A Day at the Beach: New Smyrna Beach

By: Denise Maloof

ADD TO FAVORITES

Hideaways can be difficult to select on a peninsula stocked with every possible sandy, salty and sunny option.

But if “low-key” dominates your getaway requirements, head for New Smyrna Beach.  Tucked on Central Florida’s Atlantic coast, it offers a striking alternative to its northern neighbor, Daytona Beach, while supplying equally spectacular experiences.

Instead of racing fellow visitors, you yield to turtles.

“It’s the quiet side of Volusia County,” said Jim Pfief, a visitor from Ohio.

And, it’s easy to reach. From Interstate 95, head east off Exit 249 (SR 44).  After crossing the South Causeway, the highway bends south, becoming South Atlantic Avenue (and A1A).  Turn north on South Atlantic to access historic Flagler Avenue, which functions as New Smyrna Beach’s surfside entertainment district.

The community beckons not only vacationers like Pfief, but day-trippers from metropolitan Orlando. Weekenders and locals playing hooky are a large part of the scene.

“You come over and rent a bike for $7 and it’s a no-brainer,” said Nichols Surf Shop and Chuckeyta Cafe owner Chuck Carter, citing inland escapees he knows who leave their own bicycles at home and hit Nichols for that trusty, returnable transportation.

When at New Smyrna Beach, you surf, or at least try.  It’s an East Coast hot spot, with surf shops, featuring the lingo and brand name stock, everywhere.

“You always get some kind of wave,” said Carter, a New Smyrna Beach native.  “Everybody in New Smyrna has a couple of boards in their garage — every friend of a friend.  Every doctor I know has one.  The ocean is their playground.”

Here’s why: soft, then hard-packed silvery sand yields to the dark green and blue Atlantic. During low tide, the real estate expands, and shells — cockles, clams and whelks — are not uncommon.

Three Volusia County parks are great gateways for a New Smyrna Beach day. All provide the requisite facilities and are close to other resources. Smyrna Dunes Park sits at the north tip of the New Smyrna Beach peninsula, Flagler Avenue Park is in the heart of its shoreline business district. The third, 27th Avenue Park, lies 2.5 miles south and forms the no-drive demarcation zone. 

Cruise as you please north of 27th Avenue; use your feet or cycle to the south.  A playground here entertains youngsters.

Only Smyrna Dunes Park requires a fee ($5 per vehicle) as of this writing, but is dog friendly, offers sweeping views of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse across the water and a two-mile elevated boardwalk that protects dunes and vegetation.

Whether you pick a park, or stroll from your house or hotel, the lack of bedlam is available even during summer’s peak. In winter and shoulder seasons, New Smyrna Beach’s warmth and quietness seem irresistible. A recent attack of afternoon cloudiness proved no deterrent at Flagler Avenue Park, where surfers in wet suits sprinted to the water, and hopeful sunbathers and cyclists shared space.

Book-club organizers, take note: readers parked in chairs beside their vehicles seemed the dominant beachgoers, engrossed as surf roiled and birds soared.

Jim Pfief, and his wife, Debbie, were among them.

Residents of North Canton, Ohio, the couple visits in November, near their wedding anniversary date.  It dovetails with a stopover for children and grandchildren in Jacksonville, and, they discovered New Smyrna Beach during a time-share stay 12 years ago.

“It’s nice and quiet, not crowded like Daytona Beach, and the beach is very wide,” Pfief said, his lap full of automotive magazines.

Loyal to the Coconut Palms Beach Resort, the Pfiefs enjoy shelling and walking but both appeared to be content readers on this afternoon.

“We don’t ramp up the entertainment too much,” Jim Pfief said.

If you do, stroll Flagler Avenue and pick your watering hole. Or, make real use of that beach bag; stuffing it with purchases from tiny art galleries, jewelry and clothing boutiques; even a plant nursery.

Okay, sometimes it rains. Boo hoo. You have alternatives.

Shopping, Part 2, is available to the west, across the North Causeway, along New Smyrna Beach’s historic riverfront business district — Canal Street.  Antique shops (New Smyrna Antique Mall and The Palms Collectables are fun) and the newly renovated New Smyrna Museum of History on Sams Avenue, just north of Canal, are two options.

There's another alternative. You can overeat very well in this town. In fact, drinking and dining vie with beaching and surfing for most popular New Smyrna Beach activities.

Visit Flagler Avenue’s Chuckeyta Cafe for morning java and Chuck Carter’s mother’s homemade banana bread. Bagel World, south on South Atlantic Avenue, (A1A), is can’t-miss with its varieties and spreads. Back on Flagler Avenue, the Beacon offers consistent diner fare.  Locals swear by the Breakers’ choice of 17 fresh burgers.

One of Florida’s best-known fish camps — J.B’s — lies several miles south on A1A.  Expect fresh, no-frills seafood and a deck and dock for creek-side sunsets.

Come on down.


If You Go

Note: A complete list of New Smyrna Beach restaurants, shops and accommodations can be found at nsbfla.com

Directions from Interstate 95: Take Exit 249 east on SR 44. After approximately two miles, look for signs to the Canal Street historic district, or continue on SR 44 toward the beach. After crossing the South Causeway, look for signs to the Flagler Avenue historic district.  A turn to the west on Flagler Avenue leads to the North Causeway, and an alternate route back to Canal Street and SR 44.

Bagel World

819 S. Atlanta Avenue

New Smyrna Beach

386-427-1600

Beacon Restaurant

416 Flagler Avenue

New Smyrna Beach

386-428-8332

Chuckeyta’s Cafe

411 Flagler Avenue

New Smyrna Beach

386-428-2020

J.B.’s Fish Camp & Restaurant

859 Pompano Avenue

New Smyrna Beach

386-427-5747

The Breakers

518 Flagler Avenue

New Smyrna Beach

386-428-2019

New Smyrna Antique Mall

419 Canal Street

New Smyrna Beach

386-426-7825

New Smyrna Museum of History

120 Sams Avenue

New Smyrna Beach

386-478-0052

The Palms

328 Canal Street

New Smyrna Beach

386-409-5232

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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1 comment
Denise
Denise June 12, 2013 11:16 AM
If you love sports and miss you favorite team, go to Peanuts on Flagler Ave.
Bar food is great but the servers are the best and always willing to try and find your game if it isn't already on one of the many TVs.