8 Best Beaches Near Disney World, Florida

Clearwater Beach nearest beaches to Disney World

Extend your trip to Disney World with a family beach vacation in Florida

Many families are attracted to Orlando, Florida, for its host of family-friendly attractions, including Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World. In fact, you could spend WEEKS in Orlando itself. However, a great well-rounded Florida family vacation isn’t complete without heading to the coast to enjoy Florida’s glorious year-round sunshine and world-famous beaches.

Disney World in Orlando sits almost smack in the middle of Florida; it’s a little closer to the Atlantic coast, heading east with many prime sandy white beaches to choose from, but many prefer the calm shallow waters and sunsets of Florida’s Gulf Coast to the west. The closest beach to Disney World sits 65 miles away.

Here we’re going to take you through our experience and preferences on both coasts so you can decide what will fit best with your vacation plans, as well as your kid’s ages, stages and beach-faring experience, which can make a big difference in what you all want from a family beach vacation.

This post is part of our series discover the USA


Florida beaches closest to Disney World

Check out the closest options on the map of Florida here, then read on to see exact diring times and what you can expect to find at each.

If you’re looking further afield and to explore more around Florida, check out our complete guide to the best Family beaches in Florida and the best beaches on the Gulf Coast and East Coast

Choosing a Florida Beach Near Disney World – What Does Your Family Enjoy at the Beach?

Before we dive into exactly which beach in Florida to pick near to Disney World, let’s look at some of the factors that are likely to sway your decision:

Available Time

Are you simply adding a day within your itinerary to take a break from the theme parks, or are you looking to split your time?

You may want to choose only the closest beaches if it’s just a day trip to maximise the time you get out in the water and still get home for bedtime. Alternatively, with longer to spare and several days at the beach a little longer drive to get there and car parking is no problem.

Driving Time

Next up, exactly how long will you spend in the car? Driving from Disney World to the Atlantic coast is a little over one hour. Driving from Disney World to the Gulf beaches will take more like 2 hours + with the notoriously slow Interstate 4 to tackle. We personally think the extra drive time is only worth it if you’ll be spending extra days.

NB if you are setting off from different parts of Orlando than Disney World, for example staying further north near Universal, your drive times will vary – sometimes by a lot – if you’re traveling in peak hour. The driving times we quote below are indicative fastest times only!

Parking & Traffic Congestion

Generally speaking, you will find parking for day-trippers more limited at the Gulf coast beaches than on the Atlantic coast, as well as heavier traffic to deal with going through Tampa. We all know longer wait times in a car full of kids on a hot day can lead to a miserable day out; for day tripping, we prefer the Atlantic coast.

Swimming & Activities

If you have older kids or adults who are keen to grab their boogie boards and catch some waves, the Atlantic coast is likely to serve you best.

If you’d rather have calmer, gentler waters or you’re travelling with a toddler, the Gulf coast may better suit (though make no mistake you can get some waves too!).

Shells

If you love finding interesting shells washed up on the shore, you’re better off on the Gulf Coast. You still find them on the Atlantic coast too but the larger waves here see the shells more broken down – little feet also moan a little more about these broken bits of shell so we do recommend beach shoes for kids, no matter where you head in Florida.

Other activities in central Florida

Are you looking for more than just some sand between your toes? The major attraction east of Disney World is the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral.

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If you want it to be more of a complete side trip from Orlando, be it all in one day or overnight, then combining Cape Canaveral with a day out on an Atlantic Coast beach is our favourite combination.


Atlantic Beaches Closest to Disney World & Orlando

The closest beaches to Disney World are Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Canaveral National Seashore and Cocoa Beach, all on the Atlantic coast (East).

Each is about the same driving distance from Disney World, with Daytona Beach sitting just over an hour to the northeast, just above Cape Canaveral. Cocoa Beach is about an hour to the southeast, just below Cape Canaveral while New Smyrna and Canaveral National Seashore, in between the two, are slightly more remote hidden gems for families who like their beaches simple and crowd-free.

Slightly further away but still very popular with Disney fans is Vero Beach. Let’s take a look at each:

Closest Beaches to Disney World: Daytona Beach

Driving Distance: 71 miles (114 kilometres)

Approximate Drive Time: 70 minutes

Closest beaches to Disney World -Daytona beach Florida aeril view

Driving along the I-4 east, then heading northeast on the I-95 you can reach Daytona in around 80 minutes from Disney World. Although it does have a bit of a party reputation, if you avoid going over Spring Break or while the Daytona 500 is on, families will find something to enjoy at this bustling city beach.

Look beyond the main part of the city there’s quite a long stretch of coast and smaller beach suburbs that make up Dayton Beach. There are several designated zones along the beach for surfing, safe swimming and popular attractions of Daytona Beach, beach driving (for a sizeable fee – winter months only).

