By Carlos Harrison
Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier is more than a place to drop a line and hook a fish. It’s a place where you can reel in a whole lot of fun.
First, of course, there’s the Daytona beach pier itself. It stretches a full 1,000 feet into the Atlantic – better than three football fields – and it’s been a favorite fishing spot for nearly a century. The original wooden pier reached out a little over half that far. This one went up in 1925 after the first one burned, and it’s been an iconic spot for everything from casino gaming and star-gazing to watching cars racing across the sand back in the day. In fact, at one point they even removed some of the pilings so cars could pass under it.
The beach racing ended in the late ‘50s, but you can still drive, and park, on the sand – just a short stroll from the pier.
Fishing Off the Daytona Beach Pier
You’ll find first-timers, families, and dedicated fisher-folk lining the east end of the pier, rods flicking and fluttering out over the water like a giant centipede’s legs. The more experienced anglers might be working two rods, or more. It’s worth it. The Daytona Beach pier is famous for its fighting fish. There’s snook, bluefish, tarpon, cobia, Spanish mackerel, trout, pompano, kingfish and even sailfish. Depending on the day, you might also find flounder, whiting, black drum, weakfish and sheepshead right under the pier, hungry and hitting.
There’s no fee and no license required, and fishing’s permitted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from March 16 to Halloween, until 5 p.m. from November 1 to March 15, seven days a week.
But you can sink your teeth into some seafood, or shore food, without baiting a hook.
Joe’s Crab Shack sprawls imposingly across the pier’s midsection, taking the place of the original casino after a $10 million, 2-1/2-year-long renovation. They offer, well, crab, of course – in steampots and buckets. And shrimp, salmon, redfish and lobster. Mussels and calamari. And clam strips, too. But there’s also sirloin and ribeye and herbed chicken. And pizza for the kids.
Perched right over the Atlantic, few places offer a better view of the water, or a look back at the beach and the Daytona skyline from beyond the shore. For a special treat, catch the moonrise over the ocean sipping something cool from the restaurant’s rooftop bar. It’s called, naturally, The Roof.
Explore the Surrounding Area
There’s more to the pier than just the pier, though. With all its history and formidable poise, it’s the perfect centerpiece for a visit to Daytona Beach. It’s also the perfect starting point for exploring all that the surrounding area has to offer.
It’s just steps away from the Breakers Oceanfront Park and Environmental Learning Center, a 2.5-acre, family friendly beachfront attraction with a children’s splash fountain, volleyball and a playground. The splash park and restrooms are open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the volleyball court and playground from dawn to dusk.
Or take a ramble down the beachfront boardwalk, where street performers put a variety of unique talents on display for free (although tips are always appreciated). Or, escape to the shade at not one, but two fun-for-the-whole-family arcades. A pocket full of change will get you hours of smiles playing classic, old-style games like skee-ball and air hockey at the Joyland Amusement Center and the Mardi Gras Fun Center. The city even puts on a fireworks display every Saturday night at 9:45 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
If a surge of adrenaline is more your thing, there’s that, too. A few short steps from the boardwalk, Screamer's Park is the newest attraction on the beach and boasts a 365-foot-tall slingshot that flings riders out of a smoke-spewing volcano at up to 90 mph,. There's also a 200-foot-tall ride, ominously titled The Vomatron, that whirls folks on a rotating arm at up to 80 mph. You might want to wait to eat until after that one.
Summer is also the time for free outdoor concerts at the 1937 vintage coquina shell amphitheater overlooking the Atlantic. An ever-changing slate of tribute bands play at the beach’s Bandshell every Friday and Saturday night from May until the end of September, offering something for just about every taste – rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, and country western. Shows start at 7 p.m. There’s a current calendar of who’s playing at daytonabeach.com/bandshell-concerts..
Then there’s the beach itself. It’s known around the globe. When the tides receded at daybreak, the sun baked the beach into a hard-packed pitch that proved perfect for auto racing. Automobile enthusiasts recognized the unique qualities of Daytona Beach nearly as early as the first cars. By 1903 they held the first land speed races there, on a one kilometer course. Alexander Winton drove his “Bullet” to 66.198 mph for the first beach record. In 1936, a beachfront oval track became the birthplace of what grew into what is now known as the Daytona 500.
The beach races are gone, but the pier, the ocean, and the impeccable, snow-white sand remain ready as ever – waiting for you to stand where engines once roared, and the waves still do.