Black Dolphin Inn: Not just a fishing lodge
The 14-room inn is appropriately named for the pods of dolphin that gracefully cruise the broad and scenic river off the end of lodging’s dock in search of food that flows from the rich fish nurseries of the Indian River Lagoon.
I have fished this area of the Indian River lagoon often and have found an abundance of game fish, including redfish, black drum and spotted sea trout, in addition to massive schools of baitfish that get their legs among the nearby mangroves before being carried out to sea through nearby Ponce Inlet by the tides.
The lagoon’s brackish waters are also noteworthy for clam beds and oyster bars, which are harvested for consumption in local seafood restaurants. These oyster bars, of course, are magnets for redfish.
Backcountry fishing, particularly fly fishing, is one of the Black Dolphin Inn’s selling points, and they share a marketing alliance with the exclusive Blackfly Lodge in the Abacos, Bahamas.
But this is not your average “fish camp.” It stands out as a high-end B&B, a unique lodging in one of Florida’s best beach towns.
Rooms are unique, modern and … antique?
Accommodations include guest rooms and suites with private access to outdoor terraces and sundecks, elegant Euro-style bedding and spa baths. Eight rooms have wet bars, and all of the rooms have a water orientation.
Furnishings vary in each room with original artwork and antiques, tastefully integrated with futuristic appliances and décor. One room I observed had an antique aquarium (circa 1800’s, according to co-owner Brett Smith), but instead of tropical fish, it was artfully stuffed with symmetrical coral balls.
There’s an HDTV in every room, ranging in size from 42 inches to 77 inches, and free Wi-Fi is available to guests,
The owners, brothers Brett and Scott Smith, are third-generation hoteliers from New Jersey who fell in love with this 1947 riverfront residence three years ago and set to work on a vision for its renovation.
“When we found the property, we fell in love with it,” said Brett Smith. “It was a slam dunk for us.”
The Smith family has owned and operated the Chateau Inn and Suites in Spring Lake, NJ, since 1951, and much of their inspiration translates from that experience.
Guests share the modern and expansive great room downstairs that includes a bar, open kitchen, sitting area and breakfast room. A complimentary Continental breakfast is served daily with a full Southern-style breakfast on weekends.
You are within walking distance of restaurants and shops in New Smyrna Beach’s historic downtown and a short distance from the seaside community’s sprawling beaches, surf shops and Flagler Avenue’s beachside galleries and eateries. New Smyrna Beach has one of the few beaches in the state where you can drive on the sand.
Overnight dockage is available for guests with boats, and fishing opportunities are abundant in the backwaters and bays of nearby Canaveral National Seashore.
Or just sit on the dock with a glass of wine and watch the dolphin swim by.
Where To Eat Nearby
There are two “town centers” in New Smyrna Beach, the historic downtown along Canal Street and the festive beachside strip along Flagler Avenue, where you’ll find galleries, surf shops and restaurants leading to the main beach.
Canal Street is just a short walk from the Black Dolphin Inn and features a few restaurants worth visiting, including the popular Panheads Pizzeria, Jason’s Corner (my favorite downtown restaurant), Mahoney’s Oyster Bar and down by the river, an old-fashioned seafood shack (and tiki bar) called Dolphin View.
On Flagler, tucked in between the galleries and surf shops, you can enjoy fine dining at the Riverview Hotel, laid-back pub fare at the Flagler Tavern, pub grub with a beach view at The Breakers or Toni and Joe’s Patio Bar.
Peanuts, about two blocks from the beach on Flagler, is a popular local sports bar (where smoking is permitted).
You can walk across the South Causeway bridge from the Black Dolphin Inn to several of New Smyrna’s favorite restaurants on State Road A1A, where you’ll also find a Publix Supermarket.
Norwood’s is the most popular restaurant in this area and is well-known for its moderately priced seafood offerings, Also worth mentioning is The Garlic Italian Grill, Outback Steakhouse and the excellent Spanish River Grill, which I highly recommend. For a simple, bargain-priced fresh seafood lunch, try Ocean’s in that same neighborhood. (Ocean’s also sells fresh, local seafood retail at attractive prices.)
And then there’s our favorite crab shack, JB’s Fish Camp, on A1A in Bethune Beach near the north entrance to Canaveral National Seashore.
Although the beach is less than two miles away, it’s probably a good idea to drive — and you can drive ON the beaches in New Smyrna to find your perfect spot.
There are three main access ramps — at the east end of Flagler Avenue, the Third Avenue ramp accessed from the South Causeway (State Road 44), and the 27th Avenue Ramp, which is south of 44 on State Road A1A.
You can drive as far north as Ponce Inlet, the inlet jetty where the surfers hang out, and Smyrna Dunes Park’s network of boardwalks that go deep into the dunes.
But the prettiest and most isolated beach is Apollo Beach at Canaveral National Seashore, 6 miles south on SR A1A.
Odds and Ends
At the time of this writing, the Black Dolphin was preparing to add beer-on-tap and wine service in the downstairs Great Room, and the inn’s private chef was preparing Asian delicacies for a group that had booked rooms for the weekend.
Although the inn does not have a restaurant, the chef prepares weekend breakfasts and is available for on-premises catering for guests.
Smith said the inn will soon make available kayaks, paddleboards and surfboards for guests. Until then, they will help guests make arrangements for rentals from a concession. They have also established relationships with nearby fishing charter captains, who will pick you up at the dock.
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Information: blackdolphininn.com; 916 Riverside Drive, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168; 386-410-4868; seasonal rates, $149 to $309, including breakfast.
Reservations: Black Dolphin Inn – New Smyrna Beach
Other Nearby Lodging: Hotels in New Smyrna Beach
Disclosure: The author of this article has also written a description of the inn for use in B&B directories, for which he received a nominal fee.