Daytona personally wasn’t to our taste but we’re very willing to give it another try now our kids are older and the attraction of the surf as well as the Daytona Lagoon Waterpark and the arcades. With younger kids, we’ve got better suggestions still to come!

Where to stay: For the full resort experience try Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach, or on a smaller budget Hampton Inn Daytona is worth a try

Closest Beaches to Disney World: New Smyrna Beach

Driving Distance: 71 miles (114 kilometres)

Approximate Drive Time: 70 minutes

Closest beaches to Disney World - New Smyrna Beach

Another beach sitting just over an hour north-east of Disney World and Orlando is New Smyrna Beach. Not nearly as famous as its more northern counterpart, but if you like your beach a little quieter but still slightly developed, this would be the one for you.

There are several beach approaches to choose from along this stretch of coast, many of them allowing vehicle access for a daily fee of $20 for visitors in off-peak seasons.

Kayaking and fishing are popular in the backwaters of Indian Rover, and of course, the wicked waves for surfers are a real highlight of visiting this part of the Space Coast.

For younger kids, they can still enjoy the idyllic 17 mile stretch of beach for sandcastle building, or try the Smyrna Dunes Park, an elevated boardwalk through the dunes around the shoreline of Ponce de Leon Inlet.

Generally, there are limited facilities so do be prepared with a picnic.

Where to stay: A lovely on the beach option is New Smyrna Waves by Exploria Resorts or try The Riverview Hotel New Smyrna

Closest Beach to Disney World: Canaveral National Seashore

Driving Distance: 65 miles (104 kilometers)

Approximate Drive Time: 65 minutes

Closest beaches to Disney World - Canaveral National Seashore

If you prefer your beaches a little more rugged and less developed then Canaveral National Seashore could be the answer for you. Technically the closest beach to Orlando, here you can enjoy unspoilt sea views for 24 miles along this protected section of the Space Coast, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

You are about 35 minutes from the Kennedy Space Centre, ideal if you want to spend a morning at the Space Centre then finish off with a splash in the ocean. A small entry fee applies, and we recommend you head into the Apollo Beach Visitor Center for a true appreciation of this unique coastal stretch.

Where to stay overnight: Being a National Park there is no direct accommodation on the beach here, your nearest option is Titusville with several motel and hotel options

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TOP TIP! Just want to see the Space Centre but don’t have a car? You can take the Kennedy Space Centre express from Orlando – tickets and transfers included.

Closest Beaches to Disney World: Cocoa Beach

Driving Distance: 65 miles (104 kilometers)

Approximate Drive Time: 70 minutes

State Road 528 takes you pretty much all the way from Disney World to Cocoa Beach in just over an hour. An easy drive, but do be mindful of tolls and if you want to park close to the pier and centre of the action, expect paid parking if you’re on a day trip.

Situated on the Space Coast, Cocoa Beach is a laid back affair with brilliant surf conditions attracting a good crowd no matter the season. It’s a great place to come if your kids want to try their hand on a board for the first time with several surf schools on offer.

You will find many beach condos and hotels lining the beachfront, but not like the wall of highrises at Daytona. There are still plentiful gaps between the buildings where you can access the beach.

Plentiful shops and restaurants line the coast or grab yourself a picnic and head to one of our family favourites, Lori Wilson Park – free parking here, washrooms on hand and a lovely lawned area, BBQs and a playground for kids to have a good run around at the beach.

Make it an overnight: Staying at Cocoa Beach can be an affordable Florida beach option. A good value option in a prime location is Days Inn by Wyndham Cocoa Beach really close to the Pier, or with private beach frontage and sea view family rooms try Doubletree by Hilton Cocoa Beach

Closest Beaches to Disney World: Vero Beach

Driving Distance: 102 miles (164 Kilometres)

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

losest beaches to Disney World - Vero Beach Florida

Now we’ll admit that Vero Beach is not THE closest of the Atlantic coast beaches to Disney World and Orlando, but given it takes about the same time to get there as the popular Gulf coast beaches, we thought it was worth throwing the option out there. Die-hard Disney fans will be aware it’s home to the hugely popular Disney Vero Beach Resort.

The Treasure Coast offers wide sandy beaches and is also famous for the wildlife attracted to the shores including pelicans and loggerhead turtles. You can combine a trip to Vero Beach with visiting Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to learn more about these magnificent creatures or enjoy strolling through the historic downtown area when you need a break from the waves.

Staying overnight (other than Disney!) If Disney Vero Beach Resort sees you out of budget, why not try Prestige Hotel Vero Beach right on the waterfront too.

