If that theme park is feeling a little too “small world,” it’s time to take a break in the great outdoors. Here’s why adding an outdoorsy break mid-Disney World trip can be such a fantastic idea. Plus some tips on how to get to the closest beach from Orlando, and capturing your vacation memories.
My family and I are big fans of Disney World. We travel to Orlando, Florida, to visit the Disney Parks as often as we can. But apart from the allure of all the attractions and excitement, I always feel a pull towards incorporating some nature in our vacation.
And when in a coastal state, my penchant is for the ocean. I realize that doesn’t exactly make me unique. The ocean is FANTASTIC. Who doesn’t love the ocean?
So during our week long Disney World trips, we take time to sneak away to the coast. This is a quick and easy getaway, with the closest and most convenient Florida beach being Cocoa Beach. We’ve done so at the beginning, end, and middle of our Disney vacations. My family’s preference is to take a break in the middle. A few days at Disney World…. a night or two at Cocoa Beach… then back to Disney for a day or two to wrap things up with a [fireworks!] bang.
Reasons to Add An Ocean Getaway to your Disney Trip
I love Disney as much as the next gal. Probably a lot more! It takes a week for me to truly get my fill, and we typically purchase five to seven day park tickets.
That being said, even *I* reach a point where I hit a wall at Disney World. It’s that moment when you are standing in a 40 minute line to grab Quick Service lunch for your exhausted, starving family. The din of swarming vacationers echoing in your ears. The jostling for position, as bodies are constantly invading each other’s personal space out of logistical necessity.
You need a break.
When we’ve left mid-Disney trip for a day or two at the ocean, it’s proven to be the perfect release. A completely different scene, spending time on the beach is about absorbing some grand scale natural beauty and truly unwinding. After a day or two, we are re-invigorated and ready to head back for a little more of that Disney magic and excitement!
Getting There ~ Renting a Car at Disney
Car rentals are available right on the Disney World property. If you are a Disney resort guest, shuttles can deliver you to/from the Disney World Car Care Center, where you can rent from Alamo or National.
On our latest trip, we went immediately to Cocoa Beach at the beginning of our Florida stay. After arriving at the Orlando airport, we picked up our rental car right there at MCO. Once our ocean visit was concluded, we actually returned to the airport to return the rental car, then rode the free Disney Magical Express to our Disney resort. Riding the Magical Express is our favorite way to kick off a Disney vacation, and this plan proved to be pretty slick.
The Closest Beach to Orlando, Florida
We’ve come to really love this Florida destination. Cocoa Beach is a mere hour drive from Orlando, and to my knowledge is their nearest beach. It serves as a pleasant and often much needed break from the crowds, noise, lines, and general chaos of Disney.
Plus it’s the ocean.
Another reason we love heading to Cocoa Beach (vs. the Gulf side) is the nice sized waves. The Atlantic brings slightly cooler water temperatures, but also larger, crashing waves. It’s all so exciting to us, as we are generally land-locked. Even when we visit in the winter months with temps only in the 50’s or 60’s, we can still enjoy getting our feet wet, searching for sea shells, taking in the splendor of crashing waves, and building sand castles.
DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront is a Great Choice
As a small-ish, non-glitzy coastal town, Cocoa Beach, Florida doesn’t really have much in the way of four star resorts. As in, there are none. The salty ocean air and beachcombing guests appear to take a heavy toll on the local hotels, and some have a rather tired feel. But on our most recent stay, we found one of our new favorite oceanside Cocoa Beach hotels, which I can definitely recommend: the DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach—Oceanfront.
What Works For Families
- Amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Private room balcony, spacious enough for the two chairs and a small table provided.
- Direct, private access to the beach.
- Beach towels to use, from the front desk.
- Playful towel animals were left in our room, which the kids enjoyed.
- Free, warm chocolate chip cookies. Available at the front desk in afternoon and evenings, you have to ask for them. They are delicious, and were a great snack when we came in after playing on the beach.
- Microwave in room, with free popcorn packet for a late night snack. A little thing, but a nice touch.
What Doesn’t Work For Families
- No free breakfast, as this is a property with a full restaurant. We typically prefer a property with free breakfast as a money- saving option.
- No hot tub. This surprised me, as I assumed from the pool photos that the decorative, water filled crescent pool was a hot tub. Nope. It was freezing cold.
DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Amenities
A real draw for DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach—Oceanfront is that it is… well, oceanside. I love staying somewhere that we can mosey out from our hotel room in swimsuit cover-ups and flip flops, and walk right out to the beach. The front desk provides beach towels to use (no charge). A rinsing station is available near the pool area to quickly remove sand and salt water before you head back in.
An onsite restaurant and bar are available, along with a business center. A small but sufficient fitness room is provided on the ground level.
Our room featured marine decor in cool, pleasant colors. Rooms have a mini fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. Full-sized closet allows you some storage space. The beds were extremely comfortable, bedding was of nice quality, and the pillows were amazing.
Where the DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront truly excels is the individual room balconies. We’ve stayed at other Cocoa Beach properties with a nice view of the ocean, through a window. But nothing beats having an open air balcony where you can sit, enjoy a cup of coffee, and listen to the surf.
We even slept one night with the patio door open, falling asleep to the sounds of crashing waves. It was a wonderful experience, and is one reason we will absolutely be back to stay at this property.
Capture Your Memories
The next best thing to experiencing a fabulous Disney vacation with your family is remembering all the fun you had with great photos. Consider pre-purchasing Disney’s Memory Maker, as it entitles you to free downloads of both ride photos and all the great pictures taken by PhotoPass photographers placed throughout the Disney World Resort.
You’re going to want to supplement this with your own picture taking, though. And you don’t have to be a photography expert to capture amazing photos.
During most of this last trip I used the newly released Panasonic Lumix ZS60, and was blown away by the quality pictures it takes. With a 60x zoom lens, you can get awesome close-ups of the animals on Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris (or the great outdoors, while taking your break!). What really impressed me about the zoomed shots were that they were still crystal clear. There’s a mind-blowing Post Focus feature, that allows you to refine the focus on areas of your photo after you take the shot. My Lumix ZS60 took the best Wishes fireworks shots I’ve ever captured. And using the 4K-resolution video on the “3-second” mode enabled me to review 30 frames of my children jumping off the side of the pool, then select which split second I wanted to save as a high resolution jpg photo. The best part? Upload pictures easily to your phone via Wi-Fi. Pure awesome.
Enjoy your Disney World vacation, and don’t forget to give yourself an “Outdoorsy” break with and ocean visit during your stay.