Closest beach to Orlando


Florida Gulf Beach vs Atlantic Beach

 family fun in the Atlantic Ocean

Highway Drive Time

When choosing which side of the state to have your day at the beach, the first consideration is driving time on the highway. The trip from Orlando to the Atlantic Ocean is about one hour. Driving from Orlando to the Gulf beaches will take nearly two hours if you don’t run into any slow-downs on Interstate 4. In my opinion, the extra drive time is worthwhile and should not prevent you from coming over to the Gulf beaches.

Swimming & Activities

The next consideration is what type of swimming you are looking for. If you have kids or adults interested in surfing, you’ll want to consider the Atlantic side. If you’d rather have calmer, gentler water, the Gulf side is more likely to offer that (not guaranteed, but much more likely).

calm Gulf beach
Above: A typical calm Gulf of Mexico on Clearwater Beach.

playing in the Atlantic Ocean on Cocoa Beach
Above: Playing in the surf on Cocoa Beach.

Parking & Traffic Congestion

Third, you’ll want to think about traffic congestion, and parking issues. Generally speaking, you will run into more traffic congestion and parking limitations on the Gulf coast beaches of Pinellas County (Tampa / St. Pete) beaches than you will on the Atlantic side. Nevertheless, this should not discourage you from visiting the Gulf beaches if they better suit your overall needs.


Fourth, if you have family members seriously interested in finding shells, the Gulf coast beaches are far more likely to have nice shells on the beach.

Atlantic Beach Shells

Above: This would be a fairly good selection of shells on a Central Florida Atlantic beach.

Florida Gulf Coast shells

Above: This is a good selection of shells on Fort Desoto Beach (Gulf coast) after a winter storm. You won't always find a load of shells like this, but your chances are good during the winter months.