With school back in session, now is a good time for Central Florida residents to take advantage of the less-crowded beaches and enjoy that “endless summer” weather that makes the Sunshine State so special. In under an hour, locals can be relaxing in the sand and surf of New Smyrna Beach.
A quick history lesson: Native societies first arrived in the area over 12,000 years ago, with the prehistoric Timucuan people leaving their mark at Turtle Mound, now part of Canaveral National Seashore. Dr. Andrew Turnbull showed up in the mid-18th century and named the town. He settled in to grow indigo and hemp but was met with little success. New Smyrna Beach was eventually incorporated in 1887.
Attractions of New Smyrna Beach
Of course, the main reason to flock to the coast is for the beautiful beaches. At Smyrna Dunes Park, you can enjoy miles of handicap-accessible boardwalks that offer visitors gorgeous beach views. Other areas are reachable by car, bike, or boat, with several companies offering on-the-water tours.
Once you’ve had your fill of the sun, head to one of two charming downtown areas. On the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway, you’ll find the Canal Street Historic District. It’s the perfect spot for strolling at dusk and perusing the shops, art galleries, and restaurants. For history buffs, the area includes several hundred historical buildings and architectural styles, from Bungalow to Colonial Revival and Mediterranean Revival. You can also wander around the Museum of History as well as Old Fort Park, where coquina ruins give some insight into the town’s first settlers. If you’re looking to relax, Riverside Park is prime for boat-watching in the marina.
Foodies can take advantage of the more than 100 restaurant options. Get to know the area with a three- to four-hour food tour from local Kelly Laub. Thanks to EatNSB, you can walk around the Canal Street area and enjoy grub from four or five spots, including Riverpark Terrace, Yellow Dog Eats, Corkscrews Bar & Grill, Little Drug Co., and more.
As you head east, you’ll come upon the historic drawbridge. If traffic is blocked, be sure to take a peek down below during your wait — you may spot a tiny sailboat crossing underneath! Across from the bridge, you’ll see the beautiful pink Riverview Hotel & Spa (pictured above). You can spend the night or stop in for lunch or dinner at The Grille at Riverview. Nearby is Cafe Heavenly, well-known for its famous lobster rolls.
The second downtown area was once the separate town of Coronado. Now, as a part of New Smyrna Beach, it’s called The Coronado Historic District. Nestled among the 83 historic buildings, visitors will find little markets, brick courtyards, coffeehouses, clothing shops, and more. The legendary Breakers, an original building on Flagler Avenue, serves burgers, fish sandwiches, and beachy cocktails, like a Rum Runner and Bahama Mama.
Don’t miss the miles of beaches — you’re at the Florida coast, after all! If surfing is your thing, visit family-owned Nicholas Surf shop for rentals and lessons. There are also several boat tours and fishing trips to book.
Check out the full article — Under an Hour Door to Shore — in our Summer 2021 issue!