With so many beach towns in Florida, how do you pick the best one to visit? I have traveled to several towns on both the gulf shore and Atlantic coast, and my top choice by far is New Smyrna Beach. What I enjoyed most about New Smyrna was that it has a perfect blend of exciting outdoor adventures and locally-owned unique restaurants, bars, and shops. I love that it didn’t have that touristy feel to it and you could always find something fun to do!
Here are some of the best places to hike, bike, boat, fish & eat in and around New Smyrna Beach!
There are two great nature parks that are worthy of checking out. The first is Smyrna Dunes Park. The park recently received 5.4 million dollars in improvements and has 2 miles of new elevated boardwalks (no more splinters from old wood). There are several overlooks that allow spectacular views of the Atlantic, the Indian River, and Ponce de Leon inlet. Try to spot the gopher turtles nesting in the dunes!
The boardwalk ends at a beautiful new fishing pier. The fishing pier is one of the best spots in the area to not only fish, but to also see dolphins jumping, swimming and for you to enjoy the gorgeous coastal waters. The address is 2995 N Peninsula Ave, New Smyrna Beach and the car admission is $10.00.
Gypsy Mama Bear Tips
- Be sure to have a fishing license if you are planning on doing any fishing off the pier
Another great place right off the boardwalk is an area known as “Dog Beach Park”. This is one of the rare Florida beaches where you will see excited pups with their owners frolicking along in the sand and waves! Bring your dog down for a tail-waggin’ good time!
Mosey on down further towards the jetty and you will capture photo opportunities for Ponce Inlet light house, a disappearing island, and many offshore fishing boats going out to sea.
The boardwalk will curve around past the fishing pier, dog beach, lighthouse, and the jetty. Just past the jetty you will see some of the best surfers around! New Smyrna Beach is ranked as a top 5 spot for best surfing in Florida!
The beach also has a claim to fame for being the shark bite capital of the world, though this does not seem to stop the surfers or the beach goers! If you ask some of the local surfers their thoughts on it, they would just view it as an opportunity for a cool new scar. I have personally seen these sharks while out in the water and can tell you that I would rather have all my fingers and toes, but to each their own!
Gypsy Mama Bear Tips
- Avoid swimming during the dawn and dusk hours, as these times are typically the most common for shark bites.
The 2nd must see stop is Canaveral National Seashore. If you close your eyes and try to visualize “real true Florida”, this is it! This beach has a beautiful coastline that has been protected to preserve its natural splendor. The tropical lush plants & vegetation, coastal dunes, pine flat woods, fresh & salt water marshes, mangroves, and hardwood swamps are unforgettable!
While you’re there, be sure to check out Turtle Mound. A thousand years ago, the Timucan Indians would eat oysters and clams and then discard the shells into a large mound, which is now called Turtle Mound. This massive mound of shells is 660 feet long and 50 feet tall! That’s a lot of oyster eating! Jealous!
The campground in the park has plenty of hiking trails to explore but my favorite thing to do here is bike 7.6 miles from the entrance to the last parking lot. (Just past the gate, there’s a pull off parking spot on the right side of the road that has plenty of spots). You will see the beautiful beach and natural shoreline on the left (east) side of the road and on the right (west) side is our lovely mosquito lagoon and inter-coastal-waterway. Cost to enter the park is $15 per car.
Gypsy Mama Bear Tips
- The currents and surf are extremely rough in this park. I’ve tried wading into the water just to my ankles and have been knocked down by waves. This isn’t a beach I would personally go swimming at because of this. There are calmer beach swimming areas in New Smyrna. I do recommend and love this area for history, nature, and beach walking and biking.
- The last Lot #5 parking lot is a “clothing optional” beach. There’s a good chance you will see nudists fishing, lying in the sun, or beach walking in this section of Apollo beach. If you wish to only view (non human) nature and want to skip that visual, do what I do, and turn around in lot #4.
- Take plenty of bug spray and sun screen (it is Florida after all!). If you feel like you are getting bitten on your legs but don’t see any bugs…. It’s most likely no-see-ums! Unfortunately, you will probably see the bite marks and welts from the nasty bugs after a few hours.
If you have the option of obtaining a boat, I would highly suggest venturing out to Disappearing Island. Disappearing Island comes and goes throughout the day based on the tides. This island is known for its great views of the lighthouse and a great place to see dolphins and manatees!
This is also a fun place to tie up your boat for a few hours, have a picnic, meet the locals, share some beverages, and listen to music. Ask the boat rental marina for directions and be sure to check the tide forecast. WARNING: watch out for unexpected shallow water! Use a depth finder on your boat and watch it closely…unseen islands sneak up fast and change locations each year!
Boat Rental-4 N Causeway NSB 386-444-0311 (Reservations needed)
Freedom Boat Club 177 N Causeway NSB (members club)
Offshore and Inshore Fishing
There are many offshore and inshore local captains in New Smyrna that offer wonderful opportunities to catch current in-season fish. If you can swing it, I’d make it a priority. Mosquito Lagoon is known as the Redfish Capital of the World. This area is a fisherman’s heaven because you can catch everything from redfish, red snapper, flounder, yellowfin tuna, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, trout, amber jack and shark! There are several marinas and bait stores in New Smyrna and I highly recommend asking a local which captain would be best suited for your bucket list desires! I have enjoyed every minute of both inshore and offshore outings there.
The charming beach town has two downtown areas, Flagler Avenue and Canal Street. Both are filled with wonderful shops, restaurants and pubs. Flagler Avenue is located near the beach, while Canal Street is located near the inter-coastal. The distance between the two is only about 2 miles. For the energetic, the 2 miles is a nice bike ride if you don’t mind riding up a hill on the north causeway bridge. There aren’t bike paths or trails the entire distance, so a car or Uber/Lyft may be best. Parking can also be a little tricky when visiting the downtown areas so plan on arriving early to your destination for free parking or you can use pay-for-parking lots by the beaches.
*Use my Lyft link for $5 ride credit!
- The Garlic
- If you’re looking for a unique restaurant experience with excellent food, then The Garlic is a must. The layout here is so quirky, it will take multiple visits to see everything! The restaurant has 2 bars and live music in each area. My favorite area was the Blu Bar for a glass of their House Montepulciano Red Wine. Be sure to call in ahead for reservations or turn your name in early to the hostess and relax at a seat at one the bars, the wait can be very long. If you have limited time, save this stop for another night. You will want to enjoy a long evening at this fantastic venue.
- Norwoods has been open since 1946 and has since added a tree-house bar upstairs and an indoor/outdoor bar downstairs. This restaurant has the best seafood and my favorite dish was the Mahi Mahi prepared “stack style”. Be sure to have a beverage after your dinner in the tree house to catch a gorgeous sunset and live music.
- The General Public House
- This is a great farm-to-table restaurant with home country cookin’. I loved the fresh fish with grits meal. The whiskey flight was a great nightcap!
- This is a fun, casual restaurant that has great scallops and amazing signature street salads. They are also famous for their $5 all day margarita. The outdoor seating makes your dinner a pleasant experience.
Thank you for taking time to venture with me on this New Smyrna Beach journey. With so many great options available in this beach town, you will have no trouble finding an experience that suits your bucket list. If you could take your trip here, what would you most look forward to do?
Comment below with your answer.