Picture your ideal beach vacation. There you are, watching the sun rise above the earth’s distant curve, the breaking waves and calling birds, the only sounds. Wait! Not your ideal beach vacation? How about this: One moment you are on a jet ski. The next, you are one with the sky, parasailing at 600 feet over the beach, the arc of the land, the schools of fish below.
Whatever your imagined scenario, in Daytona Beach you can custom-style a vacation that’s perfect for you, on a white-sand beach 23 miles long. In some places, it stretches 500 feet out to sea at low tide, as picture-perfect as your vacation, which unfolds like a beach daisy every day.
Let’s get moving
Whatever your heart desires, you’ll find it here. Picture yourself surfing some of the best waves on the Atlantic Ocean coast, or skimming over them in an ocean kayak. Is there anything more challenging? Maybe. Standup paddleboarding might please your wilder instincts, or try a boogie-board, which is kinder to most people’s pride. You can rent the equipment while you’re here, the boogie board — or perhaps a beach bicycle or umbrella-shaded lounge chair — from a vendor set up right on the sand.
Between your morning stretch and your nighttime encounter with a fluffy pillow, how about something that is familiar, but also more interesting? We’re talking about driving on the beach, a Daytona Beach tradition continuing still, except in the drive-free zones, which, too, are plentiful.
Cruise down the beach ramp, pay the $10 car fee and you are on your way. Later, park and walk in the path of ancient people and hunt for seashells, sea beans and sea glass treasures smoothed by the waves.
How do we love thee?
We love the beach above water on a fishing boat, and below water, off a dive boat, and we love the thrill of sailing through the rocky jetties of Ponce de Leon Inlet on the way out to sailfish, marlin, and amberjack country. For divers, natural and artificial reefs and shipwrecks attract everything from shrimp to huge lobsters, lurking 80 feet down.
Piers were invented so you can fish and avoid water and boats. Fish from the Daytona Beach Pier, the longest on the east coast, and eat at famous Joe’s Crab Shack. Or, have breakfast at Crabby Joe’s on the Sunglow Pier in Daytona Beach Shores, which opens at sunrise. Both are ideal places later on for holding hands in the twilight at sunset.
Are you game?
Then don’t miss the Boardwalk, stretching along the central beach and filled with family-run shops and arcades, with indoor and outdoor rides.
The Ocean Walk Shoppes, an entertainment center with shopping, restaurants and movie theaters, is nearby, as is the historic Bandshell, the place for free concerts Friday and Saturday nights from the end of May through September. The concerts feature top tribute bands, and there’s a fireworks show at 9:45 p.m. Saturdays to light up the beach.
Everywhere along the beach, cooks know their way around the kitchen. Whether it’s a beachside hotel, patio bar or restaurant, you’ll find everything from ahi to ziti.
Plenty of parking
Beachfront parks are strung like a necklace from Ormond-by-the-Sea south to Lighthouse Point Park in Ponce Inlet, plus a half-dozen others in between. Most parks perch atop a dune, a good vantage point for viewing brown pelicans and other permanent residents, or seasonal visitors, like you. When the moon is full, watch it rise from a nearby park and join the local photographers and full-moon howlers.
As your day’s adventure draws to a close, you recall the sense of hospitality you’ve experienced, wherever you’ve been, wherever you’re staying. You feel it in the grand hotel, and also in the homey inn where the owners are waiting up. You sense it in the RV park, and off the beaten path in the antique-filled B&B, and now in the reopened Streamline Hotel, where Bill France Sr. met with friends in 1947, and NASCAR was born.
Even as the world changes, friendliness and tradition endure here.
Excerpted from the Daytona Beach Visitors Guide, produced by The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Download a Visitor Guide today!