Orlando isn’t a beach town. It’s about an hour drive to either coast and with both the east coast and the west coast offer a variety of gorgeous beaches with clear water near Orlando. Arguably, west coast beaches boast softer sand and the better options.
Orlando does, however, have some spectacular natural springs, lakes, streams, and natural reserves that compete quite well with the coastal beaches, and are your closest source of crystal clear water.
With numerous visits to Orlando, often 3 or more times a year, we are always road tripping around Florida and enjoy discovering and spending time at new beaches as we slowly wind our back to the parks and back to the traffic on the I-4!
But for beaches, here is a comprehensive list of the best beaches with clear water near Orlando – so you can choose the perfect one for your visit.
As the west coast offers the best options, we’ll start from there!
Beaches with Clear Water Near Orlando: West Coast Beaches
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The most popular west coast destination in Florida is the Tampa/Clearwater area. The actual City of Clearwater is located on a barrier island. There are 35 miles of beaches so everyone can find a spot to enjoy themselves.
It has a small town atmosphere and is perfect for families with its calm, beautifully turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. Clearwater was rated TripAdvisor’s #1 beach in 2018 and it’s easy to see why when you get there.
Besides the many activities in the area including the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Pier 60, the Alligator and Wildlife Discovery Center, everyone of every age will find something for them. Watching the sunset over the ocean is my favorite thing about the west coast of Florida – the views are incredible!
While this seems like an extensive list of areas across the central band of Florida in which to enjoy the natural waters of the state, in researching what is out there, I found that this article could go on with many, many more locations. These happen to be among the top spots of the Florida locals, along with the beautiful Indian Rocks Beach.
St Pete Beach
A further drive away is St Pete’s Beach. St. Pete Beach, Florida is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States, and for good reason. Its soft, white sand and crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles.
The water at St. Pete Beach is clear and gentle on calm days. This makes it a great place to go snorkeling and diving, where you can spot all sorts of marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and colorful fish.
There are also a number of amenities available on the beach, including restrooms, showers, and changing facilities.
If you’re looking for a beautiful beach with clear water and soft sand, St. Pete Beach is the perfect place for you. It’s a great destination for families, couples, and solo travelers alike.
Beaches with Clear Water Near Orlando: Central Florida “Beaches”
While there are plenty of lakes, rivers, and streams in the Orlando area, I am narrowing this section down to my top recommendations.
Kelly Park Rock Springs
Kelly Park Rock Springs is where we begin. About 25 minutes north of Orlando, Kelly Park claims to be “a little piece of heaven”. The water boasts to be 68 degrees year round and crystal clear. Throughout the 325 acre park, there are hiking trails, river tubing areas, picnicking spots, and playgrounds.
There aren’t any tubes available in the park. However, there are vendors outside the grounds that rent them out. The park allows 280 vehicles daily beginning at 8am and an additional 50 cars are admitted after 1pm.
Daily fees are $3 per car with 1-2 passengers and $5 for cars with 3-8 people. The park closes at 8pm but for those who would like to spend the night, there are 26 campsites for rent.
Wekiwa Springs State Park
Another fantastic park very close to downtown Orlando is Wekiwa Springs State Park. There is a campground ready with hookups for RVs as well as tiny homes for short term stays. Due to its proximity to shopping centers, this park is ideal for those who don’t love to plan ahead; you can run to Walmart or a fast food restaurant just a few minutes away for all of your needs.
The swimming hole has a water structure in the middle for older children, however, the area around the structure is shallow and calm.
Keep going north into Ocala National Forest (50ish miles from Orlando) and you’ll find Alexander Springs Recreational Park. The crystal clear waters claim to hold steady at 72 degrees year round and are perfect for underwater photography.
There are plenty of areas to lay out your picnics and relax along the shores of this spring. For those interested, snorkeling and SCUBA diving are encouraged, as are kayaking and canoeing (you should bring your own snorkeling gear, however, the kayaks and canoes are available for rent).
