Family life in Winter Garden, Windermere, or Dr. Phillips in western Orange County, FL come with lots of perks. Among them is easy access to some of Florida’s most renowned beaches on both the west and east coasts of the state.
You can click over to this article to learn a little about three Central Florida east coast beaches; here, we’re covering three on the Gulf Coast. We included one built-up beach destination, one that’s totally undeveloped, and one offering an in-between experience.
Each of these beautiful seaside destinations has a prominent place in the Central Florida lifestyle. And since it’s pretty much always beach weather in Florida, it shouldn’t take long for your family to become well acquainted with them all once you start your new chapter in our amazing region!
This gorgeous white-sand west coast beach is located on a barrier island. The area is significantly built up, and there are usually crowds. They add to the excitement, though, rather than detract from the experience. There’s lots to do in the area, including in the adjoining city of Clearwater, which has a pleasantly walkable downtown full of shops and restaurants.
Beach Walk, the local twist on a traditional boardwalk, is a stunning, art-lined promenade and lots of places to shop, eat, and drink. Also, every evening at sundown, there’s a free family-oriented event called Sunsets at Pier 60. It features all manner of performers, as well as outdoor screenings of family-friendly movies every Friday and Saturday night.
Clearwater Beach is a little under a 2.5 hour drive southwest of the Winter Garden, Windermere, and Dr. Phillips area of Orange County.
Fort De Soto Park
There’s lots of Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay beachfront at Fort De Soto Park. Just south of St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach (the latter being a world-renowned waterfront destination itself, by the way), it spans more than 1,100 acres over five keys. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from the Orlando area, and it offers a nice middle ground between civilazation and a completely rustic, secluded experience.
Fort De Soto Park’s North Beach was recently named the best family beach in the country by Parents Magazine, and this location has had lots of similar accolades over the years. North Beach is easy to find—just look for the huge pirate ship playground!
Historic Fort De Soto awaits your family’s exploration, too. There’s also some historical military hardware on site that’s of interest to enthusiasts, and this is an amazing locale for birding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and camping, in addition to enjoying the idyllic shoreline.
Caladesi Island State Park
A little north of Clearwater beach and about 2.5 hours southwest of the Winter Garden, Windermere, and Southwest Orlando area, Caladesi Island State Park offers an exceptional unspoiled beach experience. The all-natural, secluded feel is maintained in part because this beach is only accessible with a 20-minute ferry ride from Honeymoon Island.
In addition to sunning and swimming on the untouched shoreline, your family can fish, hike, birdwatch, snorkel, take advantage of picnic pavilions, and paddle along a 3-mile, mangrove-lined kayak trail. You might also catch sight of some gopher tortoises. There’s also a snack bar and gift shop.
The beautiful beach here has won numerous awards and recognitions from Florida and national publications. Definitely find the time to enjoy this Central Florida treasure!