Maybe you’re planning a Walt Disney World vacation and you want to tack on a trip to the beach. Or, maybe the beach is your main destination and you want to fit in a day trip to the Disney Parks.
Whatever it is, there are a lot of beaches in Florida that are conveniently located within driving distance of the most magical place on earth! But, which one should you choose?
If you’re looking for the closest beach to Disney World, we’ve got some excellent options. Here’s a breakdown of the best beaches in Florida that are all under 3 hours from Disney World!
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Distance: 92 miles/1-hour 50-minute drive from Disney World
Clearwater Beach is one of the best beaches in Florida. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, it has even been voted as the best beach in the country multiple times by Travel + Leisure, TripAdvisor, and Dr. Beach.
What makes it so unique is its iconic white sandy beaches and clear water. Plus, there’s a lot to do on the beach if you’re craving a sand-filled getaway! At the marina, you can encounter dolphins and manatees or go fishing. Every Friday, the Clearwater Beach Sunset Celebration takes place with live music, performers, and vendors are out and about while the sunsets.
Beyond all the sunbathing and water activities, there’s plenty to do in the Clearwater Beach area. You can dine at any of the restaurants lining the beach, go shopping, walk the boardwalk, or even visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aquarium is especially great for those traveling with kiddos, as it is home to hundreds of rescued animals and even has a fun dinosaur exhibit.
Stay Here: Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa
ST. PETE BEACH
Distance: 97 miles/1-hour 50-minute drive from Disney World
St. Pete Beach is located on the Gulf of Mexico near Clearwater Beach, just west of St. Petersburg, Florida. The beautiful white sandy beach has crystal clear water views and is a popular beach for kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing, bird watching, and fishing.
There’s also some cultural and historical significance to St. Pete Beach, as this is where you can see the famous Don CeSar hotel, which is also known as “The Pink Palace.”
In addition to the beach activities, St. Pete Beach offers a wide range of other activities and attractions, such as the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, the St. Pete Beach Theatre, the St. Pete Beach Community Center and Aquatic Complex, and the Upham Beach Nature Preserve.
Plus, you can also take a day trip to nearby Treasure Island Beach which is known for its sea turtles! If you’re visiting from May 1st to October 31st (which is sea turtle nesting season) you can watch the sea turtles laying their eggs and the hatchlings making their way into the Gulf of Mexico.
Stay here: TradeWinds Island Grand
Distance: 119 miles/2-hour drive from Disney World
St. Augustine is a small historic beach town located on the Atlantic coast. The beach itself features wide stretches of sand and many water sports offerings.
Aside from the traditional beach activities (like sunbathing and swimming), you can also participate in activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, and surfing. Plus, there’s almost always something going on!
St. Augustine Beach traditionally hosts annual events including a 4th of July Fireworks Celebration, the St. Augustine Beach Celtic Music & Heritage Festival, and the St. Augustine Beach Art & Craft Festival.
There’s more than just the beach to enjoy here, though! The city of St. Augustine is actually the oldest city in the United States, so there’s lots of history to explore. You can tour places like Castillo de San Marcos (a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress) and check out the Spanish colonial architecture between beach visits. Or, check out one of the many parks and nature preserves in the area, including Anastasia State Park.
Stay here: Embassy Suites Oceanfront Resort
SIESTA KEY/LONGBOAT KEY
Distance: 116 miles/2-hours 15-minute drive from Disney World
Siesta Key and Longboat Key are two popular beaches located on the Gulf Coast of Florida known for their white sand beaches. In fact, the sand here is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world because it’s made up of 99% pure quartz! Due to this, the soft powdery sand remains cool to the touch even in the hottest temperatures, making beach activities even more enjoyable throughout the year in Florida.
When you’re not spending time on the white sandy beaches, there’s plenty to do near Siesta Key and Longboat Key.
Siesta Key is known for its lively nightlife and restaurants. Whereas, Longboat Key offers a more quiet and relaxed atmosphere. There are also several golf courses in the area and a variety of parks and nature preserves, including Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, if you want to do any hiking, biking, or bird watching.
