Daytona Beach: Wide Open Fun
Overview: Racing to the Beach
Daytona Beach is one of the most prominent beach towns in Florida with a packed history built on early Americana. Coastal portions of Daytona Beach have attracted beachgoers for decades. The city is found in the self-proclaimed “Fun Coast” region on the Atlantic side of Florida. Not only just a place for fun in the sun, Daytona Beach is also well-known for its significant relationship with American car culture.
Daytona Beach began as a plantation waypoint between Florida’s colonial capital of Saint Augustine and the outpost of New Smyrna Beach. Matthias Day, a wealthy northerner, has been attributed as the town’s founder and aided in the construction of the first hotel. It remained a small town until the late nineteenth century. The city's population growth began to take off when Henry Flagler constructed the Florida East Coast Railway. This railway connected the east coast of Florida with modern cargo and passenger transport.
The wide and hard-packed sand of the Daytona Beach coast was a perfect spot for the placement of the first racing facilities in the city. In 1904, auto industry leaders used the city’s beach to test land speed records, thus beginning the city’s influence on American car culture. Speed record attempts succeeded over fifteen times throughout a few decades. These record setting races inundated the city with publicity across motorsport communities and car enthusiasts.
After a few years, the unofficial 23-mile stretch of racing road and beach became a formal event, the Daytona Beach Road Course, in 1936. After many years, the road and beach route grew to be too narrow for contemporary racing. Due to this issue, construction began for the Daytona International Speedway further inland. The newly built race track hosts the annual NASCAR Daytona 500. The motorsport frenzy has led to Daytona Beach becoming one of the most well-known beaches in the world.
The Destination: Daytona Beach
Access to Daytona Beach is available by many options. The Halifax River which separates Daytona Beach Shores form the rest of the city is a vein in the Intracoastal Waterway system. The system of canals, rivers, and bays spans the majority of the east coast running from Boston, Massachusetts to Brownsville, Texas. Massive cargo shipping trade routes run through the waterway system. Recreational boating also contributes a significant amount of traffic to the route. Thus, the Daytona Beach metropolitan area is an important waypoint in intranational trade.
In terms of road transportation, Interstate 4 and Interstate 95 pass through the city. These interstates provide road connections to Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami. Many highways also criss-cross the metropolitan area. Easy access from the Interstate network makes Daytona Beach an enticing stop. The beachless city of Orlando is about a one and a half drive from Daytona Beach so many residents arrive for a day at the beach.
Daytona Beach International Airport is the primary air transportation link for the region. Connections to Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina are the only permanent destinations served by the airport. Seasonal links are available to Toronto and Laguardia Airport in New York City. Only three miles south of the city, the airport makes for simple transportation into the beach zone.
With a current Daytona Beach metro population of over half a million people, the city is not simply a beach town. The surrounding Volusia County cities of New Smyrna Beach, Ormond Beach, and Port Orange have a similar story to that of Daytona Beach and are included in this site listing.
The historic downtown of Daytona Beach Shores offers up a wide selection of shopping, dining, and entertainment facilities. Ocean Walk Shoppes is a primarily outdoor shopping and major restaurant chains like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Situated next to the mall, the Daytona Beach Bandshell is a historic live outdoor entertainment center. It features a lineup of free concerts in the summer months.
Some areas of the Daytona Beach metropolitan have seen their better days. With many storefronts abandoned, some run-down facilities, and a higher than average crime rate, many tourists may be deterred. However, there are still many portions of the coast which are nicer to visit. The area between Daytona Beach Shores and New Smyrna Beach is a very pleasant and secluded region.
The auto race loving past of Daytona Beach is still an ingrained cultural staple of the region. The city’s beach is one of the few in the world which is open to automobiles. For a fee, cars are still allowed on certain sections of the beach at a speed limit of 10 miles per hour.
Spring break is a popular time for high school and college students to flood the city. The large crowds during this time can make it more difficult to get into restaurants and activities around the beach area. Therefore, it may not be advisable for people who like a more peaceful vacation to travel to Daytona during spring break weeks. This is the same for many of the popular beaches in the southeast United States.
Many tourists stay in hotels which are concentrated either by the shore or near the race track. There are a variety of hotel options from low to high range. Other lodging options may include Airbnb or condo rentals that provide a more personal and secluded experience. These condo complexes usually have amenities for guest uses like pools, beach access, and private parking.
Daytona Beach shoreline is located on the elongated barrier island and contains most of the tourist activities in the area as well as access to the beach. Many bridges cross the Halifax River and connect the barrier island to the rest of the city of Daytona Beach further inland.
What’s the Weather?
The optimal times to visit the area are in spring and fall when its neither oppressively hot nor too chilly to swim. Daytona Beach hardly ever dips below freezing in the winter season but the cool air makes it unenjoyable for many of the activities in the area. On the other hand, the heat and humidity in the summer months create difficulties in doing much other than relax in the water or stay inside. However, Daytona beach may well be a great cold-weather getaway from northern winters as well as for a refreshing dip in the ocean in the summer months. Hurricanes are also not a major issue in the city as most break land further south.
The restaurant Racing’s North Turn is located in one of the most prominent historic racing locations in the city. North Turn is the spot in which the Daytona Beach and Road Course began. Adorning the walls are decoratations of racing memorabilia and nostalgia for the era of Daytona’s racing heyday, . the restaurant is a great location for any motorsport enthusiast. Traditional American food and seafood are the main offerings of the restaurant.
