7 Best Central Florida Day Trips near Orlando

Some of the best Florida day trips are within a few hour’s drive of Orlando. If you’re looking to get away for a quick vacation, consider this list of beaches and cities in Central Florida.

So many people love Orlando! Having lived in this area my entire life, I agree. For those of us who live here (or looking to move here), it’s good to know that there are beaches nearby. In fact, you can drive to many beaches within 3 hours!

There are times though when we may need a mini-escape from one of the hottest destinations in the country. These Orlando day trips are the perfect solution.

If you’re looking for more Florida travel bucket list ideas, check out our favorite travel guides: Best Airbnbs in FloridaRomantic Getaways in Florida for CouplesBest Places to Hangout in OrlandoFun Things to Do in St. Petersburg, and Best Beaches in Siesta Key, Florida. Discover more Florida Travel Destinations here!

Best Beaches and Day Trips in Central Florida

Let’s start with the beaches, of course! Here are a few of my favorites.

1) Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach is world-famous for being the birthplace of NASCAR racing and the Daytona 500. The beach itself is 23 miles long so there is plenty of fun things to do along Daytona Beach. You may have to plan multiple day trips!

There are certainly a variety of things to do whether you’re interested in sports, history, arcades, or relaxing on the beach.

Things to Do

Where to Eat

2) New Smyrna Beach

Only an hour drive from Orlando! New Smyrna Beach has 17 miles of white sandy beaches. It truly is a great escape! You will find fishing, surfing, and swimming and if you come between May through November.

beach with yellow umbrellas and a pier in the background

You can witness the baby sea turtles hatch at Canaveral National Seashore. That’s about 30 minutes from New Smyrna.

Also, bring your 4-legged friend because there is a dog beach located at Smyrna Dunes Park!

Things to Do

Where to Eat

  • The Garlic
  • Wake Up Cafe
  • Uncle Chicken’s
  • Third Wave Cafe
  • The Taco Shack
  • Blackbeard’s Inn
  • The Breakers Ocean Front Restaurant & Bar

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 and like satin.

yellow umbrella with two palm trees and a bright blue sky

If you need more than the beach then visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You can book a day trip!

Things to Do

  • Pier 60
  • Beach Walk
  • Sand Key Park
  • Clearwater Ferry
  • Aspirations Winery

Where to Eat

  • Poke Havana
  • Wildflower Cafe
  • Rumba Island Bar & Grill
  • Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza
  • Big Storm Brewing Company
  • The Salty Crab Bar & Grill North Beach
  • Pearly’s Beach Eats (this is a quick bite that the locals rave about!)

4) Cocoa Beach

Known as the quintessential beach town and after you visit, you’ll know why. It is a short hour’s drive away from Orlando on the Space Coast.

footprints in the sand along beach in Central Florida

Get creative with a photo shoot in Downtown Cocoa Beach and check out their hand painted murals by artists from around the world.

Sun yourself on the beach and just relax or visit some of the area attractions such as the Kennedy Space Center or one of the museums.

Or if the beach is not your thing head over to River Front Park and experience a playground area, amphitheater facing the Indian River, Fishing pier, and boat launching just to name a few.

Things to Do

  • Rikki Tiki Tavern
  • Lori Wilson Park
  • Cocoa Beach Skate Park
  • Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier

Where to Eat

  • Florida’s Fresh Grill
  • Coconuts on the Beach
  • Fat Kahuna’s Beach Side Grille
  • Simply Delicious Cafe & Bakery

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. You can enjoy shopping at their renowned retail shopping center and try their seafood fine dining options.

This beach also attracts several species of endangered sea turtles during nesting seasons!

If history is your thing then you might like to take one of these day trips.

Things to Do

  • Indian Riverside Park
  • The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast

Where to Eat

  • Jan’s Place
  • Crawdaddy’s
  • Drift Kitchen and Bar
  • Brock’s Surfside Grill & Pizzeria
  • New England Fish Market & Restaurant

6) St. Augustine Beach

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.

I really love the rich history, restaurants and of course, the shopping! Get ready to learn and explore throughout the cobblestone streets.

This is by far one of my favorite day trips that I did with my son at his old elementary school. Here are a few of our old pictures of the area.

Vintage car parked on a street in Downtown St. Augustine
The Oldest House in St. Augustine, Florida with a green door

Here are a few things you do not want to miss while you’re in town.

Things to Do

Where to Eat

Also, consider checking out the Kennedy Space Centre because it’s located less than an hour away from Orlando. I include this with the historic theme because 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.

7) St. Petersburg

Known as “The Sunshine City”, Saint Petersburg is located between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.

aerial view of St Petersburg pier with downtown skyline in background

Related: The Best Things to Do in St. Petersburg

If you’re planning a trip to Saint Petersburg, here are a few fun things to consider!

Things to Do

Where to Eat

Are there any Florida day trips you plan on taking this year? Hope you enjoy it! What are some of your favorite beaches? Let me know in the comments!

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Nicole Mickle

I've lived, worked, and played in Orlando my entire life. Let's make the most out of your Florida lifestyle! I'm here to help you take overwhelming interior design options and simplify them room by room.

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