Florida is a magnificent place to explore. You can visit gorgeous beaches, spectacular springs, and charming cities within a short drive from Orlando. Since Orlando is situated in the center of the peninsula, it is near some of the best places to experience! In this article, we will share amazing places near Central Florida.
Orlando is known globally for its fun attractions and parks. It’s no wonder so many people love this city. Having lived in this area my life, it’s good to know there are phenomenal beaches and natural springs nearby.
Best Day Trips and Beaches Closest to Orlando
From coast to coast, Florida is renowned for its beautiful beaches. However, many people who don’t live here don’t know Central Florida also has pristine springs to visit as well as charming towns, parks, museums, and more.
If you are looking for day trips from Orlando, Florida, here are some of the best options:
1) Daytona Beach
Known for its wide, sandy beaches and boardwalk, Daytona Beach is just an hour away from Orlando. Take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean or rent a surfboard to ride the waves. Daytona Beach is world-famous for being the birthplace of NASCAR racing and the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway. The beach itself is 23 miles long so there is plenty of fun things to do along Daytona Beach.
There are certainly a variety of things to do whether you’re interested in sports, history, arcades, or relaxing on the beach.
2) New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach is only an hour’s drive from Orlando! This beautiful beach has 17 miles of white sandy beaches and is truly a great escape. Here, you can go fishing, surfing, and swimming, and if you come between May through November, you can witness the baby sea turtles hatch at Canaveral National Seashore. This conservation center is about 30 minutes from New Smyrna.
Also, if you have a 4-legged friend, you can bring him along too because a dog beach is located at Smyrna Dunes Park!
Disappearing Island (yes, this is a real island that quite literally disppears depending on the tides!)
3) Clearwater Beach
Named the #1 beach in 2018 by Trip Advisor! Clearwater Beach is about a 2.5-hour drive from Orlando and is located on the Gulf of Mexico. The sand is white like satin, and the water is crystal clear.
4) Cocoa Beach
During your visit, you can get creative with a photo shoot in Downtown Cocoa Beach and check out their hand-painted murals by artists from around the world.
5) Jensen Beach
Located between Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach, Jensen Beach was known as the “Pineapple Capital of the World” and still holds an annual pineapple festival. In addition, you can enjoy shopping at their renowned retail shopping center and try their seafood fine dining options.
Jensen Beach is home to several beautiful beaches, including Jensen Beach Park, which has white sandy beaches and clear blue waters, making it a perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.
Jensen Beach is known for its excellent fishing, both inshore and offshore. Visitors can charter a boat for deep sea fishing or try their luck fishing from the Jensen Beach Causeway.
The Indian River Lagoon is a great spot to observe wildlife, including manatees, dolphins, and various bird species. The nearby Savannas Preserve State Park offers hiking trails, canoeing, and kayaking opportunities.
This beach also attracts several species of endangered sea turtles during nesting seasons!
6) St. Augustine
Located on the northeast coast of Florida, St. Augustine is less than a 2-hour drive from Orlando. St. Augustine is known as being the oldest city in the U.S. and is also recognized for its Spanish colonial architecture.
You will really love the rich history, restaurants and of course, the shopping! So get ready to learn and explore the cobblestone streets.
7) Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center is a must-visit attraction for space enthusiasts and anyone interested in the history and future of space exploration. Located on the east coast of Florida, about an hour’s drive east of Orlando, you can learn about the history of space travel, starting with Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon! It’s fun for all ages.
Visitors can see the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis on display at the Kennedy Space Center. The exhibit features interactive displays and multimedia presentations about the history of the Space Shuttle program.
The Astronaut Hall of Fame honors the men and women who have traveled into space. Visitors can see artifacts from various space missions and learn about the achievements of the astronauts.
The Rocket Garden is a collection of historic rockets and missiles from the early days of space exploration. Visitors can get up close to the rockets and learn about their history and development.
