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Best Family Friendly Beaches in Florida near Orlando & Disney

Best Family Friendly Beaches in Florida near Orlando & Disney

Planning that dream vacation to Florida to make all of those magical memories that will last a lifetime? You want pics with the Disney princesses and thrills with Harry Potter, but why not also enjoy what Florida is most known for? Its beaches near Orlando.

When we think about Florida, the first thing that pops into our minds is the beautiful sunny coastlines. But, it takes only a glance at Google Maps to make us feel we’ll be stuck land-locked smack-dab in the middle of the state. 

Fear not though, because so many incredible beaches actually can be accessed from the amazing central location of Orlando. Taking a nice day trip away from “the Land of the Mouse”, Universal Studios or Legoland is sometimes the best medicine for recharging your batteries and getting you ready to tackle another day in the adrenaline-filled parks.

Let’s take a look at the best family friendly beaches in Florida near Orlando and Disney World.

1. Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge

If you want to get some snorkeling in during your trip to Orlando, your best bet is Egmont Key. It’s a little further away than some of your other options at about a 1-hour 40-minute drive from Disney and along the Gulf Coast, but it’s totally worth it. 

Once you get to the bay pier inside Fort De Soto, take a ferry or tour over to the island. There are several options, so I suggest checking which boat would fit your needs best. Some can get you there in as little as twenty minutes, while others take a leisurely route that gives you the opportunity to spot dolphins, turtles, and manatees along the way.

Get ready for a real deserted island feel when you step off the boat. There are no restrooms, food, or fresh water, so preparation is key. But if you did book a ferry that stays at the dock, they often have a bathroom that you can use. Now that we’ve gotten business taken care of, let’s get to the fun stuff, right? 

Why don’t we start right off with the main reason we want to head to the beach, the water! Known for being gorgeous and calm, this beach’s water is ideal for snorkeling. The easiest place to do some shore snorkeling is right along the eastern beach. 

Although challenging to get to, there is another incredibly cool area on the southwestern side of the key only accessible by water. There once was a Spanish-American-era fort on the island and now most of it is now below sea level, providing an epic environment to swim around in and for sea life to live. You will need to book a private tour to get there

Wherever you go, the beaches aren’t crowded here and during the summer the ocean is a nice 80 degrees. Sometimes you go to the beach, but the sand, sun, and plethora of pretty seashells just aren’t enough. Well, Egmont Key’s got you covered there too.

Are animals your thing? Well, get excited because the island is well-known for hosting a thriving habitat of endangered gopher tortoises. Plus, sea turtles find the area perfect for nesting. Birds are in abundance as well, with one-third of the key being a bird sanctuary. You have the chance to see laughing gulls, brown pelicans, black skimmers, and more.

History more your speed? This key was utilized in the 3rd Seminole War, the Civil War, and then the Spanish-American War. Drench yourself in mosquito repellent and take a walk along the trails and red-brick roads through the forest, exploring the ruins of Fort Dade and the famous lighthouse.

Most tours only give you three or four hours on the island, so soak-up every last ounce of paradise and head on back to Orlando with plenty of time to get a late evening meal in Disney Springs.

Recommended Tours: 
St. Petersburg, FL: 4-Hour Catamaran Cruise to Egmont Key
Egmont Key Snorkeling Dolphin Tour

2. Cocoa Beach

Our next beach is both amazing and close by, you don’t need to go all the way to Fort Lauderdale to enjoy the coast. You’ll only have a little over a 1-hour car ride on FL-528 due east to reach the vision that is Cocoa Beach.

The best thing to do is head to Lori Wilson Park where you’ll find free parking, a wonderful refurbished boardwalk, clean restrooms, and showers. Did you bring your pooch along for the ride? Fear not. This park also has a well-maintained dog park you can unleash your furry friend and let them stretch their legs.

You can’t ask for a better beach either. It has great soft sand and calm consistent waves great for learning to surf. Sometimes you’ll find cloudy water and more seaweed than you’d like, and there’s a pier that was nice in its heyday, but lately looking a little worse for wear. 

Take heart though. All in all Cocoa Beach more than makes up for those with chair and umbrella rentals, fun hiking trails, and places you can do kiteboarding and kayaking.

Once you get done by the water, the extravaganza’s not over. Cocoa Beach is home to the world’s largest surf shop, Ron Jon which even has exhibits on display at the Florida Surf Museum located inside the store.

Tired yet? I hope not. If you come during some of the colder months, I definitely recommend hitting the Manatee Sanctuary park. In winter, lovable manatees come close to the shore to enjoy the warmer water temperatures and feed on the delicious seagrass there. The Manatee Sanctuary park is known for attracting these peaceful beasts and can often be seen grazing near the boardwalk. Take a tour to kayak through the mangrove tunnels and meet the Manatees. 

Recommended Tours: 
Mangrove Tunnel, Manatee and Dolphin Kayak Tour of Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach Dolphin Tours on the Banana River

3. New Smyrna Beach

Next up, we have a nice beach to have that quiet oceanside getaway that you’ve been craving. It’s New Smyrna Beach, about a 75-minute drive away, a day trip here is one of the best things to do in Orlando other than visiting the theme parks. 

