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Ultimate Road Trip: Driving on Florida’s coastal beaches

It is and always will be controversial.

But driving your car on the hard-pack sands of Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach and St. Augustine is a Florida tradition. Pioneers did it with horses and buggies. Stock car racers did it with roaring engines until 1959.

Thousands of people still drive on the beach every year. It is the ultimate scenic drive and a habit that Florida cherishes.

driving on the beach 2022 9 16 cars racing on dayton beach Ultimate Road Trip: Driving on Florida's coastal beaches
A photo, courtesy of Florida Memory Project, shows cars racing on Daytona Beach in 1952.

There are only a few dozen miles of beach left where driving is permitted.  Over the years, many communities have ended the practice, and others are considering more restrictions due a recent rash of injuries and even deaths.

Driving on the beach is now possible only in Volusia County (Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach),  Nassau County (Amelia Island), and St. John’s County (summer only).

Driving on the beach in Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach

Driving on the beach in Daytona Beach near Ponce de Leon Inlet
Driving on the beach in Daytona Beach near Ponce de Leon Inlet in recent times.

Vehicles pay $20 for the privilege and then cruise slowly right on the sand, which is amply wide and packed as hard as many roads. Annual passes for residents ($25) and non-residents ($100) are also available. For details, visit

To park, pull over perpendicular to the beach in an area designated and then haul out the lawn chairs, tents, toys and gear. Park carefully and only on hard sand. Stay to the ocean side of the posts, and if the sand appears soft, give it up and park someplace else or you’ll get stuck.

Cars of the 1970s driving on the beach on Daytona Beach.
Cars of the 1970s driving on the beach on Daytona Beach.

The south side of the Ponce Inlet jetty in New Smyrna Beach is a mecca for surfers, and the jetty itself is a magnet for fishing, so it’s always crowded.  Newbies try to double park, and many inevitably get stuck in the soft sand. While there is usually a friendly crowd to help rock you free (regulars bring shovels), it’s not a fun way to spend your day, and it can be a dangerous exercise. Florida Rambler colleague Bob Rountree often visits this area, and he’s been stuck in the soft sand more than once.

The surfing beach near the jetty is the area of New Smyrna Beach that has the dubious distinction of being the shark-bite capital of Florida. Sharks congregate around the inlet to feed on the tidal migrations of fish, sometimes mistaking surfboards for their prey. And there are plenty of surfboards.

“I once took my boat just outside the inlet to fish,” Bob says. “After catching a half-dozen sharks and one barracuda inside of an hour, I gave it up. I also gave up swimming from the beach near the jetty.”

driving on the beach 2022 9 16 1976 cars in water on the beach Ultimate Road Trip: Driving on Florida's coastal beaches
Does this look like a good idea? In 1976, these cars were driving on the beach and parked as the tide came in.

You can also access a magnificent boardwalk near the south jetty that rises above a wide expanse of dunes, known as Smyrna Dunes Park. There are two miles of elevated boardwalk that skirt 73 pristine acres. The boardwalk is also accessible from the Coast Guard Station on Peninsula Avenue, two miles north of Flagler Avenue. Leashed pets are permitted on the boardwalk, but not the ocean beach. (There is a section of beach inside the inlet where pets are allowed.)

On the north side of the jetty — the Daytona side — is the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, which is open at 10 a.m. every day.  Closing times vary with the season. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on the delightful off-the-beaten-track town of Ponce Inlet.

In both New Symrna Beach and Daytona Beach, the areas where you are allowed to drive are clearly marked, with natural areas and select beach areas designated as no-drive zones. You pay a toll as you enter the beach, and if you leave one area, your pass allows you to re-enter on other access ramps.

There are five vehicle access ramps in New Smyrna Beach. Here’s a map that shows areas where you can drive on the beach in New Smyrna Beach.

Map: Where you can drive on the beach in New Smyrna Beach.
Map: Where you can drive on the beach in New Smyrna Beach.

There are 16 access ramps off State Road A1A where you can enter the “driving zone” beaches in Daytona Beach. The longest drivable section is south of the Main Street Pier, from International Speedway Boulevard south to Emilia Avenue, just past Dunlawton Avenue. The crowded beaches around the Main Street Pier, once the focal point of stock-car racing on the sand, is now off-limits to vehicles. Here’s where you can drive on the beach in Daytona Beach.

Following hurricane damage in 2022, 13 of the 16 ramps are now open. Stay up to date with beach conditions, weather, parking, ramp openings and closures by downloading Volusia County’s new Beach Navigator app at

 Map: Where you can drive on the beach in Daytona Beach.
Map: Where you can drive on the beach in Daytona Beach.

Tips on driving on the beach in Volusia County

  • The speed limit is 10 mph
  • Under no circumstances are you allowed to pass another car, even if it appears to have stopped. (This was learned the hard way.)
  • There is two-way traffic: You can drive in either direction.
  • Park perpendicular to the beach, but don’t go beyond the posts into soft sand.
  • Parking near Ponce Inlet on the New Smyrna side is limited, and soft sand plays havoc as people try to double park. Park a little further south and avoid the congestion.
  • Driving is permitted sunrise to sunset from Nov. 1 to April 30, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., May 1 through Oct. 31, tides permitting. Unusually high tides can close down driving.
  • You can exit the beach and re-enter once without paying an additional fee.
  • Regulations and information from Volusia County on driving on the beach.
Driving on the beach in a vintage postcard.
Driving on the beach in a vintage postcard courtesy of Florida Memory Project

Driving on the beach near St. Augustine

The spectacular beaches around St. Augustine permit beach driving from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. March 2 to the end of September.