The IMAX Theater at the Kennedy Space Center shows movies and documentaries about space exploration on a giant screen with state-of-the-art sound.
The Space Launch Experience is a simulated space shuttle launch experience that takes visitors on a thrilling ride into space.
The Kennedy Space Center offers a unique and fascinating look at the history and future of space exploration. Visitors can learn about the achievements of the space program, see historic rockets and spacecraft, and experience simulated space missions.
Tampa is a city located on the west coast of Florida, about an hour’s drive southwest of Orlando. Here are some things to do and see in Tampa:
Busch Gardens is a theme park that features roller coasters, water rides, and animal exhibits. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tampa.
The Florida Aquarium is located in downtown Tampa and features exhibits on marine life from around the world. Visitors can see sharks, rays, and other sea creatures up close.
Ybor City is a historic district in Tampa that was once known for its cigar factories. Today, it’s a popular spot for nightlife and dining, with a variety of restaurants, breweries, bars, and clubs.
The Tampa Riverwalk is a 2.4-mile pedestrian walkway along downtown Tampa’s Hillsborough River. It offers beautiful views of the city skyline and access to parks, museums, and other attractions.
Amalie Arena is a sports and entertainment venue that hosts concerts, hockey games, and other events. It’s home to the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team.
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is a large public park located in downtown Tampa. It features a splash park, a dog park, and plenty of open space for picnics and recreation.
Tampa offers a wide range of attractions and activities for visitors, from theme parks and museums to outdoor recreation and nightlife.
9) Blue Spring State Park
Blue Springs State Park is the perfect place for nature lovers. Located in Orange City, Blue Spring State Park is home to manatees! From November through March, the park offers manatee observation areas where you can see these delightful creatures up close in their natural habitat.
The park also has a designated swimming area, full-facility campgrounds, canoe and kayak rentals, and hiking trails. Plan to spend a full day here to take advantage of all the park has to offer!
10) Wekiwa Springs State Park
Wekiwa Springs State Park is a beautiful natural attraction located in Apopka, Florida, about 30 minutes north of Orlando. Here are some things to do and see at Wekiwa Springs State Park:
Swimming and Snorkeling: The park’s crystal clear springs offer a refreshing spot for swimming and snorkeling. The water temperature remains at a cool 72 degrees year-round, making it a great place to cool off on a hot day.
Canoeing and Kayaking: The park has several waterways that are perfect for canoeing and kayaking. Visitors can rent canoes and kayaks at the park, or bring their own.
Hiking and Biking: The park has several trails that offer scenic views of the springs and the surrounding forests. Visitors can choose from several different trails, ranging from easy to challenging.
Wildlife Viewing: The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including manatees, otters, and various bird species. Visitors can see these animals in their natural habitat while exploring the park’s trails.
Camping: The park offers several camping sites for visitors who want to spend more time enjoying the natural beauty of the park. The sites range from primitive tent sites to RV hookups.
Horseback Riding: The park has several trails that are open to horseback riding, making it a great place for equestrians to enjoy the outdoors.
Wekiwa Springs State Park offers a beautiful and unique natural attraction for visitors to enjoy. From swimming and snorkeling to hiking and camping, there are plenty of activities to enjoy while taking in the beauty of the park. The park’s horseback riding trails are a great way for equestrians to explore the park’s natural beauty.
11) De León Springs State Park
De León Springs State Park is a beautiful natural attraction located in Volusia County, Florida, about an hour’s drive north of Orlando. The park’s crystal clear springs offer a refreshing spot for swimming and snorkeling. The water temperature remains at a cool 72 degrees year-round, making it a great place to cool off on a hot day!
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill & Griddle House is a popular restaurant located within the park that serves up all-you-can-eat pancakes with a unique twist – visitors get to make their own pancakes at their table using a griddle built right into the table.
De León Springs State Park offers a beautiful and unique natural attraction for visitors to enjoy. From swimming and snorkeling to hiking and biking, there are plenty of activities to enjoy while taking in the beauty of the park.
12) Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park is a beautiful natural attraction located in Ocala, Florida, just over an hour’s drive north of Orlando. Here are some things to do and see at Silver Springs State Park:
The park is famous for its glass-bottom boat tours, which offer a unique view of the crystal clear springs and the underwater life below. Visitors can see fish, turtles, and even alligators in their natural habitat!
The park has several kayaking and canoeing trails that allow visitors to explore the springs and the surrounding forests. Rentals are available at the park.
13) Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore is another spectacular park that is just a one-hour drive east of Orlando. This park is on the ocean so you can experience pristine green and the salty ocean breeze. It is a beautiful and remote area that’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers!
The seashore is home to over 24 miles of pristine beaches, which offer opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing. The beaches are also important nesting sites for sea turtles.
The seashore is home to a variety of wildlife, including dolphins, manatees, and a wide range of bird species. Visitors can go on guided wildlife walks or explore the seashore on their own.
The seashore features Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River Lagoon, which are popular spots for canoeing and kayaking. Visitors can rent equipment or bring their own.
The seashore offers opportunities for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. Anglers can fish from the beach or from a boat in one of the lagoons.
Turtle Mound is a large prehistoric shell midden that Native Americans created over 1,000 years ago. Visitors can climb to the top of the mound for a view of the surrounding area.
14) Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is located in Hernando County, Florida, about a 1.5-hour drive north of Tampa and a 2-hour drive west of Orlando. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including river otters, alligators, and birds of prey. Visitors can see these animals up close at the wildlife show or on a nature hike.
Here are some things to do and see at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park:
- Mermaid shows: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is famous for its live mermaid shows, which have been entertaining visitors since 1947. The shows feature underwater performances by skilled mermaids and include a variety of aquatic feats.
- River boat tours: Visitors can take a river boat tour of the Weeki Wachee River, which runs through the park. The tours offer a chance to see a variety of wildlife, including manatees, turtles, and birds.
- Kayaking and paddleboarding: The Weeki Wachee River is a popular spot for kayaking and paddleboarding. Visitors can rent equipment at the park or bring their own.
- Buccaneer Bay Waterpark: Buccaneer Bay is a water park located within Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. It features a variety of water slides, a lazy river, and a kiddie pool.
15) Crystal River, Florida
Crystal River is known for its Three Sisters Spring, one of the prettiest springs in Florida and a great place to see manatees. While most manatee-spotting places require you to stay out of the water or in a boat, you can actually swim with the manatees in Crystal River.
Manatee-sighting isn’t the only thing to see at Crystal River. There are also plenty of places to enjoy delicious ice cream, scallop around on the water, or take a ride on a jet ski.
16) Mount Dora, Florida
Mount Dora is a charming small town located in Lake County, Florida, about an hour’s drive northwest of Orlando. The downtown area of Mount Dora features unique shops, restaurants, and galleries in a historic setting. Visitors can stroll down the streets and enjoy the local flavor.
Lake Dora is a large freshwater lake that is a popular spot for boating, fishing, and watersports. Visitors can rent a boat or take a scenic boat tour to see the lake and surrounding area.
The Mount Dora lighthouse is a replica of a historic lighthouse that once stood on the shores of Lake Dora. Visitors can climb to the top for a stunning view of the lake and surrounding area.
Renninger’s Antique Center: Renninger’s Antique Center is a large indoor/outdoor market featuring antiques, collectibles, and vintage items. It’s a great place to find unique souvenirs or gifts.
The Mount Dora Museum of Speed features a collection of vintage cars and motorcycles, as well as racing memorabilia and other exhibits related to the history of motor sports.
The Mount Dora Art Festival is an annual event that features artists, musicians, and food vendors. Visitors can browse the art and enjoy the live entertainment.
Palm Island Park is a waterfront park that features a playground, picnic area, and fishing pier. It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy the views of Lake Dora.
