Last updated on July 15th, 2019 at 12:38 pm
1) Drive, bike or ride The Loop
The Ormond Scenic Loop is a 30-mile road trip through live-oak canopies, postcard waterfront scenes, abundant wildlife, three state parks and a state historic site.
Along the way, enjoy camping, fishing, hiking, biking and kayaking.
Tomoka River State Park is an excellent place to paddle back-country marshes and waterways, while nearby Gamble Rogers State Park and North Peninsula State Park offer some of the prettiest beaches on the east coast of Florida. Read more.
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.
2) Paddle up Spruce Creek
So, you didn’t bring your kayak but would love to paddle a beautiful Florida creek while you’re in Daytona Beach.
Check out Cracker Creek, a private park with canoe/kayak rentals on upper Spruce Creek. The creek moves slow enough you can paddle against the current. 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 more.
3) Drive on the Beach
Driving your car on the hard-packed sands of Daytona Beach 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.
Recently established traffic-free zones take back some of the beach, but there’s still plenty of beach left for a Sunday drive.
Daytona Beach has 16 vehicle ramps, and there are 5 vehicle ramps in neighboring New Smyrna Beach. The daily beach pass is $20 (2019), and Volusia County residents can get an annual pass for $25. (Non-residents pay $100 for an annual pass.)
Once on the beach, you can park, set up your beach gear, and enjoy the sea rolling ashore just a few feet away. Read more.
4) Surf fishing at Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore is the longest stretch of pristine beach on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and it’s all yours.
There are five beach-access parking lots with a total of 200 spaces, and they fill up fast on weekends. The best beach for surf fishing is at Lot #1, which has 89 spaces.
You can also enjoy some really fine back-water fishing in the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon at the park’s river-side fishing pier, or along a shoreline trail.
The park entrance fee is $15, $10 for motorcycles, and the entrance pass is valid for seven days. Read more.
Getting there: The north entrance to Canaveral National Seashore is from State Road A1A in New Smyrna Beach. The beach highway dead ends at the park entrance in Bethune Beach.
5) Explore Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Merritt Island offers a multitude of activities, from bird watching and hiking to kayaking and some really fabulous 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 Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Once inside the refuge, cruise for miles through wilderness. Bring kayaks for a paddle in Mosquito Lagoon, access Playalina Beach in Canaveral Seashore, or visit the Kennedy Space Center. Read more.
6) Get lost in 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 hard-packed and well-maintained. You can park on the shoulder almost anywhere and go for a hike, set up a primitive wilderness camp or go fishing.
So much to do, so much to see. Read more.
Getting there: From I-95 Exit 268, take State Road 40 west.
7) Go Surfing
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 bit south of the inlet, there’s considerably less chance of encountering these creatures of the deep, and the beach is gorgeous and accommodating.
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.
The only way out there is to drive. Use the vehicle access ramp at Flagler Ave. in New Smyrna Beach ($20). Once on the beach, avoid the soft sand at the inlet jetty. Read more.
Getting there: Go to New Smyrna Beach’s North Causeway and continue straight on Flagler Avenue to the beach access ramp.
8) Crabs, shrimp, clams and a beer with a view
JB’s Fish Camp, New Smyrna Beach
There’s a funky old crab 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, and the restaurant has its own oyster and clam beds nearby in the Indian River lagoon. Read more.
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.
D.J.’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. Read more.
Getting there: Take A1A south from Daytona to Dunlawton Avenue. DJ’s is under the bridge on the beach side.
Goodrich Seafood, Oak Hill
Back in the day, this was an ice house on Mosquito Lagoon where fishermen would slip up to the dock to drop off their catch. I would stop by regularly to pick up a bag of freshly harvested clams. Today, the old fish house is gone and the restaurant restored beyond its past glory while retaining waterfront charm.
This is a truly great stop for folks out for a Sunday ride to Merritt Island National Seashore or the Kennedy Space Center.
Locally harvested oysters are the specialty here, and you might want to try the “Kickin’ Corn and Crab Chowder” while sitting out on the deck overlooking the lagoon. Read more.
Getting there: Take US 1 south of New Smyrna Beach, through Edgewater, to Oak Hill. At Oak Hill’s only traffic light, turn left onto Halifax Avenue. Follow it all the way out to River Road and Goodrich’s.
9) Visit historic Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
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 a 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. Learn more.
Getting there: Take Atlantic Avenue (SR A1A) to the southernmost point of the Daytona peninsula to 4931 South Peninsula Drive.