Top 5 beaches to check out in the Orlando area

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After a long winter, most Canadians are daydreaming about spending some time on a beach. Close your eyes and imagine feeling the sand between your toes, the sound of crashing waves in your ears, and the sun shining down on your skin. Feels good, right? That’s probably why 3.7 million Canadians made their way to the Sunshine State in 2016 alone (with most visitors to Orlando hailing from Canada!).

Well, it’s now 2017 and Orlando is just as sunny as ever. Whether it’s your first time there or you’re planning your return, we’re here to help you decide which beach towns to hit up while you’re in the area. Whether you like crowds or solitude, waves or still waters, water sports or sleeping under the shade of a tree, we’ve got a beach for you. Here are the top five beaches to visit when you’re in the Orlando area.

 

  1. Cocoa Beach

As one of the more affordable spots to vacation in Florida, you can always find something to do in and around Cocoa Beach. The closest to Orlando (only an hour’s drive east), it offers something quite out-of-this-world (literally!) – a chance to see space shuttles launch from Cape Canaveral or the Kennedy Space Center. NASA’s launch headquarters is the only place on Earth that you can tour launch pad areas, check out rockets, and even meet a veteran astronaut. If you’re more into surf than space, make sure you check out the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop. At 52,000 square feet, it is the world’s largest surf shop, open 24 hours a day so you can find anything you could possibly need whenever you may need it. Make sure you stick around until after the sun sets so you can enjoy the laidback nightlife in Cocoa Beach, from cool jazz clubs to beachside cafes.

  1. Daytona Beach

About 82 km (51 mi) northeast of Orlando is Daytona Beach. Known for its hard-packed sand, it is one of the few beaches you can drive across, easily making it a mecca for motorsports and home to NASCAR’s headquarters. Branded as “The World’s Most Famous Beach,” it is home to 38.6 km (24 mi) of sand and is separated from the mainland by the Halifax River. Daytona Beach is jam-packed with resorts and attractions, like the Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Daytona International Speedway, which holds a number of major racing events including sports cars, pickup trucks, and motorcycles. Swim, surf, and rejuvenate before catching some tunes at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and accommodating up to 5,000 people!

  1. New Smyrna Beach

Another beach that’s only an hour’s drive from Orlando is New Smyrna Beach. With a 21-km (13 mi) stretch of white sandy drive-on beaches along the Atlantic coast, it’s like a quieter version of Daytona Beach. Named in National Geographic’s 2012 list of the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns, it offers some of the best wave action on the east coast and is well known to surfers. Its “old Florida” feel is celebrated through its historic side, and you’ll have the opportunity to explore the ruins of early 19th-century sugar mills and paddle through lagoons alongside Florida’s original settlers: manatees, bottlenose dolphins, and alligators. If turtles are more your thing, make sure to visit between May 1 through the end of October, during sea turtle nesting season. The creatures generally emerge from the surf at night to lay their eggs in the dry sand, cover their nests, and return to the sea. If you’re around two months later, you’ll get to witness nearly 100 hatchlings emerge and crawl into the ocean – what a sight!

  1. Flagler Beach

Another beach close to Orlando (just over an hour northeast) is Flagler Beach, considered by many as Florida’s finest beach for natural, unspoiled beauty. There’s more than 30 km (19 mi) of cinnamon-coloured sand, and the views aren’t obstructed by any high-rise hotels or condos, with many areas strictly preserved, not permitting development. With free beaches and parking, this pet-friendly beach town is perfect for a family vacation. It is also one of the few beaches where you can camp and enjoy a bonfire at night (with a permit, of course), which means you can enjoy the natural beauty of the beach without having to leave until it’s time to go home. But with the inviting locals, rooftop cafes, and amazing ocean views, you may never want to leave.

  1. Melbourne Beach

Approximately 75 minutes southeast from Orlando is Melbourne Beach, set beside the Indian River Lagoon along Florida’s Space Coast, and known for its family-friendly charm. Just slightly south of the much busier Cocoa Beach, the beautiful Town of Melbourne Beach has an old-time Florida flair, and is the oldest beach community in Brevard County. It’s adjacent to the Archie Car National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to the most important sea turtle nesting habitat in the country! You can explore 53 km (33 mi) of sunny, unspoiled beaches during the day and enjoy the tropical breeze during a romantic moonlit walk at night. If you’re the kind of traveller that loves to shop your way through a new neighbourhood, Historic Downtown Melbourne is the place for you, with all types of shopping and restaurants at your fingertips.

What were the highlights of your Orlando experience? Did you discover a beach that just can’t be beat? Let us know below!

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