Sure, you’ve got plenty to do when you visit Walt Disney World with your family. With four theme parks and two water parks, along with shopping and lots of other activities, there’s no dearth of ways to spend your vacation days. Still, you might want to work in something a little more laid back. Why not head out to the beach?
You might not have known that there are many beaches within an hour or so of Walt Disney World. If you live in a landlocked area where your kids have never seen the ocean in person, it’s worth a trip to Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, or the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area for a day of fun and sun. Here are just a few of the family beach options within a reasonable distance of Disney:
Daytona Beach combines endless sandy shores with a variety of fun family activities. Some beach areas allow you to drive out onto the sand, while there are other spots for foot traffic only. If you have smaller kids, opt for the areas where cars are banned. If you have older kids and teens, they’ll love easy access to activities like kayaking and parasailing.
There are several park areas along the beach with facilities like picnic areas and restrooms, which make them a perfect spot for your family to settle in for their beach day. They include Lighthouse Point Park and Smyrna Dunes Park, two spots on opposite sites of Ponce Inlet. The Joyland Amusement Center and Snack Bar is located on the boardwalk, with rides, an arcade, go karts and lots of other options if the kids get tired of swimming. The wide range of activities makes Daytona a great spot to spend the entire day, on into the evening.
Cocoa Beach has some great beaches, as well as spots where you can watch for manatees from the shore. One of the most popular beaches in this area is Jetty Park, which has a playground and restroom facilities. Your kids can wave to the cruise ships that pass the park as they head out to sea.
Cocoa Beach is also home to the Canaveral National Seashore, an expansive area with beaches and wilderness trails where your family can spend time reconnecting with nature. You can easily combine a visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex with some beach time in and around this area.
If you prefer the Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean, pack up the family and drive down to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. It’s a little farther, but the 90 minute drive is well worth the payoff of white sand and turquoise water. There are many family-friendly beaches in this area, with restrooms, changing facilities, food concessions, and parks for a full day of fun. Two of the top beaches in the World are located in this area…one is Siesta Key ranked #2 and then Clearwater Beach ranked #5…Wow, what fun.
If your kids saw the movie “Winter’s Tale,” you can even combine your beach adventure with a visit to the Clearwater Aquarium, which is still Winter’s real-life home. Imagine their delight at meeting the dolphin celebrity firsthand.
If you don’t want to make the drive, you can have plenty of fun with the kids at Disney’s water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Still, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of romping in real surf and squishing sand between your toes. Any of these beaches will provide you with a full day of fun.