The Closest Beach To Disney World
Here is a complete guide to taking a day trip to the beach from Disney World.
If you are visiting Disney World and the Orlando area, Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to visit. In addition to being a great day trip from Disney, it is also home to The Kennedy Space Center, you can watch rocket launches right from the beach.
Cocoa Beach is about 70 miles from Disney and takes just around an hour to get to. I recommend leaving Disney around 7:30 AM this will allow you to avoid the Orlando rush hour. You will also arrive at the perfect time to grab breakfast or brunch at one of the many fantastic restaurants in the area.
I recommend driving yourself, Cocoa Beach goes from north to south about 20 miles(including Cape/Port Canaveral area), and walking by foot isn’t recommended, specifically if you are wanting to have a beach day. If you plan on drinking or don’t want to rent a car I recommend a shuttle, you can also use a service like Uber and that can get pricey.
If driving you have several routes that you can take. My preferred route is 417 east to 528 this is a little toll heavy, and a few minutes longer, but way less traffic than I4 & through downtown Orlando on 528.
You can either take 528 to until it turns into A1A through Cape Canaveral.. into North Cocoa Beach or 528 to I95 south to 520 through Cocoa Village & Merritt Island to get to Central Cocoa Beach (the touristy area) and South Cocoa Beach with the Downtown shopping and dining area.
Once you get to Cocoa Beach the biggest thing is the parking, there are several areas like the pier and near Sandbar (where 520 meets the beach) that have paid to park, Downtown Cocoa Beach has paid parking areas as well as a parking garage parking. There is some free street parking in Downtown Cocoa beach, but it has a strict limit of like 90 minutes, which is barely enough time to load and unload if you have kids.
There are also several public parks like Lori Wilson and Cherry Down, but on busy days they fill up fast. Even as a local knowing all the secret parking places, we spend about 30 minutes driving around on busy days. So if you can go to an area with paid parking just spend the $10 to have peace of mind as well as save time.
Parking enforcement is very strict and property owners as well, so do not park in front of a business, house, condo, hotel, or an undesignated parking spot. You risk being fined or even worse towed.
Well enough of the boring, stuffy stuff on to the fun The BEACH! I suggest bringing a small cooler/ice chest with some drinks, snacks, lots of water, and a beach bag. Sunscreen even if it is cloudy the sun actually will burn you more. Towels for everyone as well as extras to keep in the car for wet bottoms. A large sheet to spread out on the beach so everyone can lay out and eat together.
In your car also make sure to have a change of clothes, even though it is a beach town after the beach there are some amazing upscale restaurants, that allow casual dress, but you will stand out like a sore thumb in a tank top, sunburnt and sandy in flip flops.
It is much easier to feel comfortable and enjoy a nice meal, one of my favorite things to do on a beach day. You also want to bring several bags for your trash and recyclables, this is a must to help keep the beach clean and wildlife like turtles healthy.
Before leaving you should put sunblock on and then re-apply it once you arrive. After you find parking, walk to the beach, be cautious walking of vehicles, the area is safe but a lot of people not used to the area get confused. The worst part of the walk to the beach is taking the cooler so be prepared and if you can get a cooler bag that is a far better option. Unless you live on the beach and have a cruiser wagon, it’s hard to wheel a normal cooler through the sand.
My family and I tend to find places away from crowds, as we need to be able to see the kids when we aren’t in the water with them. It’s also easier to shake towels out and wipe off without blowing sand all over our fellow beachgoers.
Some places have lifeguards others do not, sharks although present in the ocean is rare and an occurrence. The biggest caution is of rip currents and drowning which is always a worry near any water.
Once you are set up with towels spread make sure to have places to tuck your belongings in that you did not leave in your vehicle (never leave anything valuable in your car). Then you can begin enjoying your day, frisbee, boogie boarding and just laying out and enjoying an ice-cold beverage are my favorite things to do.
We also bring a portable speaker so we can enjoy some reggae or country with our toes in the sand. You can also get beach chairs, but I don’t feel this is necessary.
After you have spent a couple of hours and are ready to pack up and grab a bite to eat, you can walk to several of the awesome restaurants in Downtown Cocoa Beach
or Drive to one of the awesome restaurants we recommend. The best time to head back to Disney from Cocoa Beach to avoid traffic is about 4 PM, or after 7 PM so you can either head back or enjoy dinner just depending on how long you spent at the beach.
There are also lots of great ways to explore to avoid the peak traffic times like Ron Jon Surf Shop, A Tour With Village Food Tours, The Dinosaur Store, Port Canaveral, and Exploration Tower, Downtown Cocoa Beach And Its mural walk are just a few, in addition to things like bike rentals and surfing lessons.
So that is my in-depth guide to taking a beach trip from Disney and the Orlando area. Are you planning a trip to Cocoa Beach? Have you been? Please let me know and please share your story if any of my advice helped.