Northeast Florida

10 things to do near Daytona Beach

“World Famous” Daytona Beach is popular all year long but especially so amid the spring crush of the Daytona Beach 500, Bike Week and Spring Break.

Get away from the maddening crowds, at least a little bit, and enjoy more of what the area has to offer.

1) Ride The Loop

OrmondLoop

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The Ormond Scenic Loop is a 30-mile road trip through live-oak canyons, waterfront postcard scenes, abundant wildlife, three state parks and a state historic site.

Along the way, there’s camping, fishing, hiking, biking and paddling opportunities.

Tomoka River State Park is an excellent place to camp and launch a kayak to explore the lowland back country, while Gamble Rogers State Park and North Peninsula State Park offer some of the prettiest beaches on the east coast of Florida.

Getting there: From Daytona, go north on State Road A1A to State Road 40 in Ormond Beach. Go west to North Beach Street, then north to Tomoka River State Park, gateway to the Ormond Scenic Loop.

Related Florida Rambler articles:

Road Trip: Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail

Gateway to the Scenic Loop: Tomoka River State Park

5-plus cool, country rides near Daytona

2) Paddle Spruce Creek

Cracker Creek

So, you didn’t bring your kayak but would love to paddle a beautiful Florida creek while you’re in Daytona Beach, but you don’t want to travel too far.

Check out Cracker Creek, a private park with canoe/kayak rentals on upper Spruce Creek. The creek moves slow enough that you can paddle out from their launch area, go upstream or downstream, and get back without much hassle.

This section of Spruce Creek is the least developed, so there’s plenty of nature to observe.

For those who prefer to settle back and just enjoy the scenery, Cracker Creek offers two-hour pontoon-boat tours that will cruise eight miles east to the Spruce Creek Reserve. A one-hour Eco-Tour explores a two-mile section of Spruce Creek at 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday. Call 386-304-0778 for information and reservations.

Getting there: Follow Dunlawton Avenue west past I-95, where Dunlawton turns into Taylor Road. The entrance to Cracker Creek is on the left.

Read this related Florida Rambler article for more Spruce Creek options:

Spruce Creek paddle: A diamond in the rough

3) Drive on the Beach

Driving on the beach in Daytona Beach, Florida

Driving on the beach.

Driving your car on the hard-packed sands of Daytona and New Smyrna Beach is a Florida tradition.

Pioneers did it with horses and buggies, but the legacy for race fans is the history made here from the 1930s until 1959 — the birth of NASCAR and stock car racing.

You can drive on these beaches, too — just not as fast. Recently established traffic-free zones take back a little of the fun. Used to be you could drive uninterrupted for 23 miles.

Still, it’s worth finding one of the six beach access ramps and driving out on the hard-packed sand, where you can park and enjoy the sea rolling ashore just a few feet away.

Getting there: There are six access ramps in Daytona (north to south): Granada Blvd., Seabreeze Blvd., International Speedway Blvd., Silver Beach Ave., Dunlawton Ave. and Beach Street.

Related Florida Rambler article: 

Ultimate Road Trip: Driving on the beach

4) See the Manatees at Blue Springs State Park

manatee at Blue Springs State Park

Blue Springs State Park

Manatees in winter and swimmers in summer, Blue Springs State Park is a popular destination all year long.  Surrounded by lush vegetation, crystal clear water pours out of the spring into the accessible spring run at a constant temperature of 73 degrees.

In winter, hundreds of manatees flock here to keep warm, and swimmers keep cool here in winter. The spring is popular with snorkelers and cave divers during swim season..

The 2600-acre park also has a campground, cabins and a kayak concession at the old steamboat landing on the St. John’s River.

Note: This is a busy state park. Arrive early, especially on weekends. There is limited parking, and rangers close the gates when capacity is reached.

Related Florida Ramber articles: 

Where to see Manatees in Florida

Blue Springs State Park

Also nearby: Hontoon River State Park for cabins, camping and hiking

5) Surf fishing at Canaveral National Seashore

Surf fishing is popular on Apollo Beach, one of Florida's best beaches.

Canaveral Seashore

Canaveral National Seashore is one of the longest stretch of pristine beachfront on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and it’s all yours.

Access the beach is limited by parking, so it is quiet and peaceful with bountiful wildlife. You can always find a quiet place in the sand.

Or enjoy some really fine fishing in the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon at the fishing pier or along a shoreline trail.

Getting there: The entrance to Canaveral Seashore is at the south end of State Road A1A in New Smyrna Beach.

Related Florida Rambler articles:

Apollo Beach: Canaveral National Seashore

Surf Fishing: Family fun for your beach day

6) Explore Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Fishing kayak at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island

Merritt Island offers a multitude of activities, from bird watching and hiking to kayaking and great fishing, less than an hour’s drive south of Daytona Beach.

The casual, fun and scenic route, and the one bikers frequently cruise during motorcycle events, is south of Daytona on U.S. 1 until you pass through Oak Hill, where you pick up the north entrance road to the refuge.