Gulf Beaches Close to Disney World & Orlando

If you’d prefer to head west, the driving distances are slightly further but still rewarding.

The closest Gulf coast beach to Orlando is Clearwater Beach, approximately a 2-hour drive west on the I-4; there are several other family-friendly options as you head south along the coast. (Though without fail on 3 consecutive trips we’ve hit traffic and road works and it’s been at least 2.5 hours!)

Closest Gulf Coast Beach to Disney World: Clearwater Beach

Driving Distance: 92 miles (148 kilometers)

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Closest beaches to Disney World - Clearwater Florida

Heading almost due west from Disney World and Orlando on the I-4 then Highway 60, you hit Clearwater Beach. Clearwater Beach itself is a small island, packed full of restaurants, hotels, shops, and a busy marina, along with a popular aquarium. If you wanted to add on a fishing trip or boat cruise to your Florida vacation, this is the place to do it!

Parking here is paid, then you can stroll the beachfront before picking your favorite spot. It is quite touristy as you might expect, and busy no matter the season. The water here is calm, the sand lovely and soft. Lifeguards patrol the beach and you’ll find washroom facilities on hand as well as playgrounds for the kids.

If you want to enjoy the calmer Gulf coast waters but don’t fancy the crowds, a good option can be heading just 10 minutes further south to Sand Key County Park. Still busy on weekends and holidays but a less high rise and touristy feel.

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Make it an overnight trip: On a budget try New Hotel Collection Harborside or a luxury stay try Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa.

TOP TIP! Don’t have a car? Several tour operators will take your family from Orlando to the coast on a day trip to Clearwater beach, including meals and a boat ride: Check out some options here >>

Closest Beaches to Disney World: St Pete Beach

Driving Distance: 96 miles (154 minutes)

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Closest beaches to Disney World - St Pete's Beach

Heading just a little further south, past Tampa you come to a stunning stretch of Florida coastline including Madeira Beach, Treasure Island and St Pete Beach. Frankly, you can’t go wrong with any of these but we have a little sweet spot for St Pete Beach.

We love playing on the wide expanse of beach and enjoy the condo-style accommodation along the waterfront, watching the sun gracefully set each night into the magnificent Gulf waters from our balcony. There’s plenty happening on and off the water making this a family favourite beach close to Orlando.

Where to stay: Make a proper beach vacation of it and hire a beachfront condo, or if budget permits try one of the fun family resorts such as Sandpearl Resort or Bellwether Beach Resort.

Closest Beaches to Disney World: Siesta Key

Driving Distance: 122 miles (196 kilometres)

Approximate Drive Time: 2 hours

We almost hesitated and left Siesta Key off thid list of beaches close to Disney World as it’s quite a lot further south on the Gulf coast. However, as you skirt around Tampa and take the I-75 your drive time is not dissimilar to St Pete Beach.

It’s certainly worth that little extra drive, in our opinion, for that stunning soft, white sand. The calm, shallow azure waters here appeal particularly to families with babies and toddlers.

The beach itself offers brilliantly soft sand, sun shelters, picnic areas, beach volleyball courts and washroom facilities. Off the beach enjoy exploring Siesta Key Village, stroll Marie Selby Botanical Gardens or make a curious trip to the Ringling Circus Museum.

If we had to pick a favourite of all of these beaches, we’d make the extra journey from Disney World as far as Siesta Key for a perfect Florida vacation combination.

Make it a beach stay: It’s not the cheapest of Florida’s beaches but a great place to pick up a holiday rental property on the beach or on a luxury retreat try Tropical Beach Resort


Can you see sunrise and sunset on Florida’s beaches?

Theoretically, yes! To cross from the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf Coast will only take you about 3 hours, avoiding rush hour so it’s possible to start your day overlooking the Atlantic and finish over on the west admiring the sun disappearing over the Gulf.


Packing for the beach?

Before you head off on a beach vacation you need our ultimate family checklist for a day at the beach!

All the essentials you can think of for packing your beach bag from sun cover and pop-up tents through to beach toys, entertainment, dealing with feeding and changing time at the beach, keeping your drinks cool and much more!

We take you through everything you need in detail here – or subscribe to our mailing list and you can immediately download this handy checklist straight away.

Packing List Sign Up - Beach

More Beach Guides!

We hope you’ve found this Florida beach guide helpful. Don’t forget to check out more handy guides from the beaches section of our family travel blog including:

Helpful? Bookmark this page or save it for later

Florida Beaches Closest to Disney World
Florida Beaches Closest to Disney World 2

Disclosures: This Florida beach guide contains affiliate links to some of our preferred suppliers. If you make a qualifying purchase using any of our links we may earn a commission. You can find our full privacy policy and website terms of use over here.

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