Eight of the Best Beaches to Visit Near Walt Disney World

I’m in Florida, there has to be a beach I can visit close to Walt Disney World, right? Well, while Walt Disney World doesn’t exactly have a beach location that is “close,” (it is located in central Florida) there are many beaches within a one to two-hour drive that would make great additions to your Walt Disney World vacation. 

To help you decide what beaches near Walt Disney World are the best fit to add to your itinerary, we located eight of Florida’s most popular beaches near Walt Disney World that have everything you desire for a nice beach day (or two) escape! 

When deciding to visit a beach in Florida that is relatively close to Walt Disney World, the first decision that you will want to make is the East Coast (Atlantic Ocean) or West Coast (Gulf Coast). Each coast has something to offer that is pretty spectacular. 

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East Coast Disney World Beaches

The East Coast beaches are slightly closer to Walt Disney World because Orlando is not exactly in the middle of the state, it is slightly more east. These beaches are typically your more brown sand and slightly more muddled water, but a day at any beach is better than a day without a beach in sight.

Cocoa Beach

Ron Jon Surf Shop

Photo credit: VisitOrlando.com

At just around 70 miles from Walt Disney World, Cocoa Beach is located on the eastern coast of Florida’s beautiful Space Coast. Rent a car for the 75-minute drive to this activity-rich hot spot for one of your beaches near Walt Disney World. Situated near Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Cocoa Beach is a great place to see a rocket launch if you are lucky!

Cocoa Beach’s spacious beaches allow you plenty of room to wet your feet! Beach access is granted from four parks: Alan Shepard Park, Sidney Fischer Park, Lori Wilson Park – Operated by Brevard County, and Robert P. Murkshe Memorial Park – Operated by Brevard County. Or, cross over a dune to the beach where the city provides 40 “stub-end” streets with metered parking. An ideal getaway spot, Cocoa Beach is a blast – literally!

Cocoa Beach has something for everyone –  volleyball; a wide range of water sports, including fishing, kayaking, boating, parasailing, and water tours (just to name a few); bicycle riding, and, of course, surfing. Speaking of surfing, Kelly Slater, an 11-time ASP World Champion surfer, carved his career from the very waves that crash along this beach! If surfing intrigues you, stop into the world’s largest surf shop – Ron Jon Surf Shop which is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day!

While visiting this coastal paradise, visit the world-famous Cocoa Beach Pier! It’s 800-foot stretch into the Atlantic Ocean houses restaurants, bars, gift shops, and live musical adventures. Riki Tiki Tavern, located at the end of the pier, provides a delicious variety of seafood-inspired dishes and specialty cocktails.

Whether you want to learn how to surf or build sand castles with your kids on the beach, this quaint beach, popular with WDW visitors, offers silky soft sand and warm ocean breezes.

Daytona Beach

Beaches near Disney World Daytona

Photo credit: Daytonabeach.com

Approximately 70 miles east of WDW (about an hour’s drive), on the beautiful Atlantic Coast, escape the Disney World crowds by spending a relaxing day at Daytona Beach. This beach is one of the most popular options for beaches near Walt Disney World.

Daytona Beach has 23 miles of the white-sand beach to play on and offers visitors tons of water activities, seasonal free concerts on the beach, bicycle rentals, and even a boardwalk! This classic boardwalk has thrill rides, amusements, gift shops, snack bars, restaurants, and a classic arcade.

The area around Daytona Beach is filled with a variety of activities to fill your time, such as botanical gardens; Sun Splash Park; Ponce Inlet Lighthouse; Daytona Lagoon water park, which offers go-karts, laser tag, and water slides; or tours through the ever-popular Daytona International Speedway!

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

A little over 100 miles (that’s an hour and a half drive from WDW) will lead you to a place that encompasses all of Disney’s magic nestled on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean! Stay the night (or two) and experience all the amenities Disney hotels have to offer with the luxury of beach access steps away from your hotel doorstep! 

Since Disney’s Vero Beach Resort has the densest sea turtle nesting spots in the Western Hemisphere, you may even get lucky enough to witness sea turtle nests or the tedious journey the newly hatched turtles will take to get back to the ocean. 

