Canaveral National Seashore boasts more than 20 miles of pristine sand and is home to a number of native Florida species. (Photo: Jesse Kunerth / Alamy)
The best way to chill after hitting the pavement of the amusement parks and experiencing the rush of the rides is to cool off on the coast. These four sandy destinations are within an hour’s drive from Orlando and deliver sunny skies and calm shorelines.
New Smyrna Beach
Located an hour northeast of Orlando, this Atlantic Ocean beach retreat is a favorite for Orlando locals. You can spend the day perusing the shops, restaurants, bars and ice cream parlors along the main street of Flagler Avenue, or rent a surfboard and test out the waves — they break at the perfect size for beginners.
Insider’s tip: While on Flagler Avenue, rent a bike at Nichols Surf Shop and take your time spending the day riding down the beach. Another option is to ride south down A1A towards JB’s Fish Camp.
The ride itself is about 40 minutes, but it’s worth the work — this indoor/outdoor hot spot serves up one of the best plates of blackened tuna tips around (sometimes caught by JB himself). New Smyrna Beach also boasts killer sunsets and the occasional visit from a dolphin or two.
An hour north of New Smyrna Beach along the Atlantic Coast is the quiet town of Ormond Beach, just an hour’s drive from Orlando.
Though not as popular as nearby Daytona, this beach is perfect for those seeking minimal crowds, wide open strands of white sand (no cars are allowed on the beach here) and plenty of space to spread out. More low key than even the most laid-back of beach towns, Ormond has a handful of restaurants and bars — including one of the best places around for breakfast, House of Donuts.
The family-run bakery serves up a creative collection of donuts (think Key lime and Oreo options) as well as freshly made breakfast sandwiches and one of the best cups of coffee in town.
Canaveral National Seashore
If Ormond is quiet, Canaveral National Seashore is all but silent. A little over an hour’s drive from Orlando will grant you 24 miles of undeveloped beach. It’s so pristine that many threatened animals, including sea turtles, call this coastline home.
Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day altering between bird-watching (the area is home to 310 bird species), napping under the sun and swimming in the refreshing waters. Or, take the walk (a permit is required) to Klondike Beach — only accessible on foot.
Walking not your thing? Jump in your car and make a journey out of it. The six-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive showcases nature at its finest with scenic marsh and pine landscapes.
Known as “The Hamptons of Florida,” Vero Beach is where casual seaside retreat meets metropolitan sophistication. Spend the day lounging on the beach, working on your golf game or meandering among one of the many posh, and unique, boutiques and museums.
The area prides itself on a melting pot of art galleries featuring everything from jewelry and photography to fine art prints and eclectic finds. Many establishments here are also dog friendly, making it great for visitors with furry friend in tow.
And while the area may feel upscale, it still exudes a relaxed, casual vibe. Come evening, head to Bobby’s Restaurant & Lounge on Ocean Drive, a neighborhood favorite for its views of the water and melt-in-your-mouth sirloin burgers.
Where to Stay:
- Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
- Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
- JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes
- Marriott’s Lakeshore Reserve
- Orlando World Center Marriott
- The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
- Castle Hotel, Autograph Collection
- Grand Bohemian Hotel, Autograph Collection
- Walt Disney World Dolphin
- Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas, Lake Buena Vista/Orlando