Once inside the refuge, cruise for miles through wilderness. Bring kayaks for a paddle in Mosquito Lagoon!

On your way back, stop at Goodrich’s Seafood, off the beaten track in Oak Hill.

Related Florida Rambler articles:

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge 

Oak Hill: Don’t Blink

7) Get lost in Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest

Encompassing more than 600 square miles in North Central Florida, Ocala National Forest is chock full of adventure.

Hike the Florida Trail, camp in the deep woods, spend a lazy day at a cool, bubbling spring, ride the equestrian trails, paddle a spring run, a lake or a river.

Or just drive around and enjoy the scenery. One of my favorite adventures is to get lost on hundreds of miles forest roads, most unpaved but all well-maintained. You can park on the side almost anywhere and go for a hike, set up a primitive wilderness camp or go fishing.

So much to do, so much to see.

Here’s an official forest page with a selection of maps, including an interactive visitor’s map for your mobile device.

Getting there: From I-95 Exit 268, take State Road 40 west to the forest. The rest is up to you! 

Related Florida Rambler articles:

5 things to do in Ocala National Forest

Explore vast Ocala National Forest

8) Go Surfing!

New Smyrna Beach

One of Florida’s premier surfing destinations is on the south side of Ponce Inlet in nearby New Smyrna Beach. The surf breaks here can be phenomenal, and the slow slope of the beach offers a long ride home.

The downside is that sharks frequent the inlet, feeding on fish that roll through the channel with the tides, and occasionally they have been known to nip at surfers’ heels riding waves at the jetty.

If you slip your board in the water a little farther south of the inlet, there’s considerably less chance of encountering these creatures of the deep, and the beach is absolutely gorgeous! Board rentals are available all along Flagler Avenue near the beach.

Hike into the rolling dunes on a 1.5-mile raised boardwalk to observe wildlife scurrying through the scrub.

Avoid parking in the soft sand at the inlet jetty. Park on hard sand below the inlet.

Getting there: Take U.S. 1 south to State Road 44/A1A in New Smyrna Beach. Go east over the causeway to the curve at the beach, where you’ll hang an awkward left onto Atlantic Ave. The main beach ramp is at Flagler Ave. and drive north on the beach to the end.

9) Crabs, shrimp, clams and a beer with a view

JB's Fish Camp, Bethune Beach

JB’s Fish Camp

There’s a funky fish shack in Bethune Beach known as JB’s Fish Camp with deck dining, inside dining and an outdoor bar overlooking Indian River Lagoon, near the north entrance to Canaveral National Seashore.

Live crabs populate outdoor runs until called upon to serve, and the restaurant has its own oyster and clam beds nearby in the lagoon.

Getting there: Go south from Daytona on U.S. 1 to SR 44/SR A1A in New Smyrna Beach. go south for 6 miles. Read more.

DJ's Deck, Port Orange

DJ’s Deck, Port Orange.

Step up to the window to order your seafood, grab some beers and stake out seats at a picnic table on the outdoor deck at D.J.’s Deck overlooking the Halifax River.

Enjoy a variety of seafood and raw bar favorites at reasonable prices. Much of the fish served here is fresh off the boats, which bring their catch to the fish house next door. Doesn’t get much better than this

Getting there: Take A1A south from Daytona to Dunlawton Avenue. DJ’s is under the bridge on the east side of the the Intracoastal Waterway. Visit their web site.

Related Florida Rambler articles:

Florida’s Best Seafood Restaurants: No frills fish shacks 

JB’s Fish Camp: Running with the crabs in New Smyrna Beach

10) Visit historic Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, New Smyrna, Florida

This is Florida’s tallest lighthouse, with 203 steps to the top for a magnificent view of the busy inlet, the ocean, crowds of surfers and a sprawling, dune-filled coastal park on the inlet’s south side.

Next to the famed Cape Hatteras Light on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Ponce Light is the second tallest masonry lighthouse in the United States.

The lighthouse keepers’ cottages and other historic buildings are home to the lighthouse museum, where the history of Florida’s coastal lighthouses comes alive. Don’t miss the display of historic Fresnel lenses that once beamed their brilliance over the sea to guide mariners. Among them, the Ponce lighthouse’s original lens and the rotating first order Fresnel lens from the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.

After your tour, visit one of my favorite waterfront eateries at Inlet Harbor, a popular stopover for both boaters and lighthouse visitors. Visit their web site.

Getting there:Take Atlantic Avenue (SR A1A) to the southernmost point of the Daytona peninsula.  Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is at 4931 South Peninsula Drive. 

Other Things to Do and See near Daytona:

Bikers: 5-plus cool, country rides near Daytona

10 Worthy Campgrounds Near Daytona

Washington Oaks: Gardens plus unusual beach

Spruce Creek paddle: Diamond in the rough

Oak Hill: Don’t blink

One Comment

  1. Hi Bob, please don’t tell more people about Canaveral National Seashore 🙂 Thanks.

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