Last updated on October 11th, 2020 at 09:28 pm
Roads generally take you places, but this one takes you someplace extraordinary: Into the past.
I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail in a motorcycle sidecar during Daytona Bike Week a few years ago. While it’s not a great road for bicyclists (it’s a narrow two-lane road without bike lanes) it is just the place for motorcycles and convertibles.
The Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail is 30-plus miles and takes you through roads where live oak trees form cathedral ceilings, along waterways and creeks full of native birds and along the Atlantic Ocean, with spectacular beach and dune views. There are historic sites, hiking trails, parks, beaches and unspoiled scenery the whole way.
It doesn’t take long to make the drive, but you can easily spend all day at it if you stop along the way — and you should. With its minimal commercial development and its many historic sites, it’s a day in Old Florida.
Stops along the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail
The Ormond Scenic Loop has two distinct personalities — a sunny beach side and a shaded forest side.
There are excellent waterfront views along the Atlantic between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach. Try whale-watching from the beaches here from December through March, when the endangered Atlantic Right Whale comes here to give birth. Any other time of year, it’s “just” one of the world’s most beautiful beaches in Florida.
While you’re enjoying the beach views, watch for the historic World War II submarine watchtower at 2269 Ocean Shore Blvd., which was built in 1942. Florida’s beaches had many of these, but this is the rare one that remains. A few details here.
The Ormond Scenic Loop follows A1A along the ocean past Gamble Rogers State Park, 3100 S. State Road A1A, Flagler Beach, an oceanfront jewel that stretches from the Atlantic to the Intracoastal with lots of recreational opportunities. There is a short hiking trail plus kayaks, canoes and bicycles are available to rent at the ranger station on the river side of the park. (If you’re a camper, it’s a good place for your RV.) Admission is $5 per vehicle.
As the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail passes through Ormond Beach, stop and admire the historic winter home of John D. Rockefeller known as The Casements on the Halifax River. It is open daily for tours. The Casements, named for the mansion’s large hand-cut casement windows, has been restored to function as the Cultural Center for the City of Ormond Beach. It has a beautiful setting on the riverfront two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. It’s listed on National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a Florida Heritage Site.
As you meander the shady forest side of the Ormond Scenic Loop, there are two remarkable pre-Civil-War historic sites worth visiting:
- The historic Dummet Plantation Ruins, 2456-3178 Old Dixie Highway, Ormond Beach was founded as a plantation in 1777; It was planted with indigo, rice, corn and sugar cane. It was sold to a British Marine officer Thomas Dummett in 1825. Dummett is credited with installing the first steam-powered sugar mill in the state, the ruins of which are on the site today. Admission is free.
- If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to go a few north of the Ormond Scenic Loop to explore a second set of evocative ruins at Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park. These picturesque ruins of a huge sugar mill look like a ruined castle. Excellent signage helps you learn the story of Florida in the 1820s to 1830s. Admission is $4; The park is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Bulow Creek State Park, 3351 Old Dixie Highway, Ormond Beach, is worth exploring to see the largest remaining stands of southern live oak forest on Florida’s east coast, as well as the magnificent Fairchild Oak, one of the largest and oldest live oak trees in the south. Admission is free and there are miles of trails through virgin forest.
More resources for your trip on the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail.
- The official site for the road, produced by committed volunteers.
- Byways.org provides maps, driving directions and other information for visitors.
More things to do near the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail
- Fort Matanzas, a fascinating fort you visit by free boat ride.
- Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, historic gardens plus unusual conquina-rock beach
- Flagler Beach, an Old Florida beach town
- Magical Princess Place, for hiking, camping and historic building