Which Orlando beach do you head for, when you’ve had your thrill of the theme parks?
The main opinion of visitors is to go west to the Gulf where you can probably find your perfect beach from the selection available in St. Pete & Clearwater. We look at both coasts to highlight the reasons for visiting these beaches.
Orlando Beach: West Coast
Clearwater is just over 100 miles / 2 hours drive from Orlando on the I-4 W. Starting from North to South, these are the beaches you can find along this stretch of coast, there’s something for everyone……..
Honeymoon Island State Park
Located at the western end of the Dunedin Causeway, you can find 4 miles of natural and undeveloped beaches but combined with amenities, which is why it’s one of Florida’s most visited parks. Walk the 3 mile Osprey nature trail through a slash pine forest for birdwatching. Visit the nature centre and observation deck, rent kayaks and bicycles from the South Beach Pavillion and Café Honeymoon, as well as food and drink.
Caladesi Island State Park
Caladesi is one of the few natural islands along Florida’s Gulf coast. Visitors will find stunning white sand beaches which are good for fishing and beach combing as well as swimming and sunbathing. Kayaks are available to paddle through the mangroves, and walkers can hike a 3 mile trail. Take a picnic to enjoy the tables or hire your own pavilion. There’s an hourly ferry service starting at 10:00 departing from Honeymoon Island State Park.
This award winning white sand Orlando beach has a good vibe with water sports, a beach walk promenade, seafood restaurants and surf shops. It’s obvious why this is a family favourite for a beach day and recently voted as the best beach in the USA. Make a full day of it and watch the sunset at Pier 60.
Sand Key Park
An Orlando beach with the best of both world. Sand Key is a place where you can enjoy a pristine white sand beach, where sea turtles lay eggs, and birds nest and feed at the salt marsh; on the other hand you have the amenities of Sand key Park with parking, beach cabanas, lifeguards, and accessible facilities.
This is yet another lovely white sand beach in Clearwater, with public access and free parking. A good place for shells and fishing off the pier. It is prohibited to go on the sand dunes which are natural barriers for high tides and storm surges.
Madeira Beach is 2.5 miles in length with a classic beach boardwalk vibe, best known for John’s Pass Village and 1100ft Boardwalk with shops, restaurants and water sport companies. Fishing is the primary sport. The Seafood Festival is held here in October, which attracts 130,000 visitors for food, music and crafts.
A 2 mile section of the large beach at Treasure Island has been dedicated to kites, jet skis and volleyball courts. A kite festival is held at this location in January. Treasure Island beach is more laid back than Clearwater, if you’re looking for a good uncrowded beach with bars and restaurants.
A bohemian beach popular with the LGBT community. Expect white sand, tiki huts, rustic bars and bistros, individually decorated properties, and a relaxed attitude. As the name suggests, a great place to hang out at sunset.
St. Pete Beach
A fabulous award winning beach with a small town charm. Less touristy than Clearwater beach, this location is popular with families, and a good destination for a twin centre holiday in Florida.
Pass-A-Grille is a laid back, low storey beach town with an old Florida vibe. Visit the historic district on eighth avenue for boutique shopping and walk out onto the beach where you can stand on the tip with the Gulf all around you.
Shell Key Preserve
If you’re looking for a Robinson Crusoe castaway experience, Shell Key Preserve is the beach for you. Access is by private boat or the Shell Key Shuttle from Pass-A-Grille, a great spot for shelling, bird watching and dolphin spotting. Make sure you take your essentials with you as there are no facilities on this island.
Fort De Soto Park
More than just a beach, the Fort de Soto Park is a collection of 5 islands. North beach has been voted as the best family beach, identifiable by the pirate ship playground. You can camp, fish and tour with bikes, kayaks and canoes for hire. Choose from the lagoon or Gulf to paddle, visit the fort / museum and search for colourful sea shells and sand dollars.
So we’ve covered a summary of the white sand beaches in Clearwater, but we’ve not finished yet!Anna Marie Island
Still on the west coast, heading south, Anna Marie Island is in Manatee County, near Bradenton with a choice of beaches on the Gulf. 126 miles from Orlando, allow 2.5 hours driving time.
