New Smyrna Beach is a quaint little seaside town located on what has been called the Fun Coast of Florida
. It's surrounded by bodies of water with the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Intracoastal Waterway to the west. On land Daytona Beach
is to its north and Edgewater and the Canaveral National Seashore
are to the south. The city covers a total area of a little over 30 square miles. Incorporated in 1887, New Smyrna Beach prides itself on being a laid-back coastal town without the crowds and noise that you go on vacation to escape. It is the ideal place to go if you like being on the beach or on the water. New Smyrna Beach offers excellent backwater and offshore fishing, golf, historical sites and the chance to experience nature up close. They also offer wonderful shopping
and dining opportunities along historical Flagler Avenue and Canal Street.
New Smyrna's beaches are some of the best in the world, with over 13 miles of white sand that include many public parks. It's a premiere surfing destination and known as the shark capitol of the world. Shark bites are rare, and usually happen when there are bait fish in the water, so the majority of surfers have no problems riding the waves year round. In December 08, Maxim magazine ran an article called Shark Beach that pointed out New Smyrna Beach's dubious distinction. Along with being able to do the usual beach things like, sunbath and build sandcastles, you can also drive your car along the beautiful New Smyrna Beaches and rent these cute little beach buggies. The speed limit of 10 miles an hour is strictly enforced and you must stay off the dunes.
Smyrna Dunes Park
Smyrna Dunes Park
is at the northern tip of the New Smyrna Beach peninsula and is surrounded by water on three sides so visitors can arrive by land or by sea. The waters from the Indian River flow through Ponce Inlet
here into the Atlantic Ocean which makes it a great park to fish or swim, there is also a great view of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
from here. The park is home to a variety of animals, birds, reptiles, marine life and vegetation, they offer guided nature walks and educational programs if you are interested. They have three miles of elevated wooden walks here that are beautiful, picnic areas, pavilions and an observation tower that lets visitors to enjoy the park without damage to the sensitive sand dunes. Smyrna Dunes Park is one of a few county parks where dogs are welcomed; however, they must be leashed at all times. The park is open from sunrise to sunset and there is small admission fee.
If you'd like to visit the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, the New Smyrna Beach Water Taxi
runs up the river and makes stops at several locations including the Marine Discovery Center
, where there is plenty of parking, Riverside Park and Canal Street. There is a small fee including round trip, one way and family rates, the water taxi runs seven days a week.
Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore is a 58,000 acre park located on a barrier island you can access through New Smyrna Beach to the north and through Titusville to the south. The Canaveral National Seashore is a habitat for 14 different species of federally-listed threatened or endangered animals; it is the second largest number in the entire National Park Service.
More about Canaveral National Seashore »
New Smyrna Beach is known for its art and is home to the Atlantic Center for the Arts
. There are many galleries on Canal Street
and throughout the town; some specialize in local pottery and some in landscape art, some paint from galleries and some right on the sidewalk. Canal Street is also known for its wonderful antique shops too.
is where you'll find many of the trendy beachside boutiques. Inlet Charley's is a premier surf shop that has been in New Smyrna Beach for twenty years, it's where the locals go to find the latest in surf gear, apparel and footwear. They also have many quaint outdoor restaurants and bistros. One trendy beach front place is Chases on the Beach. Chases offers casual oceanfront dining, fresh local seafood, two full bars including a Tiki bar and children's playground but one of the best things about Chases is that if you're driving on the beach you can pull up, park you car and head up the steps to enjoy a tropical drink on their deck.
Marine Discovery Center
The Marine Discovery Center
is a world-class marine educational facility that features a bird rescue and rehabilitation center. The Center gives visitors to the area a great way to experience all the natural wonders of New Smyrna Beach. They have a "hands-on, feet-wet" policy toward education meant to raise awareness in both children and adults about the critical importance of Florida's coastal ecosystems with a special focus on the Indian River Lagoon. They offer narrated tours that provide a close-up view of the Indian River Lagoon both by pontoon boat and guided kayak tours, all tour guides are certified Florida Master Naturalists. Rates and hours for these cruises change, depending on the time of year so be sure to contact them and check their schedule when planning a visit.
New Smyrna Beach has a vast eco-system including the Atlantic Ocean, Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon, marsh areas and an inlet. Mosquito Lagoon is known as the Redfish Capitol of the world and boasts some of the best fishing in Florida
. The Mosquito Lagoon borders the Canaveral National Seashore. It's part of the Indian River Lagoon system and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and extends from Ponce Inlet to the north end of Merritt Island this means it runs next to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
too. It connects to the Indian River through the Haulover Canal and divides the city of New Smyrna Beach. If you're more of a bird watcher this place is a bird lover's paradise too; there are all kinds of sea birds, haws, Osprey and even the elusive Florida scrub jay can be found here.
The area was settled in 1768, along the west bank of the Indian River, opposite one of Florida's few inlets by Scottish physician Dr. Andrew Turnbull who called the colony "New Smyrna." The colony is notable in history because it was the single largest attempt by a member of the British Crown to colonize in the New World. Dr. Turnbull transplanted around 1200 settlers from the Mediterranean area to grow hemp, sugarcane, cotton, corn, rice and to produce rum. The colony didn't work out due to diseases, Native American raids and mistreatment by Turnbull. The remaining colonists marched north to St. Augustine in 1777 soon after St. Augustine
was returned to the Spanish and Turnbull abandoned his colony for life in Charleston, South Carolina. The physical legacy of this colony remains in the form of stone ruins and subsurface artifacts all around the area.
The Spanish reclaimed Florida from the British in 1784, but had trouble controlling the huge and essentially unpopulated land. The United States acquired the colony from Spain in 1819 and established the Territory of Florida in 1821.
The area was only sparsely populated until after the American Civil War in the 1860s then in 1887 the town of New Smyrna was incorporated with a population of 150. In 1892, with the arrival of Henry Flagler and his Florida East Coast Railway the area's economy, which was based on the tourism, citrus, and commercial fishing industries increased.
In the 1920s, during prohibition, the city and its river islands were popular still sites and hideouts for rumrunners coming in from the Bahamas through Mosquito Inlet, now called Ponce de León Inlet
. "New Smyrna", became "New Smyrna Beach" in 1947, when the city annexed the seaside community of Coronado Beach.
Not unlike St. Augustine, New Smyrna has stood under four flags; first the British, then the Spanish, the American flag of 1845, then the Confederate Jack, and finally by the stars and stripes.
Today, New Smyrna Beach is a bustling seaside town of over 20,000 year round residents and over 1,000,000 visitors annually.
History, culture, the arts, water sports, beaches, nature, golf, and tennis New Smyrna Beach is the perfect vacation spot because it can suit a variety of tastes.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com