As with everything Disney, your entertainment options are endless! If you are looking for some family fun on the water, rent boogie boards, sailboats, jet skis, kayaks, or banana boats! Or if soaking up the sun relaxing on the beach while your children play in the sand is your preference, rent chairs and umbrellas!

Looking for a little break from the kids? Disney offers that as well as soothing spa services while they offer supervision at the Children’s Activity Center! And no night is complete without a campfire on the beach roasting S’mores!

New Smyrna Beach

beach at sunset

Photo credit: expedia.com

Only 70 miles northeast of Walt Disney World (about an hour and 15 minutes) is where New Smyrna Beach is located! Just south of Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach can be a little more of a family-friendly option if you happen to be visiting near spring break time. 

New Smyrna Beach is 17 miles of laid-back, white sandy beaches. There are so many activities that you and your family can enjoy while visiting including the boardwalk, driving on the beach, trails to walk, bike, or horseback ride, ocean diving on the wrecks, surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and sunset dolphin tours. If surfing really interests you or your family, Smyrna Beach is well-known by expert and amateur surfers alike. 

While many families don’t bring their four-legged furry friends to their Walt Disney World vacation, if you have, Smyrna Beach offers a dog beach located at Smyrna Dunes Park. 

While visiting New Smyrna Beach can be a day trip, you can also stay a little longer to visit some of the other amazing attractions New Smyrna has to offer like the Ponce Inlet and Lighthouse Museum, the Marine Discovery Center (home to the healthy Indian River Lagoon), or visit the NSB Speedway. You could also travel downtown to Flagler Avenue, a place you’ll find great places to eat, shop, and mingle with the locals.

West Coast Disney World Beaches

While the west coast beaches are slightly farther away, they offer nice white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters to swim in. 

Clearwater Beach

beaches near Disney World

Photo credit: clearwaterbeach.com

Located 90 miles to the west of WDW on the Gulf of Mexico is a beach where the sand is a calming white against the turquoise water. Voted # 1 Beach in America by TripAdvisor, Clearwater Beach has everything you need to refuel for one of your beaches near Walt Disney World options.

Abundant water activities, such as boating, fishing, scuba diving tours, and of course, swimming are available to visitors. Are your kids obsessed with Pirates of the Caribbean? Well, take them on an actual pirate ship! Captain Memo’s Pirate Ship Tour will have them feeling just like Jack Sparrow!

And if that isn’t enough to occupy the kids, there is always Pier 60, which houses a large playground on the beach. Another must-see attraction is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where you can say hello to Winter and Hope – the stars of the movies Dolphin Tale 1 and Dolphin Tale 2.

Cafes, snack shops, and restaurants are nearby when you need to refuel from all of the fun activities that Clearwater Beach offers. Between nature parks, performance centers, BayCare Ballpark (used by Major League Baseball teams like the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies), and museums, Clearwater Beach is a place where everyone on your Walt Disney World vacation can find something to enjoy.

St. Pete Beach

Beaches near Disney World

Photo credit: visitflorida.com

A little farther at 101 miles away from Walt Disney World (almost 2 hours) is St. Pete Beach. This barrier island beach is one of the closest gulf coast beaches you can visit Walt Disney World. When visiting St. Pete Beach, you will be greeted by soft, white sand and clear waters. A positive here is that there is a place to visit for any mood you are feeling that day.  

With miles of beaches, shops, boutiques, restaurants, and surf shops, you can have a laid-back day relaxing on the Gulf Coast. 

Family fun can be found at Upham Beach Park, one of the only stretches of beach that you will find not located behind a hotel. Here your family can relax and enjoy the water or play a quick game of volleyball. 

If adventure is more your speed, book an evening LED-illuminated tour on glass-bottom kayaks, take a jet ski tour, go parasailing, speed boating, or windsurfing, or rent a bicycle at Lenny’s Surf Shop.

Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key

Photo credit: visitsarasota.com

At 122 miles away from Walt Disney World (right at 2 hours away) Siesta Key is the farthest beach, but well worth the drive. This beach is known for its relaxing atmosphere as you enjoy the warm waters of the gulf coast. This may be just the perfect getaway for a honeymoon trip to Disney World or an adult only trip. However, there are many family activities in the area as well.  

