Top Beaches for a Central Florida Vacation

The Encore Resort Blog
March 8, 2024
March 8, 2024

From stunning sunrises and mile-high shine to gorgeous sunsets as far as the eye can see, Central Florida just happens to be one of the top beach destinations in the world. Located smack dab in the middle of both coasts—the East Coast on the Atlantic Ocean and the West Coast on the Gulf of Mexico—Orlando is a quick day trip to either destination. Let’s take a look at our favorite beaches in Central Florida. Specifically beaches near Orlando.

Insider tip: Alcohol, pets and glass containers are not allowed on any of these Florida beaches (or any Florida beach, for that matter, unless specified). Fines are hefty.

1. Clearwater Beach

Photo Credit: Chris Zuppa - Visit Florida

At just under 90 miles from Orlando, Clearwater Beach is a great day trip. Aside from the hundreds of attractions, it’s home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the US, not to mention one of the widest – from boardwalk to water you’ll find hundreds of feet of sand, depending on the tide. Its powder-white sand, sunny skies almost every day and shallow, clear blue water draws visitors year-round from across the globe.

From the Sand Key Bridge to just north of the famous Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill, visitors will find restaurants, entertainment and shopping galore. A few local favorite restaurants include:

  • Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill
  • Tate Island Grill at the Sandpearl Resort
  • Crabby’s Dockside.

Pier 60 is always entertaining and is packed wall-to-wall with fun vendors. Just after dusk catch a movie at the free outdoor movie theater.

The sand never gets too hot on Clearwater Beach, so even on the hottest of days, you can walk on it barefoot. Because of this, it happens to be a prime destination for beach volleyball.

How to get there: Take I-4 West to 275 South to 60 – from there, just follow the signs.

2. Cocoa Beach

Located on Florida’s Space Coast, Cocoa Beach is 50 miles east of Orlando and approximately 10 miles south of Cape Canaveral’s Air Force station (See events here). The most famous of the Space Coast beaches, Cocoa Beach is action-packed, offering world-class surfing, kayaking adventures, dolphin cruises and so much more. Into the space program? Coca Beach—in our opinion—is the number-one spot to view rockets taking off; you’ll never forget the trembling under your feet as the ground shakes from the lift off.

Ready for dinner and drinks? Check out local favorite restaurants like:

  • Coconuts on the Beach
  • Jazzys Mainely Lobster
  • Florida’s Seafood Bar & Grill
  • Long Doggers Cocoa Beach

How to get there: Take 408 East to 417 South to 528 East. Once you cross over Route 1, you’re just a hop, skip and a jump away.

Photo Credit: Stacy Hilton - Visit Florida

3. New Smyrna Beach

Photo Credit: 500PX - Visit Florida

A one-hour trip northeast from Orlando is the fun and hip New Smyrna Beach. With 13 miles of white sand on the Atlantic Ocean, NSB is popular among surfers, sunbathers and sand-castle-building families alike. Every day is picture-perfect here. If it’s waves you’re after, National Geographic named New Smyrna Beach among the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns.

New Smyrna Beach also has deep historical roots, a fantastic and charming downtown and a very young attitude. Its famous Canal Street offers a trendy mix of restaurants, shops and even an authentic soda fountain. Culture and art also come alive in downtown New Smyrna Beach. Visit The Hub on Canal.

When hunger hits, check out an array of restaurants:

  • The Garlic (Old-school steakhouse): Insider Tip – If you pop in, make sure you ask to sit below, where you can watch the chef dote over the steaks.
  • Yellow Dog Eats
  • The Breakers Ocean Front
  • SoNapa Grille
  • Third Wave Café & Wine Bar

How to get there: Take I-4 East to 44 West until you reach the beach.

4. Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key Beach, located on the Gulf Coast near Sarasota, is famous for its powdery white quartz sand, which stays cool even in the hottest weather. This beach consistently ranks among the top beaches in the United States for its natural beauty and amenities. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball, and sunset strolls. Siesta Key Village offers a charming array of shops, restaurants, and nightlife options.

Places to get food nearby:

  • The Cottage
  • Daiquiri Deck
  • Another Broken Egg Cafe
  • Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar
  • Clayton’s Siesta Grille
  • Turtle Beach Pub
  • Turtle’s on Little Sarasota Bay

How to get there: Take I-4 West merge to 85 south and take exit 205 for clark road and head west until you cross the siesta key bridge.

Photo Credit: Visit Sarasota County - Visit Florida

5. Anna Maria Island Beach

Photo Credit: SPARK - Visit Florida

Anna Maria Island, located off the Gulf Coast near Bradenton, is a hidden gem known for its gorgeous beaches, blue waters, and laid-back culture. Visitors can go swimming, shelling, kayaking, and fishing, as well as touring the island’s charming shops, cafes, and art galleries. Don’t miss the historic Anna Maria City Pier, which offers beautiful views of the Gulf sunset.

What to eat near:

  • Gulf Coast Seafood
  • Beachside Eateries
  • Farm-to-Table Dining
  • Sweet Treats

How to get there: Take the I-4 southwest towards Tampa to the I-75 southbound then exit on the state road 64 west to 20 miles until you reach Gulf Drive and then turn left. Follow sings for the beach

6. Daytona Beach

Cocoa Beach, located on Florida’s Space Coast, is just a short drive from Orlando. It is recognized for its relaxed attitude, fantastic surfing conditions, and closeness to the Kennedy Space Center. Visitors can go swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing, and watch rocket launches from Cape Canaveral.

Food you must try nearby:

  • Daytona Beach Shrimp
  • Mahi Mahi Tacos
  • Seafood Platter
  • Oceanfront Cafes
  • Fried Chicken and Waffles
  • Shrimp and Grits
  • Latin American Flavors
  • Saltwater Taffy

How to get there: Head east on I-4 until exit 129 for I-95 north. Exit on US-62 East towards Daytona.

Photo Credit: Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau - Visit Florida
Sammy the teddy bear surfing on a wave

Book Your Vacation Home Accommodations

After a day at the beach, come home to Encore Resort at Reunion. Our guard-gated community features modern, beautifully decorated 4- to 13-bedroom homes with backyard pools, washer/dryer units and fully equipped kitchens, plus resort-style amenities like an Aqua Park and free shuttle. Each of our homes offers ample room for you to socialize, relax and unwind or plan the week’s activities.

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