The 5 Best Florida Beaches Easily Reached From Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

People fly from all over the world to go to Orlando, home of Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios amusement parks, and much more. This is a land-locked city though, so if you want a Florida beach vacation you need to drive east to meet the Atlantic Ocean or west to reach beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

Both coasts are easy to reach in a rental car, however. Most of the way you will be on large highways and the roads are well-marked. The closest beach to Orlando is only one hour away from the gates of Walt Disney World, while the farthest one on this list is just two hours away.

Cocoa Beach, Florida – 1 hour

beach near Orlando
(photo courtesy Visit Space Coast Tourism)

Near the Cape Canaveral area where the United States launched most of its manned rockets into space, this is the closest beach to Orlando. Like all but one here, it’s on a narrow barrier island jutting out into the sea. Expect soft golden sand but big waves sometimes: this is one of the best surfing spots in Florida.

There are four public beach access areas with parking (for a fee), so it’s easy to come here on a day trip and return to your hotel in Orlando that night. For the kids there is also a public skate park and several playgrounds. The Kennedy Space Center has a visitors center open to the public.

Daytona Beach – 1 hour 15 minutes

Daytona Beach Florida

Best known as home of the Daytona 500 Speedway where NASCAR auto races take place, this is a beach where cars rule. You can drive right onto the hard-packed sand and park your car on the very wide beach. This makes any stretch of the beach easily accessible in your vehicle, in an area that stretches more than 15 miles from New Smyrna Beach through Ormond Beach.

Prices are reasonable at Daytona Beach for lodging, meals, drinks, and activities, so this is a good spot for a couple or family on a budget. The area has a surprisingly robust art scene, plus the region is frequently cited as one of the best beach values in the USA.

Clearwater Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

Clearwater Beach Florida

Often voted as the prettiest beach in Florida, this is a compact white-sand beach area that is only 2.5 miles long. Much of it is connected by paved walkways and bike lanes and there are plenty of restaurants and beach bars with a view of the green and blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The water stays much warmer here than on the Atlantic coast, with temperatures only dipping down below F20° for one month in February. The water is very calm here, making it a good choice for young children. Search on Bonwi for the best Clearwater Beach resort deals.

St. Petersburg Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

St. Pete Beach Florida

The Tampa Bay area’s other main beach is St. Petersburg, a long stretch of sand dotted with a variety of hotels and condo complexes. There several similar barrier island beaches immediately to the north such as Treasure Island and Madeira. As with Clearwater the sea temperatures are pleasant most of the year and there are seldom waves large enough to knock down even the smallest child.

This is a beach area where you pick a spot and park or you explore by car-there’s no boardwalk or path along the sea. It’s worth heading to downtown St. Pete for restaurants and nightlife, catching a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, or exploring the Sunken Gardens area filled with tropical plants. The Salvador Dali Museum faces the Bay. Several well-regarded breweries are located here too, including Green Bench and 3 Daughters.

Anna Maria Island – 2 hours

Anna Maria Island Florida

For a taste of Florida the way it used to be before the state got so developed, head to Anna Maria Island where no building can be more than three stories high. There are no huge sprawling resorts here and the main things to do are eat seafood and lounge on the beach.

Just seven miles long and a few blocks wide, this is an easy island to navigate and there’s a free trolley to get around on once you’ve found your parking spot. There is a playground on the most popular public beach access spot and there are shaded picnic tables.

Wherever you go in Florida, you’ll earn the most points back to use for a future vacation by booking your hotel and rental car with Bonwi.com.

All photos by Tim Leffel except Coco Beach.

5 Florida beaches that are 2 hours or less from Orlando

Daytona Beach Racing: Getting Behind the Wheel

The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
There is only one place you can go to truly experience the thrill of American racing, and that place is Daytona International Speedway. Without a doubt, there is more to The Great American Race than just the fast cars…the history, the celebrities, and the pageantry are all factored into what makes Daytona 500 a fan favorite.
For an avid racing fan, the best time to visit the speedway is in 2018, when the Daytona 500 celebrates its 60th anniversary. For six decades, Daytona has been entertaining the public with historic performances and heroic figures, and of course, sharing the love of the race with the young and old.
Don’t miss the opportunity to pay a visit the track when the Monster Energy Nascar Cup season starts. Drivers will battle and showcase their speed and determination as they race down the 2.5-mile tri-oval and its 31-degree banking.
It’s one thing to watch the race, but to actually experience what it’s like to ride in a race car is a whole other adrenaline rush. The NASCAR Racing Experience allows you to ride shotgun in a real NASCAR race car. Hold on tight as a professional racing driver takes you around one of the nation’s top ranking speedways. You’ll be in good hands during the three-lap ride, and it will be over faster than you know it!
The Nascar Ride Along experience can be purchased online at the Daytona International Speedway Ticket Office. The price for juniors 6-14 is $79.99 and adults is $135. Make sure to check out the dates available, they fill up fast!
If sitting shotgun is not good enough for you, and you actually want to DRIVE the NASCAR, then sign up for the Practice Experience, you’ll get the real taste of racing. After completing a training and instruction session with the Crew Chief, you have 5 minutes to race your heart out, carefully that is.
There is no lead car to follow, but luckily there is a 2-way in car radio with a personal instructor on the other end. Don’t worry, you will receive bragging rights with your very own Graduation Certificate. The Practice Experience is priced at $299.99 and tickets can be purchased online.
There is no thrill like riding inside a NASCAR racing car at Daytona!
There is no thrill like riding inside a NASCAR racing car at Daytona!
But wait, there’s MORE, believe it or not. The Rookie and The King’s experience allows you to race for eight and 16 minutes around the track. It’s double and triple the price…but totally worth it if you’re a diehard racing fan.
By far the best racing experience you can purchase at the speedway is the World Champion experience, priced at $2,500. It’s 3 hours worth of the NASCAR experience and you get to drive in six different racing session. Recommended for racing enthusiasts and those with a need for speed.
If you’re like me, then the idea of visiting Daytona will be lingering in your head after reading this. The Daytona International Speedway online website has an easily accessible calendar that shows when the track is open and what tours are available on certain days.
Whether you’re interested in sitting back and watching or buckling up and driving, Daytona International Speedway delivers unforgettable moments for all.
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