Cars can access the beach at these ramps:

  •     Vilano Access Ramp in Vilano
  •     Porpoise Point in Vilano)
  •     A Street in St. Augustine Beach
  •     Ocean Trace in St. Augustine Beach
  •     Dondanville in St. Augustine Beach
  •     Matanzas Avenue in St. Augustine Beach
  •     Mary Street in St. Augustine Beach
  •     Crescent Beach

There is no beach driving permitted on the beaches near Fort Matanzas or in Anastasia State Park.

St. Johns County offers daily ($10) and annual passes ($50 resident, $100 non-resident) to drive and park on beaches. Passes can be obtained from toll booth operators during the beach season.

Driving on the beach on Amelia Island

Beach access by vehicles on Amelia Island is now limited to Nassau County residents. (This is a change from the past, when non-residents could buy permits.)

The most popular spot on Amelia Island for driving onto the beach is Peter’s Point Beach, 4600, Peters Point Road, Fernandina Beach. However, your only purpose will be to drive onto the beach and park. You won’t drive far. The same is true for American Beach at Burney Park. These are beautiful beaches and Nassau County residents will enjoy parking on the sand with all their beach gear, but it’s not an experience for visitors.

Driving on the beach near Jacksonville

There is one spot in Jacksonville (Duval County) where cars are still allowed on the beach — Huguenot Memorial Park, 10980 Heckscher Drive.

While environmentalists would like to end the practice to protect shore birds, this popular city park allows cars right on to beach.

The beach isn’t a thoroughfare, as it is in New Smyrna and Daytona. It’s more of a parking lot where folks coming to the beach for the day can bring all their toys.

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Saturday 26th of February 2022

Grayton Beach in the panhandle allows driving on the beach for Walton County residents. Permits are distributed via a lottery.

Thomas Walker

Sunday 26th of December 2021

Fishing I can drive on


Thursday 10th of September 2020

Can you drive on any of beaches on the gulf side of Florida?


Monday 1st of May 2023

@Rose, There are two places in the Tampa Bay are that allow it. Dunedin Causeway, and the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Though not really beaches they do have a narrow sandy shoreline. They are usually packed with partiers, wave runners, and "Jeepers".

Bryan Wilcox

Monday 6th of February 2023

@Susan Hunter, We used to drive on the beach at Ft Pickens in the 70s to go surf fishing. Its not a problem with a 4WD and knowledge. A lot of Yahoos would get stuck, but not those of us who know how to drive on soft sand.

Susan Hunter

Thursday 15th of July 2021

@Bob Rountree, The Gulf of Mexico beach sand is not packed like on the Atlantic side. In the Pensacola area we have to pull cars out that have parked on the shoulder during summer months. The good news is that there are paved parking where you get out of your car and walk over a boardwalk to the beach. Gulf Islands National Seashore at Ft. Pickens is a great place to spend the day and have a picnic. Take your own food and drink into the park because there isn't anything there after the last storm to buy.

Bob Rountree

Saturday 12th of September 2020

I am not aware of any Gulf beaches in Florida that allow vehicles.


Tuesday 21st of July 2020

Hello Bonnie.

Thank you for such an amazing read. Some of the best info I have been able to find on the net. My question, maybe you can help me. I plan to dabble in the outlander life and purchase a roof top tent for my Wrangler. Do you know of any Florida beaches that allows overnight parking on the sand? Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated.



Monday 9th of November 2020

you ever figure out if any mbeaches are for parking overnight?

Jennifer Merritt

Thursday 28th of May 2020

Hello! I would appreciate any information you can give me regarding driving down Florida's Gulf Coast from Pensacola to Marco Island. I am particularly interested in the beaches. Also, could you please tell me if there is such a thing as beach parking passes? Since I am female, I would especially be interested in communicating with Bonnie. Thank You!! Jennifer

Bonnie Gross

Saturday 6th of June 2020


Your only problem with beaches on this drive will be choosing among them! The very best beaches in the state are in the Panhandle. Grayton Beach was recently named the bt beach in America and we loved St. George Island and Apalachicola.

After you make the curve around the Panhandle, you come to a section of the Gulf Coast without beaches, where the shoreline is largely mangroves and is less developed. Your next great beach area is the Clearwater area, where we love two beaches where you walk on the beach for miles and get away. These are Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island.

From there until the Everglades, the Gulf beaches are fantasic. Several barrier islands have fantastic shelling. These state park beaches are less well known: Stump Pass Beach State Park and the string of islands that includes Gasparilla Island, Don Pedro Island and Manasota Key.

We loved these low-key beach towns: Casey Key and Passe-A-Grill.

As you get to the Fort Myers areas, we love this wild off-the-beaten path beach, Barefoot Beach and Lovers Key State Park. Of course Sanibel Island is famous for its shelling.

Consider Naples as a stop because of its beaches and many other things to do.

This is NOT a comprehensive guide. There are too many great beaches on this route you plan. I've offered a few highlights. Hope it's a great trip.

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