17) Central Florida Zoo
The Central Florida Zoo is located in Sanford, Florida, which is about a 45-minute drive from Orlando. Here are some things to do and see at the Central Florida Zoo:
The zoo is home to over 350 animals from around the world, including giraffes, rhinoceroses, zebras, and primates. Visitors can get up close and personal with many of the animals at the zoo’s interactive exhibits.
The Zoom Air Adventure Park is a ropes course and zip-line park located within the zoo. Visitors can climb, swing, and zip through the trees while enjoying views of the zoo and surrounding area.
The zoo offers a train ride that takes visitors on a tour of the park. The train is a great way to see the animals and get a sense of the layout of the zoo.
The zoo has a splash pad that’s perfect for hot Florida days. Kids can run through the water and cool off while parents relax in the shade.
The zoo offers a variety of animal encounters, including feeding giraffes and rhinoceroses, holding snakes and other reptiles, and interacting with goats and other farm animals.
18) Melbourne, Florida
Melbourne is a coastal city located in Brevard County, Florida, about an hour’s drive southeast of Orlando. Here are some things to do and see in Melbourne:
- Brevard Zoo: Located in Melbourne, the Brevard Zoo is a great place to see animals from around the world, including giraffes, rhinoceroses, and alligators. The zoo also features a zip-line course and a tree-top trek.
- Historic Downtown Melbourne: The downtown area of Melbourne features unique shops, restaurants, and galleries in a historic setting. Visitors can stroll down the streets and enjoy the local flavor.
- Beaches: Melbourne is located on Florida’s Space Coast and is known for its beautiful beaches. Visitors can swim, surf, fish, or just relax on the sandy shores.
- Melbourne Art Festival: The Melbourne Art Festival is an annual event that features artists, musicians, and food vendors. Visitors can browse the art and enjoy the live entertainment.
19) Bok Tower Gardens
Bok Tower Gardens is a botanical garden and bird sanctuary located in Lake Wales, Florida, which is about a 1.5-hour drive from Orlando. The gardens were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and are situated on 250 acres of lush, rolling hills.
The centerpiece of Bok Tower Gardens is the Singing Tower, a 205-foot neo-Gothic tower that houses a carillon with 60 bells. The carillon is played several times a day and the music can be heard throughout the gardens. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower for a stunning view of the surrounding landscape.
In addition to the Singing Tower, Bok Tower Gardens features a variety of gardens, including a wild garden, a Mediterranean garden, and a vegetable garden. There are also several nature trails and a boardwalk that winds through a cypress swamp.
The gardens are home to a wide variety of birds, including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and woodpeckers. Visitors can bring their binoculars and go bird watching, or attend one of the many garden birding programs.
Bok Tower Gardens is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend a day exploring nature, art, and music.
20) The Dalí
The Salvador Dalí Museum is located in St. Petersburg, Florida, which is about a 2-hour drive from Orlando. The museum houses the largest collection of Dalí’s work outside of Europe, including paintings, sculptures, and other multimedia art pieces. Visitors can view works such as “The Hallucinogenic Toreador,” “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus,” and “Galatea of the Spheres,” among many others.
The museum also includes interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn more about Dalí’s life and art and a collection of his personal items and artifacts. Additionally, the building itself is a work of art, featuring a unique geodesic glass structure that provides a stunning setting for the artwork on display.
The Salvador Dalí Museum is a must-see for art lovers and anyone interested in exploring the surreal and imaginative world of one of the most famous artists of the 20th century.
In conclusion, these day trips from Orlando offer a variety of activities and experiences for visitors. From the beaches of Canaveral National Seashore and the charming town of Mount Dora to the art galleries of St. Petersburg and the wildlife at the Central Florida Zoo, there’s something for everyone within reach of Orlando.
Whether you’re looking to escape the theme parks for a day or explore more of what Florida has to offer, these day trip destinations are definitely worth checking out. So, pack your bags and hit the road for a day trip adventure from Orlando!
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