Central Florida beaches, springs and pools 

A listing of Orlando's public pools, plus nearby beaches and springs

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SALT LIFE
Beaches We Frequent

Cape Canaveral Beach Access
State Road A1A, Cape Canaveral; free
Drive time from Orlando: about an hour
There’s really nothing super-remarkable about the beaches along the coastline in the city of Cape Canaveral – they’re wide and littered with shells, and the dunes are lovely – but one of the things we love about the beaches here is that there’s easy boardwalk access at the end of nearly every side road, making it impossible to get lost finding your way to the shore. And there’s no parking fee at the end of those roads, which means you don’t have to run out to feed the meters every two hours, so you can truly escape without a care in the metered world. If we’re looking for a quick, close, unfussy trip to the beach, we head to the cape and park it.

Cocoa Beach
Route 1A, Cocoa Beach; free, except for the cost of metered parking
Drive time from Orlando: about an hour
Oh, Cocoa Beach – it’s the place we find ourselves most often, mostly because it’s the closest beach to us, and it’s so easy to get to. There’s a ton of metered parking on the streets leading to the beach boardwalks, which makes it even more convenient to unload and get to taking a load off. This makes it the perfect beach for a quick trip. Drive, park your car, park yourself in the sand for a couple of hours, then get out of there before it’s too hot and crowded. The best people watching is over by the pier, where things can get a little crowded and chaotic, but if you head down to First, Second or Third Streets, you’ll find plenty of prime spots to plant your umbrella. Stop by Coconuts on the Beach for a frozen drink if you find yourself parched.

Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park
6656 S. Atlantic Ave., New Smyrna Beach; free
Drive time from Orlando: about an hour and 40 minutes
Why drive all the way down to this remote part of New Smyrna Beach, when you could just hang out near Flagler Avenue or at one of the beaches closer to civilization (and the main roads) at New Smyrna? For one, because you can’t drive on the beach at this park, as you can at Flagler and some other NSB beaches, so it’s less clogged up by cars. Two, because this beach-access park is practically across the street from JB’s Fish Camp, one of the best fish camps in the area. Spend your day in the sand, then head to JB’s for some cold beer and steamed seafood to add a little extra grit to what we suspect will become your favorite summertime daytrip.

Playalinda Beach at Canaveral National Seashore
212 S. Washington Ave., Titusville; $5 per car; open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during summer
Drive time from Orlando: about an hour and a half
In Spanish, “playa linda” means “pretty beach,” and this is indeed one of the prettier Central Florida beaches on the Atlantic coast – save for some science and research structures and roadways, this is unspoiled seashore. Miles of it. The drive there can be a bit tedious, but you’ll forget all about that once you’ve parked the car and crossed the boardwalk to dip your toes in the roaring waves. If you’re into nude sunbathing, the furthest parking lot from the entrance is still a haven for naturists looking for a place to go about their business without any hassle from more prude beachgoers.

Smyrna Dunes Park
2995 N. Peninsula Ave., New Smyrna Beach; $5; open sunrise to sunset
Drive time from Orlando: about an hour and a half
This skinny strip of beach along the Ponce de Leon Inlet isn’t on the open ocean, so you don’t get the crashing waves and pounding surf you’d have on some of the other New Smyrna beaches. But we love it here because it’s one of few dog-friendly beaches in the area. Dogs aren’t allowed on the boardwalks – which, by the way, are expansive and really cool – but leashed pets are welcome to hike on paths behind the dunes to get to beach access points. Walk along the shore and eventually the narrow beach expands to a wide, awesome swath of sand where you can stake your spot (and your dog) and romp in the calm waters.

SWIM WITH THE FISHES
Springs and swimming holes we love

Blue Spring State Park
2100 W. French Ave., Orange City; $6 per vehicle ($4 for one-person vehicle); 8 a.m. until sundown, seven days a week
Beautiful, natural warm springs attract manatees seeking refuge from cold waters in winter, and humans in summer seeking refuge from the scorching sun. This crystal-clear spring is popular with scuba divers and snorklers, and there’s also hiking, canoeing and just plain old swimming.

Rock Springs at Kelly Park
400 East Kelly Park Road, Apopka; $3 per vehicle; 8 a.m.-8 p.m., seven days a week
The free-flowing, super-clear waters here bubble up from a rocky crevice, and it stays at a constant 68 degrees, making it a perfect place to cool down on a hot summer day. It’s popular with both swimmers and people tubing along the lazy river. Do not confuse Kelly Park with Rock Springs Run State Reserve – the state park doesn’t allow swimming, but this county park does.

Wekiwa Springs State Park
1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka; $6 per vehicle ($4 for one-person vehicle); 8 a.m. until sundown, seven days a week
It’s the best feeling to dip into the clear waters of Wekiwa’s swimming area, which is fed by a natural warm spring that keeps temps in the 70s year round. There’s a gorgeous green lawn where you can set your blanket and soak in the sun, plus hiking trails and canoe and kayak rental on-site. Warning: It’s always crowded in summer; get there early or you may not get in.

POOL IT TOGETHER
Orlando and Winter Park Public pools

Don’t have a pool? No sweat. Dive into these Orlando-area spots. Open swim for city residents is free (check cityoforlando.net/recreation/pools for schedules) and $4 for non-residents. The city of Winter Park also offers a pool at its community center (721 W. New England Ave.), which costs $2 for city residents and $4 for non-residents.

Dover Shores Pool
1400 Gaston Foster Road

Englewood Pool
6123 La Costa Drive

Hankins Park Pool
1340 Lake Park Court

John Jackson Pool
1019 America St.

John Long Memorial Pool
1218 Ferncreek Ave.

Northwest Pool
3955 WD Judge Drive

Rosemont Pool
4872 Rose Bay Drive

James Smith Pool
1723 Bruton Blvd.

Turkey Lake Pool
3401 S. Hiawassee Road

Wadeview Pool
801 E. Grant St.

Winter Park Community Center Pool
721 W. New England Ave.

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