This Less Tourist-Filled, Breathtaking Beach Is Within Driving Distance From Orlando

Given that most of Florida borders either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, it can be difficult to narrow down where to visit for a beach trip. Its fine white sand is known the world over, and as a whole, Florida attracts more tourists than any other state, via Traveling Rauf. Add this to the fact that around three-fourths of the state's population live in coastal areas (per Geography Realm); finding a year-round hidden gem can seem even more difficult. However, within driving distance of tourist hotspot Orlando is Vilano Beach, one of these small hidden gems.

Vilano Beach is nearly a peninsula on a small strip of coastal land just two hours northeast of Orlando. The drive is part of the experience as routes to Vilano Beach follow Florida's coastal A1A highway, on which you will pass other Florida highlights like Daytona Beach. The Tolomato River separates Vilano Beach from the rest of Florida, making visitors feel island vibes while enjoying water activities and local cuisine.

Take a boat tour around Vilano Beach and St. Augustine

A smaller section of Vilano Beach is Surfside Park Beach. Amenities on the beach include public parking, restrooms, picnic tables, and grills. Kids will enjoy the playground at North Beach Park, farther along the Vilano Beach Peninsula. Further north is perhaps an unexpected landmark for Florida: the Castle Otttis. Irish castles inspired its design, and it was built as a religious structure. Though it is not currently open to the public, its imposing exterior makes for a unique site.

Of course, Vilano Beach is a perfect place for relaxing on white sand beaches from the tip of its peninsula and onto its Atlantic side, but there are different ways to enjoy its scenery. On the other side of the Tolomato River is St. Augustine Sailing. With this organization, you can choose from multiple yacht excursions like dinner or brunch cruises, private charters, or overnight stays. You can even come aboard for sailing lessons. While St. Augustine Sailing is fun for groups, it offers "Sweetheart Packages" specifically for couples.

Dine while overlooking the Tolomato River

For a meal overlooking the Tolomato River, check out the family-friendly Aunt Kates. Take your pick from blackened chicken, shrimp, oysters, and much more. Aunt Kates is even better at sunset; you may catch a dolphin in the water. It is also just a 10-minute walk from the beach on the other side of the Vilano Beach peninsula.

Vilano Beach is just across the river from the historic town of St. Augustine. Explorer Juan Ponce de León landed here in 1513 and soon declared it as a territory for Spain. Throughout its centuries of history, the town has been a battleground. This is evidenced at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine's historic district. At multiple times per day, visitors can sail to and from Vilano Beach and St. Augustine on the Dolphin Bay Scenic Shuttle for $15 per person. Simply head to the Vilano Beach Public Pier or the St. Augustine Municipal Marina to hop on, but reserve your spots ahead of time.