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Keep cool the natural way at these beautiful beaches and springs near Orlando

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If you’ve just moved here for college or a cool internship, you may have noticed Orlando is a little landlocked. If this is your first summer here and you were imagining a beachy paradise, we apologize. That ocean breeze just doesn’t hit us in the same way (at all) as in Tampa or Miami, which means it’s harder to get cool when the sweltering temperatures and humidity make it seem like you’ve got a penthouse in hell. And no, that dehydrated feeling does not go away. You could chill out at your favorite air-conditioned location (your house, a bar, the closest Publix), but why do that when there are so many beautiful Florida beaches and crystal-clear springs calling your name? Consider our suggestions and then go off to find that hydrated “AHHHHH” feeling somewhere (relatively) near you.

Beaches

Cocoa Beach

Orlando's closest beach off Florida's Space Coast is just an hour away and the stuff of surfing legend. Explore its sandy Atlantic beaches, famous pier and the world's largest surfing shop at the Cocoa Beach Ron Jon Surf Shop.

Clearwater Beach

On the Gulf side of the state, Clearwater Beach is known for its white sands, warm waters and dazzling sunsets. It's consistently ranked as one of Florida's better beaches and is just two hours away.

Siesta Key

This Gulf Coast barrier island near Sarasota is host to quartz sand, blue-green waters, romantic sunsets and now, an MTV reality series about the lives of rich kids. You're going to need a few good mimosas for that last one.

Playalinda Beach

At Playalinda, you just might see a full moon. And by moon we mean a whole lot of naked butts gallivanting around one of Florida's only nude beaches. Just remember, you can only change into your birthday suit in Lot 13.

Canaveral National Seashore

You won't find crowds here, so this is your go-to when you need a break from it all. Go for a hike to see some awesome birds and hunt for cool driftwood, or just zen out and snooze on the sand.

New Smyrna Beach 

Oh NSB, how we love/hate you. You're one of the best surf towns in the country, but you also experience an unusually high number of shark bites. You're the fastest way for Orlandoans to get a beach fix, but the fact that you allow cars to drive on the beach can be a bummer. But you know what, you'll always be No. 1 to us, not just because you're the shortest distance away but because there's no better feeling than putting your hot, sandy feet up on the dashboard and stopping for a dip cone at Frozen Gold on the way out of town. 

Springs

Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park

400 E. Kelly Park Road, Apopka, ocfl.net

About 35 minutes from Orlando, this bubbly Apopka spring features a nice lazy river run. Rent a tube and never look back.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, floridastateparks.org

Get there early because this popular clear water spring with origins in the Wekiva River fills up fast with tourists and residents. Canoe and kayak rentals are available.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park

12087 S.W. U.S. Highway 27, Fort White, floridastateparks.org

This spring is more than two hours away from Orlando, but boy is it worth the drive. Tube down this serene lazy river or go scuba diving in the caves of nearby Blue Hole Spring.

Devil's Den

5390 N.E. 180th Ave., Williston, devilsden.com

Snorkel or scuba dive your way through the blue waters to see 33-million-year-old fossil beds, ancient rock formations and stalactites. It's an experience you definitely won't forget.

Rainbow Springs

19158 S.W. 81st Place Road, Dunnellon, floridastateparks.org

Come to the place that Floridians have been visiting for almost 10,000 years, according to archaeological evidence. Tube, snorkel, canoe and kayak your way down the Rainbow River before it gets to the Withlacoochee River.

Blue Spring

2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, floridastateparks.org

Blue Springs, the biggest spring on the St. John's River, is a designated manatee refuge and home to a population of West Indian manatees during the winter, but in the summer it's all about hanging in the H2O – swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, tubing, kayaking and canoeing are all allowed on the Blue Spring Run. If you've got a scuba license, you should definitely check out the underwater cave lingering about 100 feet below the surface.

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