Blue Spring State Park
West of Orange County by about 30 miles is the Blue Spring State Park. This park is open from 8am until sundown all 365 days of the year. The cost is $6 per vehicle but there is a limit as to how many cars the park allows in every day.
The 72 degree water is perfect for the manatees that call this spring home as well as for the guests who come to visit. Guests are not permitted to swim with the manatees but there are plenty of other swimming spots within the park including a wading area perfect for babies and toddlers.
There is plenty of other wildlife that you’ll see including, osprey, eagles, and kingfishers. Visitors to Blue Spring can hike along the spring or take a guided river boat cruise.
Another park open all 365 days of the year is DeLeon Springs State Park and it’s under 50 miles from Orlando. This is a natural spring that includes a vast history of the Timucuan natives. The people used these perfectly clear waters as a sacred cleaning ground. Then, during the Civil War, the waters were used to mill sugar cane and corn.
Nowadays, this park is the perfect locale for paddle boarding, boating tours, fishing (with a fishing license), plenty of hiking, swimming, and just relaxing in the pure Florida waters.
Rainbow Springs State Park
The final park I recommend is Rainbow Springs State Park. It’s a little bit farther from Orlando (around 85 miles away), however, this is a combination natural and man-made park. Originally, the park opened as a mining operations and a tourist attraction but couldn’t compete with Disney.
There are 3 man-made waterfalls (as of this writing, only one is working with restoration underway on the other two), geocaching spots (high tech treasure hunts), trails for strolling and enjoying nature, swimming in their year round 72 degree waters (the depth ranges from 10 feet to 18 feet), and picnicking at their table on a first come, first served basis.
Beaches with Clear (ish) Water Near Orlando: East Coast Beaches
Whilst these beaches don’t offer a consistent aquamarine colour or clarity, there are an option to consider if you are looking for the closest beaches to Disney World. The east coast of Florida is about a 45 minute to an hour drive away from Orlando. Cocoa Beach is the first beach you’ll approach on the Space Coast (so called the Space Coast due to how close it is to the Kennedy Space Center).
Across a 72 mile stretch of coast, you’ll find plenty to do for the whole family. Cocoa Beach is known for having some of the best waves in Florida— surfers and boogie boarders are known to flock to this area often.
However, if you aren’t the wave searching, adrenaline junky type, there are still plenty of activities from building sand castles to playing beach volleyball.
Along with the Brevard Zoo, the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science, and the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse, you’ll find the Thousand Islands and the Indian Pier Lagoon. In these areas, you can get up close and personal with Florida’s gentle “sea cows”, otherwise known as manatees.
There are guided kayaking tours that will take you all through their natural habitat during migration season (usually November thru March). These beautifully gentle creatures are curious and love coming right up to see who their visitors are.
Cocoa beach Pier
Cocoa Beach Pier, adjacent to Cocoa Beach, stretches 800 yards (or 2400 feet) out over the Atlantic. This area has a safe stretch of land with lifeguards on duty every weekend from Easter thru Labor Day and daily from Memorial Day thru the first week in August (when Florida Public Schools go back in session).
The Pier is full of gift shops, restaurants, fishing spots, and beach rentals. If you have early risers, this is a great spot to catch the sunrise. Cocoa Beach and the Pier are definitely best for the family who likes to find adventure.
Just up the highway is Daytona Beach. Daytona is known for its Speedway, the Marine Science Center, the Stetson Mansion (none other than the creators of the Stetson Hat), Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory, as well as the flocks of college students that come for spring break partying.
Throughout the rest of the year this beach is a quieter -with 23 miles of beach. For $20 you can drive your car onto the hard packed sand. This beach is of course famous, but in our opinion, there are much better beaches for families and others with much clearer water.
New Smyrna Beach and Ormond Beach
The last two beaches worth the drive from Orlando are New Smyrna Beach and Ormond Beach. New Smyrna is just south of Daytona and is more for the adventurous type.
Ormond is just north of Daytona and is perfect for the more tranquil. Both offer white, sandy beaches and a plethora of delicious spots to catch a bite. And While New Smyrna is known to the locals as the charming surfer’s haven, Ormond is known for its quieter elegant relaxation.
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