Florida is synonymous with Disney World and beaches. When the average person thinks of Florida beaches, the first ones that tend to come to mind are Miami, Daytona, and West Palm Beach. Little do people know, there’s a quaint sleepy beach town located 45 minutes east of Orlando International airport, between the Kennedy Space Center and Daytona Beach. That town, New Smyrna Beach, was voted Florida’s “ Best Beach” for three consecutive years.*
Open Beach — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
NSB, as the locals refer to it, attracts travelers stopping through for respite from Orlando. its visitors are fairly low number in number when compared to neighboring Orlando and Daytona; legitimately, it is one of Florida’s best kept secrets.
Preparing to Surf — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
There are several reasons why New Smyrna Beach might just be the best beach in Florida. Unique to New Smyrna Beach (and Daytona), when the tide is low, the beach width is favorably wide, measuring at 500 feet. This allows for beach goers to do much more than just lounge around. You’ll find people fishing early in the morning, running or jogging, riding their bikes, driving and picnicking, and of course, enjoying good old fashioned beach fun like building sand castles and playing football.
Fishing on the beach — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
Older resorts with little to no glitz line the beachfront. However, aesthetics and minimal amenities don’t keep the faithful away. The safe shores of the beach and the quiet environment that encompasses it, invite travelers back week after week and year after year. Condominiums like Coconut Palms enjoy prime real estate on the beach, offering their guests both private access, picnic and recreation space, as well as poolside relaxation. So whether their guests enjoy salt water or chlorine, the view before them is short of amazing.
The Little Drug Co. — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
The town of New Smyrna is an eclectic mix of the old and the new. In the downtown historic district, you’ll feel like you stepped back in time. Along Canal Street you’ll find boutiques, antique shops, and art galleries housed in turn-of-the-century buildings. One of the more nostalgic stores is a drug store/diner called the Little Drug Company. Its white face and blue lettering remind you of storefronts from the 50s. It even has a soda fountain inside and makes milk shakes the old-fashioned way: thick, creamy, and rich with malt. The only thing missing is a juke box.
Flagler Avenue — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
Closer to the beach and slightly livelier, Flagler Avenue is where you’ll find many of New Smyrna Beach’s boutiques, restaurants and, a few bars. Populated by mom and pop shops, Flagler has a relaxed hometown feel to it.
The Beacon Restaurant — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
Small eateries like the Beacon restaurant are warm and welcoming, helping to ease any outsider angst you may be shouldering. Grilled chicken tastes the way it’s supposed to, non-processed, and the shrimp basket leaves you satisfied. If you’re looking for the complete Florida seafood experience, you have to visit JB’s Fish Camp where you’ll find a large variety of seafood options, including alligator! The restaurant is spacious and stays busy with both indoor and outdoor seating. Hot Tip: Do not leave this establishment before enjoying a healthy slice of their creamy and addictive key lime pie.
Is this JB? — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
If you’re in the mood for something a little more Mediterranean and a short drive away from the beach, The Garlic, an Italian family-style restaurant may be what you’re looking for. Be sure to have cash on hand, as some restaurants and stores throughout New Smyrna do not accept credit card (The Garlic does).
Sunrise on New Smyrna Beach — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
Whatever your dining or recreational fancy, for a small sleepy beach town, New Smyrna has incredible variety. In addition to an open and pristine beach, you’ll find historic sites, fishing, and eco-tourism. As quiet as New Smyrna Beach is, it’s only a matter of time before the secret’s out and it makes more waves for itself.
*Voting conducted by the Orlando Sentinel
**Figures from 2011 Census