A Disney vacation is full of excitement, adventure, and thrills. With the rides, the fun and funky concession foods, and the activities available inside the park, Disney World is the perfect place to go with friends or as a family. But after a few days, you might be craving something a little more laid back, somewhere you can get back into nature. Consider tying in one of these beaches near Disney World into your trip!
Fortunately, if there’s one thing Florida has a lot of, it’s beaches. On both sides of Florida’s coast are endless beach towns and resort cities with some of the best sandy beaches in the country. If you’re looking for a post-Disney getaway where you can unwind after the excitement, here are the top 10 best beaches near Disney World places where you can relax, surf, eat and explore – even with kids.
What is the closest beach to Disney World in Florida?
Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Disney World, which is 70 minutes away. However, there are several beaches in Florida you can drive to that are just 2 hours or less from Disney. Our personal favorite beaches in Florida are St. Pete Beach & Clearwater Beach. Both are two hours from Disney.
1. St. Pete Beach
Nearby to Clearwater Beach, St. Pete Beach is great for families. On our last trip, we stayed on St. Pete Beach at the Beach House Suites by Don CeSar (the famous Pink Palace). They have suites perfect for families with several bedrooms, kitchens, washers and dryers in the unit, and much more. We would definitely stay here again. Here is our St Pete & Clearwater itinerary for a family vacation.
Some of the best restaurants in St. Petersburg are on Gulf Drive in St. Pete Beach. We enjoyed watching the St. Pete Beach sunsets every night. If you are spending one week in Florida, consider 3/4 nights at Disney and 3/4 nights in St. Petersburg or one of the other beaches near Disney World.
Pass-a-Grille Beach has lots of parking, while Merry Pier offers bike rentals if your kids are older and more active. From here, you can also take a ferry to Shell Key Preserve, a small island that’s perfect for a quiet beach getaway. Make sure to check out our list of things to do in St. Petersburg when planning your trip.
- Distance from Disney World: 98 miles / 2 Hours
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2. Clearwater Beach
Clearwater is another must-visit beach town if you are looking for a tropical getaway after a Disney World vacation. The city is a two-hour drive west of Orlando (and just west of Tampa), but the magic continues in this beautiful beachside town.
It’s often stated that its beaches are the nicest in the country, and if you ask us, they have the best beaches near Disney World and hence why it’s number one on our list.
Night and day both offer so many things to do in Clearwater. There is the Promenade, which stretches for over a mile, the marina where you can board a pirate ship, and the Clearwater Aquarium. The aquarium was home to Winter the dolphin, who became famous in the Disney movie Dolphin Tale. Sadly Winter died in November 2021. We visited the week before she died, actually.
Pier 60 has the Sunset Celebration with performances, souvenir sellers, and fresh food. Tiki bars also line the sand. If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, sitting on the soft white sand while you watch the sun sink beyond the skyline is just as enjoyable. Don’t forget to have dinner at one of the best restaurants in Clearwater. If you want to eat on the beach, we recommend Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill.
- Distance from Disney World: 95 miles / 2 Hours
Related: Best Beaches in Clearwater
3. Treasure Island Beach
Treasure Island Beach really lives up to its name. Its crystal-clear turquoise waters and soft white sand really make it look like something out of a children’s pirate tale.
It’s located not far from Clearwater Beach (two hours from Orlando). It’s quieter than Clearwater Beach but has all the same appeal. You can easily visit just for the day if you’re staying nearby, but if you decide to make this your base, there are many affordable options for beachfront motels.
Gulf Boulevard, the main road in front of the beach, is packed with hotels, motels, quaint boutiques, bars, and restaurants. There are tons of things to do in the Treasure Island area – the annual sand sculpture competition called Sanding Ovations, where you can see some incredibly impressive and realistic sand art, the Alligator Discovery Center that rehabilitates marine wildlife, or the Orange Groves Winery, which does wine tastings and pairings.
Kids can have a day of fun aboard the Pirate Ship Royal Conquest, which does daily sailings and onboard activities for kids of all ages. There are also many beaches, some nice and quiet, where you can relax and let your kids play in the sand and the warm shallows of the Gulf of Mexico.