Aunt Catfish’s On the River is one of the best restaurants in the region. Serving fantastic seafood options fresh from the Atlantic, Aunt Catfish’s is unbeatable. The restaurant menu ranges from daily fresh catches to traditional American fare. Most menu items come with a hush puppy and an unlimited extra fixings bar filled with all kinds of side dishes. Aunt Catfish’s cinnamon rolls are the gooey perfect treat to end a meal and satisfy a sweet tooth. During the major tourism season, you will likely have to wait upwards of an hour to be seated. The restaurant does not accept reservations but do allow call-ahead waitlisting. This option is recommended as it can significantly cut down your waiting time.
Our Deck Down Under is located adjacent to a bridge crossing the Halifax River and opposite from Aunt Catfish’s On the River. This seafood-focused restaurant is a gem in the Daytona Beach metro area. Positioned next to the water, the restaurant has an adjoining dock and extensive outside seating. It is the perfect place to sit down, breath the fresh ocean air, and enjoy beautiful scenery. Their incredible and fresh seafood offerings are paired with stunning views of the Halifax River and nearby bridge.
Things to Do
With the coastline spanning the entire metro area, there are an endless selection of beaches to enjoy. Areas on the north and south extremities feature a more secluded beach experience. While the central Daytona Beach coast is much more lively. Resorts, condos, hotels, and private residences dot the shoreline which provide visitors an plenty of choices to fit their lodging needs.
If you want a chance to leave the coast, you can take a venture out into the ocean. Deep-sea fishing is a possible activity for pro or novice anglers. Visitors are driven by boated out far into the ocean for the chance to catch deep-sea fish. See who can catch the largest fish with a measuring contest at the end of the trip. Watch out! You may even reel in an eel.
Many tourists and day-trippers take a cruise down the wide Daytona Beach coast during daylight hours. Parking is also available on the sand for anyone wanting to take a swim in the ocean or enjoy a nice day relaxing at the beach. There is even horseback riding available along the beach during low tide.
South of the Ocean Walk Shoppes is the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. Here visitors can find many amusement park rides like a ferries wheel, roller coaster, and Ferris wheel. There are traditional beach souvenir stores and local restaurants lining the streets of the area and a large public park. This district is the center of activity on the shoreline. Nearby, a long pier stretches out to meet the ocean. On it is a Joe’s Crab Shack and a lookout platform where many people cast their fishing lines.
On the mainland bank of the Halifax River, there is a multitude of parks and recreational areas. Beach Street hosts a wide array of shopping opportunities. On this street, Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory is a popular attraction. Tours of the chocolate factory are provided and offer behind the scenes access to how they produce a variety of chocolates. Afterward, you can taste test some chocolates and buy a delicious snack from the store to take home with you.
Museums can also be a highlight on your trip to Daytona Beach. The Museum of Arts and Sciences is the most popular and a Smithsonian Affiliate. It is one of the largest museums in central Florida and contains the largest permanent Cuban art exhibit outside of Cuba. The second-largest Coca-Cola memorabilia collection in the world from Chapman Root’s private collection.
Nearby the Daytona International Speedway is the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Not Just covering auto racing, the hall of fame includes stock cars, powerboats, drag racing, motorcycles, sports cars, aviation, and many more. This attraction provides insight into the history and culture surrounding some of motor racing’s most important events. Inside the Hall of Fame, is a museum loaded with a variety of automobiles, memorabilia, and special exhibits. Each March the annual Induction Ceremony inscribes the new members to the Motorsports Hall of Fame and is open to the public. In addition to the Hall of Fame, tours of the Daytona International Speedway and its campus are held most days without races or events.
The Jackie Robinson Ballpark is another historical site of interest. At this spot in 1946, Daytona Beach allowed Jackie Robinson to play in the spring training games. Segregation laws of Florida state at the time led other cities to decline hosting the event. This historic game was a stepping stone in the desegregation of Major League Baseball in the following year. Today, there is a statue of Jackie Robinson at the front of the park in his honor.
Further inland, golf is a popular activity for tourists visiting Daytona Beach. There are many golf courses in the surrounding area. The LPGA International Golf Course is among the most favored with two full 18-hole courses. For those not so interested in a full round of golf, there are a multitude of mini-golf courses dotted amongst tourist facilities. Ranging in themes from shipwrecks to dinosaurs these attractions are ideal for younger kids or a fun time out.
The Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail is a drivable roadway with picturesque views of the surrounding area. A short drive north from Daytona Beach, the trail is about 34 miles in length. It provides the perfect opportunity for a scenic getaway drive. The alternating views of open ocean and historic oak canopy create a surreal experience. Check current roadway closings before attempting this drive as the area is prone to flooding.
Daytona 500 is a NASCAR Cup Series race held at the Daytona International Speedway. The 500-mile-long race is the season opener for the NASCAR Cup Series and garners a lot of attention. It has even been deemed the most important and prestigious race in the NASCAR calendar. Generally, the race takes place on President’s Day in the United States. The Daytona 500 is the most-watched NASCAR race on TV, surpassing the Indianapolis 500. This event brings a large number of spectators into the town which can create transportation issues for other tourists.
Daytona Beach Bike Week is a 10-day festival where bikers from across the country gather for festivities. Held in the first full week of March, Bike Week hosts over 500,000 bike enthusiasts. Events during Bike Week include parties, motorcycle racing, concerts, and street festivals. The Daytona 200 motorcycle road race is the main attraction of this week. Biketoberfest is a similar motorcycle and biker event. It takes place in October and attendance is generally much smaller than the larger Bike Week. Bike culture has a prominent role in the history and current culture of the area.
What would you recommend to do in Daytona Beach or the surrounding area?
1200 Main St, Daytona Beach, Florida 32118