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Five beaches we love

Our favorite beaches for day trips in summer

Photo: Photo by Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Playalinda Beach near parking area 13

Photo: Photo by Billy Manes, License: N/A

Photo by Billy Manes

Cocoa Beach at sunset


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4. INDIAN SHORES/INDIAN ROCKS BEACH

Gulf Boulevard, Indian Rocks Beach
Approximate distance: 2 hours
Fee: None

Between the more-traveled sands of Clearwater and St. Pete Beach, nestled snugly in a curious stretch of peninsular narrowing – the bay and the beach nearly come to blows for a hot second – Indian Shores (or Indian Rocks Beach) offers all the charms of a shanty beach paradise without much of the high-rise hotel bustle. Most of the residences punctuating the shore are smaller investment condos, and most of the foot traffic strolls at a leisurely pace befitting the local small business ethos. Gorgeous sands, lapping Gulf tides at sunset and sparser crowds make Indian Shores a real escape. Local bar Mahuffer’s – “the wurst place on the beach,” its sign reads – is a junkyard drunk’s paradise, and therefore should not be avoided.
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5. COCOA BEACH

Beach access off side streets off State Road A1A,
Cocoa Beach
Approximate distance: 1 hour
Fee: As many quarters as you can carry to feed the parking meters

Sure, it’s Orlando’s default beach by nature of distance alone, but Cocoa Beach isn’t just a convenience concession. Behind the look-I’m-in-Florida exploitative development of strip malls, gift shops and (of course) Ron Jon’s, Cocoa’s charms are in its hidden spots, tucked away south of the main thoroughfare. (Though, if you want steady people watching and baked body-image insecurities, linger around Coconut’s and the pier). Bonus: Because Cocoa Beach used to benefit heavily from the NASA space program, I Dream of Jeannie was based there, which is perfect, because you always wanted to be Barbara Eden. You should Cocoa.
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Honorable mentions: Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island (about 2 hours, 15 minutes) has an old-Florida feel, white sandy beaches and a decidedly small-town vibe. If it weren’t so damn far, we’d probably have it in our top five list; Same with Ponte Vedra Beach (1.5 hours), which is up by St. Augustine; We also love New Smyrna Beach (1 hour, seven minutes), but the car traffic on the beach in the summer gets a little overwhelming. Click the photo below to escape to a gallery of some of our favorite Florida beaches.

Endless Summer
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