Twice a year, motorcycles and their riders are the star attraction in Daytona Beach, and celebrants spread themselves out along the beaches from Flagler Beach south to New Smyrna Beach.
Businesses roll out the “Welcome Bikers” mats, and they mean it.
Biketoberfest: October 13-16, 2022 — Bike Week: March 3-12, 2023
What sometimes goes unnoticed below the roar of Harleys on Main Street are the great rides through the country near Daytona, so we thought we’d share a few with you.
Ocala National Forest
Full Day Ride
There are a lot of options on this ride, and no matter which you take, this is a full day of cruising, so leave early and plan a late return. There’s not much along the way, so pack your lunch and beverages.
When I did this ride a few weeks ago, the temptation was high to hop off the pavement and cruise well-maintained but unpaved forest roads. The beauty of this wilderness is breathtaking, and you will often divert to forest springs.
Ocala National Forest is bisected by two main roads — State Road 40 (east-west) and State Road 19 (north-south). There are dozens of forest service roads branching off both of these highways, and you would be remiss to ignore them. These roads take you deep into the woods and boast magnificent scenery.
The two main routes to access the forest are State Road 44 from New Smyrna Beach via Deland, and State Road 40, west out of Ormond Beach. (From Daytona, take I-4 south to SR 44 in Deland or take I-95 north to the SR 40 route.)
SR 40 goes straight into the heart of the forest. If you take SR 44, turn right onto County Road 42 after crossing the St. John’s River from Deland. Enter the southern section of the forest from SR 19 in Altoona. I recommend stopping at the Pittman Visitor Center at Lake Dorr and pick up a forest map.
I took the SR 40 entry to the forest, then went north on SR 19 to SR 20 in Palatka, then Route 20/100 to Bunnel, where you can pick up U.S. 1. Fair warning, though, Palatka is a mess. The road signage sucks, and I got lost twice. Better to backtrack through the forest.
Meantime, here’s a package of maplets to get you started. Choose your route, your springs and other scenic stops, and roll!
And here’s a related story on 5 things to do in Ocala National Park.
Ormond Scenic Loop (Best Ride!)
Half-Day Ride — Ormond Beach to Flagler Beach
The Ormond Scenic Loop is one of the most picturesque destinations in northeast Florida. The trail takes you through shady canopies of live oaks and dense hardwood forests, sweeping grass savannahs and saltwater marshes, coastal dune eco-systems and pristine beaches.
The double loop starts on North Beach Street at Tomoka State Park, continues north along Old Dixie Highway, then jogs east on Walter Boardman Lane, jogging south then east on Highbridge Road until you cross the Intracoastal Waterway at High Bridge.
Immediately after crossing High Bridge, turn south onto John Anderson Drive and cruise alongside the Halifax River, eventually dipping into bustling Ormond Beach before swinging east to State Road A1A.
Heading north along the beach, you will be greeted by gentle sea breezes and the pristine dune environment of North Peninsula State Park.
The loop ends back at Highbridge Road, but you should continue cruising north on A1A through Gamble Rogers State Park to Flagler Beach, an old Florida beach town with character. Short cut home would be to shoot out SR 100 to I-95 and head “home.”
I usually end my day on the loop with a stop at the rooftop bar above Finn’s Oceanside Pub in Flagler Beach.
Cruise the beaches
Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach permit motorcycles (and cars) to cruise designated sections of beach. Speed limit is 10 mph, so it may not be for everybody.
I also advise rinsing your bike with a hose when you are done. Salt exposure can damage that custom finish on your bike. (Don’s use a pressure sprayer. You’ll just be driving the salt into the seams of your bike.)
In recent years, Volusia County has restricted vehicle access to designated driving zones.
Here are the main beach access points:
New Smyrna Beach — Enter from 27th Avenue or Flagler Avenue. You can ride from 27th Avenue north 6 miles to the Ponce Inlet, where the surfers congregate and fishermen line the jetty. Access is restricted at high tide. This is the longest continuous stretch of driving beach in Volusia County.
Daytona Beach — The longest driving zone on the Daytona side of Ponce Inlet is from Dunlawton Ave. in Daytona Beach Shores north to International Speedway Blvd. in Daytona. The next longest driving beach runs from Seabreeze Ave. to Harvard Drive.
Canaveral National Seashore (Apollo Beach)
Half-Day Ride — New Smyrna Beach
The north entrance to this sandy, dune-covered cape is State Road A1A in New Smyrna Beach, about 25 miles from Daytona International Speedway.
Whenever there’s a biker event in Daytona, you can be sure of rolling thunder on the park’s roads.
Near the entrance, visit Turtle Mound, where Indians piled their oyster and clam shells for centuries. Climb to the top for a grand view of the park and its beaches.
A little further south, a canopied side road will take you to historic Eldora, a long abandoned village on the shores of the Indian River. Aside from a historic home, now a museum, this is also a good place to fish from the fishing dock.
For six miles, cruise along the beach behind the dunes. There are six parking lots where you can stop and walk out onto the beach.
At the southernmost end of the beach road at Parking Lot 6, you can see the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center on a clear day — and Lot 6 is also where the nude beach is located. A motorcycle is about the only way you can find a place to park on a nice day. (There’s a sandy road here that dips off the dunes to more parking along the lagoon.)
A must-stop upon leaving Canaveral Seashore is JB’s Fish Camp, about a half-mile north of the park entrance on State Road A1A.
Note: You cannot reach Playalinda Beach on the south end of Canaveral Seashore from here. You’ll have to go out and around to Titusville.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Half-day ride — Oak Hill/Titusville
Follow U.S. 1 south of New Smyrna Beach and watch for the turn-off (on the left) to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge after you pass through Oak Hill (don’t blink).
The paved refuge road continues for miles through pristine pine forest and wetlands with occasional unpaved turn-offs toward boat ramps or other limited access areas.
Even if you are not into birds, you’ll be fascinated by the wildlife you encounter on your ride, even if you just sticking to the paved roads. There are a couple of worthwhile pull-offs at the Haulover Canal in the center of the refuge.
If you go as far as the Visitor Center, you can see the Kennedy Space Center in the distance. You can either turn around and go back, or exit the refuge at Titusville and cruise back on U.S. 1.
A great place to stop on the way home is Goodrich Seafood on the River Road in Oak Hill, off U.S. 1. It’s also a nice ride along the river. Here’s a related article on Discovering Oak Hill.
For more information about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, read this article.
Other recommended rides
Here are four more rides recommended by the Daytona Beach Biketoberfest team. Some overlap or intersect the rides I offer in this article.
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 14 years ago.