There’s another side to Daytona Beach with freshwater springs and vast wetlands teeming with tropical plants and unique wildlife; a history rich with stories of the indomitable human spirit; a genteel culture filled with art, music and drama, and a culinary tradition that runs from ultra-simple to very refined.
Top 10 Ways to Experience West Volusia!
1.) Blue Spring State Park
The largest spring on the St. Johns River, Blue Spring State Park is well-known as a winter refuge to a large number of West Indian manatees. Sometimes over 450 of these gentle giants can be seen in the warm spring waters, delighting onlookers with their playful antics. Strolls along the boardwalk showcase the spring run teeming with turtles, numerous kinds of fish, and elusive migratory birds. Swim in the crystal clear waters (seasonal), or have a picnic or barbeque at the pavilions. Camping, hiking trails, canoeing and kayaking on the St. Johns River are also available.
2.) Stetson Mansion
Built in 1886 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Stetson Mansion is one of the finest examples of Gilded Age architecture in the country. Designed by the noted architect George T. Pearson in 1886, it is a blend of cottage, Gothic, Tudor, Moorish, and Polynesian motifs, excellent examples of the high-style Victorian architecture. The eclectic and unusual design includes not only various complicated carvings, but 16 of the nation's most intricate parquet wood floor patterns, and 10,000 panes of leaded glass windows.Meticulously restored, the Mansion sits on two acres with a number of gardens, fountains, gazebos and a pool. Open for tour by reservation only.
3.) St. Johns River Eco Boat Tours
The St. Johns River was once the main highway for commerce and trade. In its heyday, paddlewheel boats regularly plied the waters, bringing goods and people to the region. Today, the St. Johns River, designated an “American Heritage River”, is an idyllic respite, teeming with abundant and varied wildlife and tropical plants. These boat tours offer the perfect opportunity for close-up views to enjoy – and photograph – the great beauty of this unspoiled paradise.
4.) Downtown DeLand
A nationally awarded Great American Main Street by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Downtown DeLand is also a designated Historic District. With 68 historic buildings, a stroll through the downtown area is a history buff’s delight. In keeping with West Volusia’s motto, “Old Florida, New Vibe”, the shops, restaurants, museums and theaters create a rich and vibrant lifestyle that honors the past, savors the present and lives for the future. Downtown DeLand offers year-round festivals and special events appealing to all ages.
Art and history lovers have several museums and galleries to explore. Murals depicting the area’s history are located throughout downtown, and a sculpture walk invites folks to enjoy the small-town atmosphere. Antique shops, eclectic boutiques and gift stores dot the core downtown, as well as a wide variety of great restaurants.
5.) Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge
Located 25 miles west of Daytona Beach and caught between temperate and sub-tropical climate zones, the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge is bordered by the magnificent St. Johns River and the Ocala National Forest. Open year-round, Lake Woodruff is a birder’s paradise where folks from around the world come for a glimpse of over 230 bird species and a variety of native wildlife. With more than 20,000 acres, its great variety of available activities includes nature photography, birding, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, fishing and boating.
6.) DeBary Hall
Built in 1871, this historic home was the winter retreat and hunting lodge of Frederick DeBary, a successful wine importer and sole purveyor of Mumm’s champagne in the United States. The home was once considered state-of-the-art in modern living.The many unique architectural and technical features of the home serve as the main significance for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. It is reputed that guests to DeBary Hall included Presidents Grant and Cleveland, European royalty, and General William Tecumseh Sherman. Take a tour of the home, completely restored with period furnishings or go on a virtual steamboat ride down the St. Johns River at the Imagidome Theater. DeBary Hall also serves as a trailhead for the multi-use Spring-to-Spring Trail.
7.) Lyonia Preserve and Environmental Center
Lyonia Preserve is a 360-acre scrub habitat established to restore and preserve sandy soil plants and small animal life. The conservation effort removed overgrown sand pines to re-establish bare sand areas with low-growing scrub plant species. The preserve has 3.5 miles of sugar-sand hiking trails where you are sure to meet the resident star, the Florida Scrub Jay, an inquisitive and friendly bird known to check out a visitor by landing on their head for a closer look.
The Environmental Center (in association with the Deltona Regional Library) educates and encourages the exploration of Volusia County’s diverse ecosystems. Regular programs foster community awareness, spirit, and involvement toward conservation and the environment. The library complex includes a 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater to host community activities, educational programs, and entertainment.
8.) DeLeon Springs State Park
Enjoy a refreshing swim in the tranquil, crystal clear DeLeon Springs State Park area fully accessible by stairs, ramp, and swimmer lift. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboats are available to explore the wildlife along the spring run. In addition to the spring, there are hiking trails leading through various terrains – home to over 125 species of birds and waterfowl, fishing, picnic pavilions with grills, and the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House,where diners can “cook-your-own” pancakes at the table.
9.) The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House
Located in DeLeon Springs State Park, The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House provides a one-of-a-kind experience where diners have the option of making their own pancakes at their table. Griddles are built into the table tops, providing easy access to delicious all-you-can-eat pancakes made with two different types of batters and suggested toppings of banana slices, blueberries, pecans or chocolate chips. If you aren’t into making your own breakfast, you can order from the extensive menu. Breakfast is served all day but if you are ready for lunch, choose from their fresh salads or delicious sandwiches served on their fresh-baked bread. Overlooking the beautiful spring run, the rustic charm of the Sugar Mill provides an ambiance you won’t find anywhere else.
10.) Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company
Nestled in the heart of historic downtown DeLand is one of the new breed of micro-brewers. Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company has gained a large following of local fans and visitors. Their list covers a wide range of brews and seasonal offerings, including India Pale Ale, Belgian White Ale, Belgian Stout, Red Ale, Bock Beer, Sour IPA, Brown Ale, Pumpkin Ale, and Belgian Strong Dark. The taproom has plenty of tables, subdued décor and vaulted ceilings. Their back door opens onto Artisan Alley, home of several great boutiques, an incredible farm-to-table restaurant and the famous Friday night farmers market.
Blog contributed by West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority.