Of all the resort towns on Florida’s east coast, New Smyrna Beach holds a special place in the hearts of many surfers, not to mention those who avoid the overdevelopment of many nearby areas. Visitors appreciate the quaint and historic charm that stubbornly refuses to fade.
While it’s primarily known for its white beaches, New Smyrna Beach has experienced a renaissance in recent years and now offers guests an even more impressive array of cultural attractions that keep many of them year after year return.
Like many first-time visitors, you may feel overwhelmed by all the options.
Here are 15 things to do in New Smyrna Beach.
1. Smyrna Dunes Park
Surrounded by stunning views of the Indus River, Ponce de Leon Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, there’s really nothing to dislike about Smyrna Dunes Park.
The park is located at the northern end of one of the long lands that form numerous barrier islands offshore. The beach sometimes experiences squally winds and waves as the wind and water come in.
That means good surf; while the waves aren’t always great, there are plenty of other things to do, like hiking the dunes or trying your luck at surf fishing.
The entrance to the park is on North Peninsula Avenue in New Smyrna Beach, and tickets are relatively cheap.
2. Sugar Factory Ruins
The New Smyrna Beach Sugar Factory Site is located on a historic plantation and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built more than two centuries ago, the factory offers visitors an interesting past when the area was desolate, rough and undeveloped.
According to historians, the mill ceased operations in the 1830s when the plantation was destroyed by Seminole raiders, who were not too happy about their ancestral land being plundered from their feet.
You won’t find a ton of amenities, but you’ll learn about the area’s fascinating past.
3. Ocean Discovery Center
Located on Barracuda Boulevard in New Smyrna Beach, the Ocean Discovery Center is not just another facility to look no further. In fact, for those interested in experiencing the region’s unique animals and habitats firsthand, there is no better place.
The center is home to thousands of native plants and animals that live in the region’s rivers, oceans, and marshes, and is actually part of a zoo, aquarium, and museum. This is one of the attractions not to be missed, especially for those traveling with children.
Staff-led ecotours are offered, as well as a variety of interactive exhibits and activities, so plan to spend over an hour.
4. New Smyrna Historical Museum
For the historically conscious visitor interested in immersing himself in the area’s interesting past, there’s no better place than the New Smyrna Historical Museum.
The museum’s exhibits begin in prehistoric times and go through the years, from the time when the Native Americans were the only human inhabitants to the time the area was explored and settled by descendants of Europeans.
Many guests find the Native American exhibits the most interesting. There are also numerous exhibits documenting the lives of the region’s first colonists, who were led by a doctor from Scotland.
5. New Smyrna Speedway
New Smyrna Beach is close enough to Daytona Beach that a day trip is an easy option for those looking to get a good look at the Daytona International Speedway. But for those who don’t want to spend their precious vacations behind the windshield, there’s a more convenient option for racing fans.
Although the New Smyrna Speedway isn’t as famous as its big brother in the North, it hosts a number of nationally recognized races and is known for its steep inclines and high average speeds.
The facility hosts several events throughout the year; since many of them are more regional in nature, getting tickets isn’t always difficult.
6. Atlantic Arts Center
Turnbull Bay in New Smyrna Beach is named after the people who originally settled the area. The Atlantic Center for the Arts is located on the scenic coast, allowing guests to enjoy some fantastic views.
In addition to its impressive collection, the center is unique in that it is both a temporary residence and a studio for artists from around the world. The grounds are dotted with several places where they live and work.
Part of the center’s charm is being able to watch and interact with artists at work. The center hosts a variety of arts and culture-related events throughout the year.
7. The hub of Canal Street
Downtown New Smyrna Beach is a unique mix of historic charm and modern culture, both of which are not common, and the hub of Canal Street is ground zero for those who want to enjoy both.
Shaded by majestic palm trees and historic buildings, Canal Street is filled with shops, galleries and small artist studios; it’s perfect for visitors looking to take an afternoon stroll or pick up a one-of-a-kind piece to remind them of their travels.
Almost all the works you will see are original works by local artists. The heart of Canal Street hosts many shows and festivals throughout the year, most of them during the cooler winter months.