- Distance from Disney World: 98 miles / 2 Hours
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4. New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach is relatively close to Orlando. At only an hour’s drive northeast of Disney World, it’s one of the closest beach towns to the park. It’s south of Daytona Beach but much more laid back and quiet. So if you happen to be visiting during the spring break madness, then New Smyrna is a great alternative option.
The beach itself is an astonishing 17 miles long and full of quaint boutiques, family-owned restaurants, and some of the best surfing conditions in Florida.
The beach is so long that it’s easy to find a quiet stretch where you can relax as a family. Whether you have younger ones who want to play in the sand and the warm shallow water or older kids who would love to take advantage of kayaking or fishing, this is a great place for families.
Aside from a relaxing day spent at the beach, there are many things to do in New Smyrna Beach. This includes the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse and Museum, Smyrna Dunes Park, where you can go fishing or hiking, and the Marine Science Center, which has many exhibits and helps to rehabilitate several varieties of marine life.
- Distance from Disney World: 85 miles / 85 minutes
5. Vero Beach
Vero Beach is a well-known relaxation spot for anyone familiar with the Disney Vacation Club since there is a partner resort here that is very popular with Disney World visitors. But even if you don’t stay at a Disney resort, Vero Beach is a great place to visit.
It’s located about two hours from the Disney World theme park, an easy drive straight down the Florida coast. The beach stretches on for over 26 miles, and along this length, it has resorts, restaurants, shopping districts, and bars.
But best of all is the soft white sand and palm trees that make the beach feel like a tropical getaway. These beaches are also where sea turtles come to lay their eggs, which is a once-in-a-lifetime thing to witness.
The beach itself isn’t the only thing to do in Vero Beach. Vero Beach is a city worth exploring and with so much to offer. Some of the highlights include the Art Museum and the Botanical Gardens. The Environmental Learning Center is great for kids with activities like manatee-watching tours, kayak excursions, nature walks, and educational touch tank sessions.
- Distance from Disney World: 102 miles / 1 hour 40 minutes
6. Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach is often associated with wild spring break parties and college students, but it’s actually a great place to stay as a family, and there is so much to do to pass the time.
However, spring breakers can be very noisy and make the city very busy, which can add stress or disappointment to any vacation. For this reason, you may want to avoid the spring break crowds, which generally arrive between early March through late April. Here are other best places in Florida for Spring Break.
Daytona Beach is located about an hour and a half drive northeast of Disney World. Many beach towns along the Florida coast have put up enormous chain resorts to cater to more tourists, but Daytona Beach has kept a more low-key feel and maintains many of its older, charming family-owned hotels.
There are a lot of things to do in Daytona Beach. Ponce Inlet has a scientific center with a lighthouse, and Riverfront is a great shopping district full of neat boutiques. Other things to do include the Daytona Beach Boardwalk, the Daytona Lagoon Waterpark, and perhaps the most famous of all – the International Speedway, known for its NASCAR races (great for kids who love Disney’s Cars movie!).
- Distance from Disney World: 83 miles / 90 minutes
7. Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach is the closest beach near Disney World, located just over an hour east of Orlando. Calling all surfers, you will want to pay a visit to Cocoa Beach! Cocoa Beach is often called the surf capital of the East Coast, and for a good reason.
There are many surf schools and gear rental companies all along the beaches, and the waves here rival those in California. It’s also home to Kelly Slater, one of the world’s greatest surfers, which no doubt inspired the surf culture.
Besides catching a wave, there are lots of things to do when visiting Cocoa Beach. The city’s historic pier is a great spot to see the horizon, go fishing, or grab a meal of fresh, catch-of-the-day seafood (or all three). There are boutiques in the area as well as bars and cafés.
Elsewhere in Cocoa Beach, explore the Florida Surf Museum or the Dinosaur Store, which is a museum hosting dinosaur exhibits and information on early human ancestors. If you’re hungry for seafood, one restaurant, in particular, you have to try is Florida’s Seafood Bar & Grill. Rock shrimp, fried oysters, and scallops are some of the freshest and most popular menu items.
- Distance from Disney World: 66 miles / 70 Minutes
8. St. Augustine Beach
Two hours northeast of Disney World is St. Augustine Beach. Immensely popular with families, this is a great place to come after an exciting trip to Disney World to unwind and relax.
