is one of the shortest drives from Orlando.
This city has a small-town atmosphere where you can walk around and enjoy many great restaurants, including JB’s Fishcamp and Norwood’s Eatery. Noorwood’s is an actual treehouse you can eat with a fun atmosphere and great food.
Our favorite spot to visit in New Smyrna Beach with the kids is Mary McLeod Bethune Park. Walking just a short distance from the beach to Mary McLeod Bethune Park West Side, you will find a great park where kids can play. They have a dock where families can walk around and see wildlife. Every time we visit, we are amazed at the marine life we see. We often see manatees, dolphins, crabs, and more.
Photo: Ashley Conway
One of the most famous beaches in the world, Daytona Beach is a great, family-friendly beach perfect for keeping parents and kids happy on their Central Florida vacation. Daytona Beach is a great swimming beach, with waves and sand perfect for building sandcastles.
One of the best things about Daytona Beach is it does not have a quick drop-off. That means kids can wade in the water, and little ones can play in shallow waters without it being too deep right away.
Daytona Beach has a great Boardwalk with restaurants, a movie theater, and Cold Stone Creamery, great for a cool treat on a hot Florida day. Daytona offers many fun places for families, including the Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Lagoon, and free concerts at the Boardwalk.
Playalinda Beach. Photo: Ashley Conway
The longest stretch of undeveloped Atlantic Coastline in Florida is the Canaveral National Seashore, at Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Coast. This is a National Park with an entrance fee, but it also has many amenities for visiting families.
Families can hang out by the beach, where you may see one of Florida’s protected sea turtles. The Rocket Viewing area is excellent if you visit during a scheduled Rocket Launch.
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Playalinda Beach offers the closest viewing areas of the Kennedy Space Center Rocket Launches. Playalinda has some of the clearest waters we have seen on the Atlantic coast.
Make sure to bring the kids to the Apollo Beach Visitor Center, where you can learn about the Florida oceans and marine life. Our kids love learning about some of their favorite sea animals and seeing some of their favorites up close.
Photo: Ashley Conway
Clearwater Beach is one of the most popular beaches families visit when visiting Orlando, and for good reason. Clearwater is one of the most kid-friendly beaches in Florida, as it has many great activities for visiting families and beautiful clear water with no waves.
This is perfect for families with little ones. They can wade into the water and play in the sand without being knocked over by the big waves.
My family loves visiting Clearwater Beach because of all the activities they offer families. My younger boys love playing on the playground by the pier, and my teenage girls love grabbing an ice cream and walking down the pier looking at the popup shops they have.
Some of our favorite memories at Clearwater are staying late and watching the sunset on the pier. Clearwater Beach also has a variety of tours and fishing charters you can take out, and you may even see dolphins playing in the waters behind your boat.
St. Pete has beautiful soft white sand and emerald-green waters just south of Clearwater. St. Petersburg has a wide beach area, which we love because we can have room to spread out and play ball or build a sandcastle. Like Clearwater Beach, St. Pete Beach has a variety of activities for families.
They have boat tours to see the dolphins, WaveRunner rentals, and parasailing. This beach is on the Gulf Coast, so you won’t find big waves in St. Pete, but you will get to enjoy the beautiful clear waters of the Gulf.
Private boat offering dolphin watching, island excursions and nature tours
Cruise through picturesque waters and watch dolphins play in their natural habitat. Get the chance to spot manatees, rays, and seabirds.
One of my favorite memories of being at the beach is spending the day in St. Pete with my kids and dolphins, swimming and playing right in front of us. Two dolphins hung around and played before us for almost an hour before swimming off. My daughters still talk about it to this day.
Flagler Beach is one of the northern beaches that is easy to make a day trip from in Orlando. Flagler Beach is perfect for a quiet family getaway. The beach is on the Atlantic Ocean and has fun waves for the kids to jump or ride.
The sand at Flagler Beach is more of a ground-up shell consistency, not the white sand you typically see, but this is great for playing in the sand and building castles.
One of my family’s favorite parts of Flagler Beach is that it is typically less crowded than other Central Florida beaches. It is a little further drive to Orlando, so many families opt to visit one of the closer beaches, such as Daytona or Clearwater.
Flagler Beach has five public parks, all with restrooms and showers. This is great for helping little ones shower and change before heading back to Central Florida. The Flagler Beach Municipal Boardwalk and Pier has many tasty restaurants and gift shops where families can grab lunch and walk around.
Cocoa Beach is our family’s favorite beach in Central Florida. It is about an hour from Orlando and is known for its great pier and surfing. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is fun for the whole family. Cocoa Beach is widely known for its surfing and often has surfing competitions.
Every year, we visit to watch the Surfing Santas, where hundreds of surfers come dressed as Old St. Nick and spend the day riding waves. If you are traveling with older kids and teens, book a surf lesson and enjoy riding the waves on your next vacation at Cocoa Beach.
Cocoa Beach. Photo: Ashley Conway
After a day of riding waves, enjoy dinner on the Cocoa Beach Pier, where they have three restaurants and a Tiki Bar overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Photo: Ashley Conway
This is the furthest beach from Orlando on our list, but one, if you have the time to visit, that is definitely worth visiting. Honeymoon Island State Park is north of Clearwater on a barrier island on the Gulf Coast. This beach makes you feel like you are on an island getaway, with white sandy beaches and spectacular crystal-clear waters.
Honeymoon Island is a State Park, so there is an entrance fee to enter onto the island. You will find all kinds of seashells and sand dollars while walking up and down the beaches. Honeymoon Island has some of the clearest waters of any beach in Florida and is one of the best places to snorkel.
When you visit with your kids, use sunscreen and stay hydrated, as the Florida sun is not very forgiving. Before you visit, check ahead to see if there are any rip tide warnings or if the lifeguards have put any warnings in the area.
The Bottom Line
Florida’s beaches are some of the most family-friendly you will find. Many have beachfront playgrounds and beautiful waters for kids to enjoy. I grew up visiting these beautiful beaches and still enjoy visiting them with my kids. Nothing is better than spending the day jumping waves and building sandcastles with your family.
Whether you spend the day building sandcastles or riding the waves, the Central Florida beaches are perfect for families looking to have fun in the sun and create lifelong memories.