8. The annual seaside carnival
For three decades, New Smyrna Beach’s annual Seaside Carnival has been drawing crowds, with a different theme each year.
Held near downtown along Flagler Avenue, the event was launched by local civic and business development organizations dedicated to promoting the area’s history, culture and natural beauty.
While you may have missed the festival this year, rest assured it will be back next June. With live entertainment, carnival-style games, rides and juicy street food, many previous guests noted that it was one of the most enjoyable activities they had experienced on their New Smyrna Beach trip.
9. Arts Festival
When talking about popular events in New Smyrna Beach, there are a few recurring themes; art and festivals are two of them.
The New Smyrna Beach Art Festival, held for four days in January at Riverside Park, was recently named one of the top 50 outdoor art shows in the country.
Considering the competition, this is an impressive ranking. In addition to being attended by hundreds of artists from dozens of countries, the festival is known as a hotspot for live music, food, and interactive activities for creative and energetic little ones.
10. Turnbull Bay Golf Course Reserve
Die-hard golfers heading to Florida’s central Atlantic coast can play two courses a day for weeks on end without running out of options.
The Reserve at Turnbull Bay Golf Course is one of the most popular courses in New Smyrna Beach. At just 6,400 yards, it’s slightly shorter than many of its contemporaries, and it’s perfect for those interested in competing in world-class competition without spending four or five hours.
The 18 holes of the par 72 course pass through a peaceful nature reserve. Although it’s only been in business since the mid-’90s, it’s already gained a loyal following who appreciate its beauty and value.
11. Cool beans, etc.
Whether it’s a steaming cup of caffeinated Java coffee, or the rich and sweet Italian ice you’re looking for, you’ll find it at Cool Beans and More.
Cool Beans is not only popular for its delicious drinks, but also because it has a cozy courtyard filled with shady seating, the perfect place to unwind after a long day.
Previous guests have pointed out that the prices are reasonable, the staff are friendly, and they visit Cool Beans in the area every day – sometimes in the morning and afternoon.
They also sell bags of locally roasted coffee beans from popular brands.
12. New Smyrna Brewing Company
From iced lattes and Italian ice to fresh orange juice and microbrews, there’s really no reason to be dehydrated in New Smyrna Beach.
While coffee and sweet fruit drinks have their place, many tourists really want a cold beer after a long day in the hot Florida sun.
Located on Canal Street in historic downtown, New Smyrna Brewing Company is known for its impressive variety of beers brewed on site. One of the perennial favorites is their flagship Shark Attack IPA, which is hoppy and even grapefruit-y.
While they don’t offer a full food menu, they do have flavored popcorn which is the perfect complement to cold brew.
13. Go to the beach
While the entire Atlantic coast is full of popular resort towns with beautiful and unique beaches, the area around New Smyrna Beach is especially known for its long beaches that are whiter, More tropical.
This is mainly due to the quartz content in the beach sand. In addition to a wealth of dining, lodging and entertainment options, the waves at New Smyrna Beach are a big draw for experienced surfers and beginners alike.
27th Avenue Beach, Bethune Beach, and Canaveral National Seashore are all popular beaches, but there are more to choose from.
14. Daytona International Speedway
Since its opening more than 60 years ago, Daytona International Speedway has been a global racing mecca, attracting racing fans from near and far.
The track’s namesake, the Daytona 500, is held every February in Florida when the weather is right. While race tickets can be very expensive and hard to come by, there are other ways to experience the track for those who don’t want to fight the crowds and spend their time.
On days when there are no other events, it is possible to walk along the track. There are also several guided tour options for those who want a real behind-the-scenes look.
15. Ponce de Leon Bay Lighthouse
At nearly 180 feet tall, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse towers over the coast of Florida and is the tallest of all lighthouses in the state.
The lighthouse’s fascinating history dates back nearly two centuries. While it sometimes runs out of oil used to create light and is structurally weakened by rough waves and erosion, it has stood the test of time.
Now, the lighthouse has been lovingly restored by a local conservation society. There are even 200 stairs to climb to the top for unobstructed views of land and sea.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in New Smyrna Beach, FL (FL)
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