The miles of unspoiled, sandy coastline are manned by lifeguards on duty. This makes families feel safer about visiting with kids and is a great place to spend the day.
The activities are very beach- and water-centric, such as snorkeling, swimming, surfing, and kayaking. There are many family-friendly restaurants in the area too, and you are likely to see many families traveling here.
The beach is not the only thing to do in St Augustine. The city of St. Augustine is full of historical sights, like the Spanish Colonial Quarter, the St Augustine Pirate Treasure Museum (entirely dedicated to the history of pirate folklore), and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a 17th-century fortress.
- Distance from Disney World: 119 miles / 2 Hours
9. Anna Maria Island
While most of Florida’s bustling beach towns still have the same hustle and bustle as some of the nation’s largest and most popular cities, Anna Maria Island stands apart from the crowd.
While you won’t find a lot of the things you have at home, like convenience stores or Starbucks, on every corner. You will find a laid-back island lifestyle that’s like a balm on your soul.
Anna Maria Island is located a two-hour drive southwest of Disney World and Orlando. As the name suggests, it’s an island connected to the mainland via three land bridges. The small narrow island stretches for seven miles and comprises three small towns.
There are many beaches where you can relax, and some family favorites include Coquina Beach and Bradenton Beach. The latter has a lifeguard on duty, water equipment rentals, food services, and a playground, so it’s great if you have kids with you. There is a free trolley that operates along the whole island.
If you’d rather experience a little adventure, try a kayak excursion or a boat tour of the Gulf of Mexico. End the day at the Star Fish Company for fresh specialty seafood (kids welcome).
- Distance from Disney World: 112 miles / 2 Hours 10 minutes
10. Siesta Key
Siesta Key is just over two hours’ drive from Orlando and is actually made up of three beaches along a single (very long) stretch of sand. It’s just across the water from Sarasota. Siesta Key has some of the clearest water in Florida!
The three beaches are Sarasota Beach and Siesta Key Beach (the largest) and Turtle Beach at the southern tip of the Key. Each beach boasts the same beautiful warm waters and silky white sand. If you are looking for one of the best white sand beaches in Florida head to Siesta Key.
Siesta Key Beach was ranked the #1 beach in America just last year, and with the natural beauty, it’s not hard to see why. It’s also a convenient beach, thanks to concession stands, lots of parking, a complimentary shuttle that goes around the island, and the nearby Siesta Key Village for shopping, restaurants, and other needs. They also have a really nice boardwalk too.
Turtle Beach at the other end of the Key is where many loggerhead sea turtles come to lay their eggs on the sand. If you’re lucky, you might get to see the hatchlings as they make their way out to sea for the first time.
- Distance from Disney World: 124 miles / 2 Hours 10 minutes
11. Canaveral National Seashore
This national seashore is located near Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach. If you want to visit several of the best beaches near Disney World, these three are easy to combine together. Comprising nearly 60,000 acres, Canaveral National Seashore is a haven for outdoor adventurers. Activities like camping, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, surfing, and hiking are among some of the best ways to explore the land.
There are more than just inland activities, and Canaveral is home to two popular beaches. Apollo Beach and Playalinda Beach are both stunningly beautiful beaches, though Apollo has much less parking, so it tends to be quieter (which is a bonus for many visitors looking for a more relaxing retreat).
The major draw of these beaches is that they are unspoiled land, and no developments have been built here. The land remains the same as it has been for hundreds of years, and the wildlife is plentiful (especially birdwatching).
There are also significant archeological sites here, specifically Turtle Mound and the Seminole Rest Historic Mound, which both contain ancient middens from the prehistoric Timucuan people who once inhabited the same land that is now known as the Florida Keys.
If you were hoping to see Key West on this list, we highly suggest still visiting as it’s one of the best beaches in Florida, BUT the drive from Disney World to Key West is almost 400 miles and over 6 hours (traffic pending).
We suggest taking the infamous drive when traveling from Miami to Key West. There are tons of places to stop along the way and places to eat. You won’t want to just drive straight through. Make sure to check out all the things to do in Key Largo. We spent two nights here on our way down to Key West on our first Key West trip.