When planning your next vacation in Daytona Beach, you already know the wide-open sand, surf and sun are big draws here. You’ll no doubt add in some shopping time. And you can’t very well shop without sampling Daytona Beach’s vast and delectable assortment of foods and beverages. 

For a sweet diversion from the waves and endless beachside activities, check out a bit of Florida’s unique and richly woven history. Set aside a couple hours for a trip to the Dummett Sugar Mill Ruins — located about 25-minutes north of Daytona Beach.

Who were the Dummetts?

In 1825, Colonel Thomas Dummett, an officer in the British Marines and one of the first speculators in the area, bought the John Bunch plantation. The land was originally among one of many land grants given to John Moultrie, who was the deputy governor of eastern Florida. In 1777, Moultrie completed construction on “Rosetta,” the affectionate name for the plantation where he would grow sugarcane, indigo, rice and corn before the British ceded Florida back to Spain in 1783. 

Long negotiations created the Florida Purchase Treaty, and through the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Florida was placed into U.S. hands in 1819. John Bunch had been able to acquire the Rosetta land in 1804, selling it to Colonel Dummett 21 years later.

The approximately 2,100 acres were located near the mouth of the Tomoka River and a mile west of present-day Tomoka State Park. Using the first steam-powered cane-crushing mill in the region, which Dummett shipped from Barbados, he produced sugar and rum with the help of roughly 40 local Indians and 100 slaves. In turn, the Indians traded fresh game for the mill’s products.

While Dummett was known for befriending the natives, in the end there was little he could do to heal the wounds of losing their land. War was on the horizon.

Colonel Dummett’s daughter Anna wrote her memoirs of their time on the plantation, describing their big, well-appointed log house that had a thatched palmetto roof and a lush yard of Bermuda grass and live oaks. There are accounts of Anna playing with slave children and teaching them to read. The Dummett family hosted many parties and lived quite well for the times — until the Second Seminole War of 1835 drove them to St. Augustine. Colonel Dummett died in St. Augustine in 1839 at age 64.

What can we see today

A portion of the sugar mill remains today, located on Old Dixie Highway about two miles north of the Tomoka State Park entrance. The landmark is very casual (meaning no facilities), accessible for kids and free to see.

For more information, call 386-676-4050.

What’s nearby?

The Dummett Sugar Mill Ruins are the perfect add-on to a short, family-friendly hike in Tomoka State Park. Home to more than 160 species of birds, the park protects a variety of habitats and species, including the West Indian manatee.

The easy, half-mile interpretive nature trail meanders through a hardwood hammock that once had been an indigo field for a British landowner in the 18th century. Visitors can also walk through the ancient village site of Nocoroco, a Timucuan Indian community on the Tomoka River.

If you’re in for more than a short stroll, Tomoka State Park is the gateway to

Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail, a 34-mile passage through live oak canopies, subtropical forests and saltwater marshes.

While at Tomoka, rent a canoe or have a casual family picnic before your quick drive back to the surf and sand of Daytona Beach.

Put this easy afternoon of history on your list of things to do on your next vacation to Daytona Beach. It’s never too soon to make your Daytona Beach vacation plans!

(Note: photo above is of Sugar Mill Botanical Garden ruins.)