The Siesta Key Beach offers plenty of amenities that make this a relaxing visit. According to “Visit Sarasota: Beaches and Beyond”, Siesta Key offers large parking areas, concession stands, a free trolley to get around on the island, and nearby fun in the Siesta Key Village. As you are enjoying the 8 miles of pristine sand and clear waters, search for the abundance of shark teeth that are known to wash ashore. 

The Siesta Key offers activities for all types of visitors. During the day, spend time relaxing at the beach or enjoy one of the activities Siesta Key has to offer including beach volleyball, playgrounds, shopping and dining, kiteboarding, wakeboarding, renting a boat or jet skis, taking a fishing charter, or going parasailing. Immerse yourself in the exciting nightlife of comedy clubs, live music, artistic performances, and more. 

Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island

Photo credit: annamariaisland.com

Only 110 miles away (just under two hours) from Walt Disney World is the relaxing, 7 miles of beach known as Anna Maria Island. This beach is perfect if you are wanting the old Florida Beach feel. There are no high-rises to line the beaches on Anna Maria Island. 

A good meal is easy to come by, and you never even have to leave the beach if you don’t want to due to the public grills and picnic tables. However, if cooking sounds like too much work,, there are plenty of beach cafes and restaurants nearby.

There are tons of relaxing activities to enjoy such as fishing guides & charters, kayak & boat rentals, bike rentals, piers, or horseback on the beach. Historic Bridge Street on Anna Maria Island is a great place to browse art galleries, shop and dine. Anna Maria Island even has an air-conditioned trolley to help you get around while visiting. 

What is the best Disney World Beach?

You have already spent so much time planning your Walt Disney World vacation (made much easier thanks to Mickey Visit), how do you know which beach is the best one to visit for your family or traveling party?

Driving to Beaches near Disney World

If you drove to your vacation at Walt Disney World, you can’t go wrong with any of the beaches on our list. However, if you flew or took the train to Walt Disney World, getting to one of these stunning beaches may take a little more effort. One of the easiest options is to just rent a car if you know that you want to explore outside of Walt Disney World, and since parking is now free at the resorts, you would only have to incur the cost of the rental car itself. 

However, if you would prefer to use public transportation there are a few different ways to get to a couple of the beaches. Using https://www.rome2rio.com/, a site that can tell you how to get to any destination in the world and what it may cost, there are a few beaches that would be relatively easy to navigate to using Florida’s transportation options. 

Taking a taxi to the Orlando Bus station would be your first point of transportation to get to a beach nearby. Then you could take the Orlando Bus Station to Daytona Beach, FL.

If you want to go to Clearwater Beach or St. Pete Beach, take a taxi to the Orlando train station, take the Amtrak train to Tampa, and then another taxi to Clearwater or St. Pete Beach.

Beach Experience

Depending on the type of Walt Disney World vacation you are on, will most likely depend on which beach you want to travel to. Any of the eight beaches will offer a different experience, so no matter how many times you want to include a beach trip in your Walt Disney World vacation, you will have a great time. 

If you are looking for something a little more family-friendly, New Smyrna, St. Pete, Clearwater, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, or Cocoa Beach would be great options with tons of activities for a family.

If you want something a little more laid back to relax during an adults-only trip or something with vibrant nightlife, then Siesta Key, Anna Maria Island, or Daytona Beach are probably the three that I would consider going to.

Beach Travel Time Disney World

Walt Disney World Vacations are incredibly fun, but they can also be stressful with the amount of planning it takes to do everything that your kids want to accomplish. In addition, most WDW vacations are a once-in-a-lifetime experience (we always hope not, but it happens) and you want to get the most out of your trip. When adding in a beach day, it may add to the stress and hustle to get everything done at the beach location of your choosing, so it may be wise to go ahead and plan to stay overnight at your beach destination when thinking about detouring from the Walt Disney World parks.

Florida tourism has a lot to offer, and just like if your Walt Disney World trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, your visit to Florida may be as well. Budgeting and planning to stay at the beach of your choosing so that your family can experience all that it has to offer is a great idea! This will also take some of the stress of the transportation to and from WDW away. 

Ready to Plan Your Day at the Beaches near Walt Disney World?

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About Jessica Miller

Jessica is a full-time high school teacher and a part-time writer. She is also a full-time mom! When she isn't working, she loves to take vacations with her family to Disney.

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