Not far to get some time to chillax and listen to the gentle sounds of the ocean rolling up to the shoreline. And this beach you don’t even have to worry about finding a place to park as you can drive right onto it.

The vibe is definitely family-friendly, respectful, and clean. You won’t run into a lot of other tourists and the area has a really quaint feel. Sometimes there are jellyfish and man o’ war to watch out for, but the atmosphere makes it all worthwhile.

A couple of great spots to check out are Smyrna Dunes Park which has a 1.5-mile boardwalk to take a stroll on and close to the park is the disappearing island. 

If the disappearing island stirs your curiosity, you’ll have to rent a boat to get over to it where the Halifax River meets the Indian River North at the Ponce de Leon Inlet. There are several boat ramps along the Ponce de Leon Cut. You can get to them along Rt 1 near the New Smyrna Municipal Airport. 

What makes the disappearing island special is that when the tide recedes, the land appears. Then, you have a private island with the softest powdery sand and clear blue water. The water is calm and shallow and you’ll think that you were dropped off into the middle of the Caribbean. 

Recommended Tours: 
New Smyrna Dolphin and Manatee Adventure Tour
Guided Wildlife Eco Kayak Tour in New Smyrna Beach

4. Melbourne Beach

Willing to go a bit further? A 90-minute drive will get you to Melbourne Beach. This is another laid-back beach with clear blue water, wide open beaches, and plenty of space to call your own.

Well-known for its pristine white sand and super-clean facilities, beach life doesn’t get much better than this. 

You’ll find most of the parking at the end of side streets that run toward the coast. If you’re one to worry about parking, why not check out Howard E. Futch Memorial Park and Canova Beach Park? They are located right next to one another and between the two, you should have no problem finding a space. The parking is free at those, too! 

Take advantage of the facilities. Howard E Futch Memorial Park has grills and pavilions for barbecuing, volleyball courts, restrooms, and playgrounds for the kids. 

Canova Beach is incredible if you have your canine pal with you. It’s a dog-friendly beach, just make sure you have their tags on their collar, and they even have a doggy shower to clean your pet when done.

After a pleasant day lounging on the beach, stop by downtown Melbourne for something to eat. You can also take in art around the Eau Gallie Arts District, race your friends and family in go-karts at the Andretti Thrill Park, challenge your brains and teamwork at an Escape Room, or take in the exquisitely designed gardens at the Joy and Gordon Patterson Botanical Gardens at Florida Tech.

5. Satellite Beach

Last but not least on our list of the best beaches near Orlando and Disney World is Satellite Beach. At right around a 75-minute drive, Satellite Beach is a great community to spend time in and enjoy all the benefits of being by the Atlantic Ocean and near what we call the Space Coast. 

Space Coast got its name because the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, where NASA launches its spaceflights, are home here. Several other beaches we talked about here are in this area, so take advantage of the locale and consider taking a tour.

Is surfing your thing? Then, Hightower Beach Park is for you. This area has some of Central Florida’s most consistent waves and can even hold larger N/NE swells. The facility itself is well-maintained and focuses on educating visitors about the dune and beach system in the area. Rinse off in their outdoor showers, use the restrooms, and enjoy the renovated boardwalk and observation pavilions. 

A second choice in the Satellite Beach vicinity is Pelican Beach Park. You’ve got your free parking, your restrooms, and showers, and what sets this park apart from others is it is a great choice to hold a party. Rent a pavilion and you’ll have access to grills, tables, and volleyball courts. If water safety is a concern, they even have lifeguards on duty on the weekends.

After catching some waves, head a couple of miles southwest to the Satellite Beach Skate and BMX Park. It’s free to enjoy and has a good reputation for having friendly people all having fun doing what they love. A little worn, but always clean. If skating’s your thing then try it out.

More of a nature person? If you like your nature safe behind fences, see adorable animals at the Brevard Zoo. It is a smaller park, but people have no problem spending hours exploring. Food and drink prices are reasonable and the money goes to taking care of the animals. What more could you ask for?

But, if the wild is more your speed, they’ve got the Sampson Island Nature Park. Take a canoe, kayak, or another non-motorized boat over to the island and have an adventure trekking, fishing, and bird watching. 

A few of the many birds that come to the park are great blue herons, pileated woodpeckers, and horned owls. Take in the sights and sounds of nature before heading back to the hustle and bustle of city life.

PRO TIP: If you do go on the 1st or 3rd Sundays of the month, the city offers a free public boat to the island. It leaves at 12pm and takes you back to the mainland at 3 pm.

As you can see, you really can have the best of both worlds. There are so many opportunities for you near Orlando and Disney World to get close to nature, smell the salty air, and cool down in soothing ocean waves. Even though you’re heading to the center of Florida, so many amazing beaches are less than ninety minutes away.

Which beaches near Orlando fit your style the most? I’d love to hear it, so leave your comments below.

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