Anna Marie beach has shade, BBQ grills and picnic tables. Coquina beach is large, with plenty of parking and a Sunday market November to July 10-4. Holmes beach has lifeguards, toilets and a restaurant on the sand. Bean Point is on the tip of the island, a low key place to chill out. Bradenton beach was the site of the original wooden bridge linking the island, historic clock tower and pier. Cortez beach is a good old Florida beach spot, with sand dunes & surf, no amenities. If busy for parking, take the free trolley service around the island.
Lido Beach on Lido Key in Sarasota has powdery white sand and turquoise water, it’s not as large or as crowded as the nearby Siesta Key Beach. Popular for weddings and private parties as sections of the beach can be reserved. Facilities include a heated swimming pool, as well as rest rooms, showers, playground and parking.
Siesta Beach in Siesta Key has many accolades including being the best beach in the world, plus the whitest and finest sand in the world. The sand is cool on the feet as 99% of it is quartz which has washed down from the Appalachian Mountains. Shallow water and lifeguard service make this one of the best beaches in the area for small children. Crescent beach at the southern end of Siesta beach has coral and marine life. 138 miles from Orlando, approx 2 hours 15 mins travel time.
Orlando Beach: East Coast
Now we’re going to look at the beaches you can find within an easy commute if you head East to the Atlantic coast.Daytona Beach
Daytona is recognised as the “World’s Most Famous Beach” and a place where you can drive your car on an Orlando beach. Although the beach racing days are long gone, and some of the beachfront buildings and boardwalk are in disrepair, this iconic beach is worth a visit if only to park on the beach and watch the sunrise / sunset. 56 miles from Orlando, travel time 53 minutes.Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach on the Space Coast is the closest Orlando beach, situated 60 miles east and an hour’s drive. The beaches along the coast of Brevard County are the largest nesting area in the world for loggerhead and green sea turtles, as well as leatherbacks, hawksbill and kemp’s ridley. Turtle season in from 1st May to 31st October during this time volunteers patrol the beach daily to collect data for the Sea Turtle Preservation Society.
In order to protect the turtles and help with a successful nesting season, it’s important to keep lights out on the beach after dark so that the hatchlings go towards the sea by the light of the moon. Please don’t dig holes above the tide line and fill in any you find on the beach, as they can trap sea turtles and their hatchlings. Finally please keep your distance to observe them.
The Cocoa Beach area is also home to the 100 best surfing spots on the East Coast, this is where Kelly Slater, the 11 time ASP World Champion started!
Caution advised if you aren’t a strong swimmer don’t enter the water when conditions are rough, there’s also rip tides along this coast.
Melbourne Beach is the oldest beach community in Brevard County, the pier dates back to 1888. There are 33 miles of unspoilt beaches along this coast beside the Indian River Lagoon, where you can fish, surf and snorkel. Take a tour of the estuaries for bottle-nose dolphin spotting and bird watching. Visit the historic downtown area of Melbourne for shopping and restaurants. Situated 75 miles, and 1 hour 20 minutes drive from Orlando.
Gulf or Atlantic Tips
The Gulf has warmer sea temperatures than the Atlantic.
If it’s stunning white sand beaches you seek, head for the Gulf coast.
Remember to do the stingray shuffle when entering the water on the Gulf coast, especially between April and October when stingrays usually visit warm, shallow water to mate. Lifeguards raise a purple flag when they are most prominent.
Sharks are more common on the Atlantic coast.
Manatees and dolphins are more common on the Gulf coast.
In our opinion if your Orlando beach day trip is just for the beach, we’d head to one of the stunning west coast spots. However, please don’t dismiss the east coast beaches, these are still fabulous and can be easily combined with a trip to the Space Kennedy Centre, Port Canaveral or Daytona race circuit.
If beach time is an important aspect of your Orlando holiday, we’d suggest booking a twin centre package to combine all the fun of the theme parks and shopping, with chill time on the ocean for recovery.
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