Stay here: The Resort at Longboat Key Club
Distance: 71 miles/1-hour 15-minute drive from Disney World
Daytona Beach is located on Florida’s east coast, making it a great beach to enjoy the sights of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s famous for its hard-packed sand which makes it one of the only beaches in the world where driving is allowed. Just look for the designated driving beaches along the coast and enjoy the convenience of not needing to walk far between your car and the ocean!
Daytona Beach is also where you can visit the Daytona International Speedway. You can stop by here to take a tour of the track, see the race cars up close, and even ride around the track in a pace car. Just keep in mind that the area gets very busy with tourists around the Daytona 500.
Stay Here: Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort
Distance: 102 miles/1-hour 30-minute drive from Disney World
Vero Beach is unique in that there’s actually a Disney resort that has a 2-mile private beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, you don’t have to be staying at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to enjoy the water.
The town of Vero Beach is situated between the ocean and the Indian River Lagoon and offers a more laid-back and relaxing atmosphere with all the perks of being by the beach. Some of the most popular beaches here include Humiston Park Beach, South Beach, Riverside Park Beach, and Round Island Beach Park.
One of the main things that sets Vero Beach apart from other beaches in Florida is its parks and nature preserves. You can visit the Environmental Learning Center and McLarty Treasure Museum, or visit the Riverside theater and Vero Beach Museum of Art to get a glimpse of the town’s rich culture and history.
Stay Here: Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
NEW SMYRNA BEACH
Distance: 71 miles/1-hour 15-minute drive from Disney World
New Smyrna Beach is a popular beach destination located on the Atlantic coast in Florida. The beach itself is known for its stretches of white sandy beach, clear blue waters, and excellent surf conditions, but the real draw is its location!
In addition to its main beach, New Smyrna Beach is also home to several other popular beaches, including Flagler Avenue Beach, North Beach, and 27th Avenue Beach. Each of these beaches offers its own unique characteristics, including things like great surf conditions along with quiet and secluded areas.
Canaveral National Seashore is also located nearby, which offers miles of preserved beaches and natural habitats for a variety of wildlife.
Another popular tourist attraction in New Smyrna Beach is the Black Dolphin Pirate ship. It is a replica of an 18th-century pirate ship that offers daily cruises and sunset sails. So, you can book a cruise and take a trip out to the sea to experience life as a pirate while enjoying the scenic views.
Stay Here: SpringHill Suites
Distance: 65 miles/1-hour 10-minute drive from Disney World
If you’re hoping to do some surfing, Cocoa Beach is the place to go!
The beach city is located on a barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean and is known for its great surf breaks. You can sign up for surf lessons or rent the equipment and go out on your own. And, if you’re visiting at the right time, you might even catch a surf competition like the Easter Surf Festival or Ron Jon’s Beach ‘N Boards Fest.
But it’s not just surfing that draws vacationers to Cocoa Beach. It is also where you can visit and tour the Kennedy Space Center and see rocket ships launch. Plus, the nearby Cape Canaveral is a hub for several cruise lines (including the Disney Cruise Line!), making a visit to Cocoa Beach a great add-on before or after a cruise.
All in all, this beach is a great family choice.
Stay Here: Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort
ANNA MARIA ISLAND
Distance: 110 miles/2-hour drive from Disney World
For a small-town beach feel, Anna Maria Island delivers! This barrier island is located on the Gulf of Mexico and features some of the best beaches in Florida.
The main beach on the island is Anna Maria Beach which is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. The atmosphere is much more laid back and you can even rent beach umbrellas and chairs if you’re just planning to relax at the beach all day.
Be sure that you carve out some time to explore Anna Maria Island while you’re there. You can visit the charming island shops, enjoy some of the local restaurants, take a boat tour, or visit the Anna Maria Island Butterfly Park. And, a special way to end the day is on a sunset cruise.
Overall, vacationers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of more touristy destinations are sure to enjoy the small-town feel on Anna Maria Island!
Stay Here: Anna Maria Beach Resort
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO THE THEME PARKS
- YOUR THEME PARK VACATION
- ROLLER COASTERS: 9 Thrilling & Fun Disney World Roller Coasters
- DISNEY CRUISE: Disney Cruise Tips For Anxious First-Timers
- DISNEY TIPS: 80 Best Disney World Tips For A Magical Vacation
- FIREWORKS: Your Complete Guide To Disney Fireworks At WDW
WHERE TO STAY IN DISNEY WORLD
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