New Smyrna Beach: Florida’s Hidden Gem Vacation Destination

Just an hour from Orlando, tucked away between Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach, is a hidden gem most tourists have yet to discover– New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

A laid-back coastal community with luxury amenities, New Smyrna Beach, is known for its beautiful year-round weather, reliable waves, ecotourism, creative vibes, and authenticity. 

Those looking to escape the hectic pace of typical Florida vacation destinations will find New Smyrna Beach a welcomed retreat where they can enjoy a fulfilling yet relaxed experience.

Where to Stay in New Smyrna Beach

Black Dolphin Inn NSB
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

While searching for places to stay in New Smyrna Beach, you’ll likely notice only a handful of chain hotel options like the Springhill Suites by Marriott, Best Western, and the Hampton Inn. 

That’s because the real New Smyrna Beach experience lies within its independent hotels like The Salty Mermaid Oceanfront Hotel and luxury bed and breakfast options owned and operated by locals. Two notable bed and breakfasts in New Smyrna Beach include the Black Dolphin Inn and Victoria 1883. 

The Black Dolphin Inn, in particular, has won the AAA Four Diamond Award every year since 2014. Each room of its 14 rooms is uniquely designed with vintage furniture, fine art, and spa-inspired bathrooms. Most rooms also have large open-air balconies with gorgeous views of the Indian River. Breakfast menus change daily, are made to order, and can be delivered straight to your room. The Black Dolphin Inn is located just minutes from historic Canal Street, where you’ll find a variety of shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. 

Restaurants in New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach Restaurants (1)
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

Restaurants in New Smyrna Beach are plentiful, but you may be hard-pressed to find your favorite chain establishments– especially beachside. Instead, you’ll find family-owned dining options serving locally caught seafood and chef-inspired plates. 

For a great Sunday brunch, head to Outriggers and enjoy southern-style plates and refreshing cocktails while taking in the views of the Indian River. 

On historic Canal Street, you’ll find great restaurants like Cork Screw Bar and Grille, Yellow Dog Eats, and the City Market Bistro. 

For unique finds, check out Norwood’s Treehouse Bar (live music + causal bites in a tree), the global flavors of Third Wave Cafe, or the Polynesian-inspired plates at Avanu on Flagler. 

Beaches in New Smyrna Beach

Smynra Dunes Park, New Smyrna Beach, FL
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

With 17 miles of white sandy beaches and beautiful ocean, no visit to New Smyrna Beach is complete without a beach day! The best part? Many beaches have drivable hardpacked sand, eliminating the need to haul around heavy beach equipment!

Flagler Avenue Beach Access (521 Flagler Ave.): Located at the end of Flagler Avenue, this beach ramp is the most popular in the area. Not only can you park on the beach here, but you’ll also have access to a pavilion, courtyard, restrooms, and showers. It’s also within easy walking distance of Flagler Avenue’s shops, restaurants, and bars. 

Smyrna Dunes Park (2995 N. Peninsula Ave.): A gorgeous 184-area beach park, Smyrna Dunes Park is located on the south shore of Ponce Inlet. The park has over 2 miles of handicap-accessible boardwalk with scenic overlooks and a fishing pier. Those hoping to bring Fido along will be delighted to know that there is dog-friendly beach access and even showers for your furry friend! Other amenities include restrooms, showers, and a food truck.

Mary McLeod Bethune Beach (6656 S. Atlantic Ave.): Located about a mile from the Canaveral National Seashore beach entrance, Mary McLeod Bethune Beach is known for its unique beaches in a more remote area. This beach has restrooms, showers, picnic pavilions, and a beachfront sidewalk.

The riverside park area, just a short distance away, offers pickleball, tennis, volleyball, basketball, and a fishing pier. There are also opportunities to spot manatees, dolphins, and pelicans!

Surfing Lessons from Local Legends

New Smryna Beach Surfing
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is considered one of the top surfing destinations in the country and was once listed as one of the best in the world by National Geographic! American Surf Magazine has also said, “the waves in New Smyrna Beach are the best you will find in Florida!” Waves here have been described as “consistent and reliable” year-round. Annual surf competitions are held in New Smyrna Beach, and the city is home to internationally known pro surfers.

Those looking to get out on the water and learn the art while on vacation are in luck! Jimmy Lane, a local legend who went pro, now operates the Jimmy Lane Surfing Academy in New Smyrna Beach. Adults and kids can take surfing lessons with locals like Joe Surbaugh, who hasn’t missed a New Smyrna Beach wave in over 50 years! 

Canaveral National Seashore Kayaking

Canaveral National Seashore Kayaking, New Smyrna Beach
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

With its proximity to the Canaveral National Seashore, outdoor adventures in New Smyrna Beach are plentiful. Kayak tour operators like Viking Eco Tours provide expertly-led opportunities to spot resident manatees, playful dolphins, and numerous bird species while taking in the views. The area is also known for its bioluminescence, providing nighttime kayaking experiences where the plankton produces an incredible blue-green light display when the water is agitated. 

Sugarworks Distillery

Sugarworks Distillery, New Smyrna Beach
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

Sugarworks Distillery, owned and operated by the McPeek family, is a beloved gathering spot known for great cocktails and live music. Using his scientific background, Tom McPeek produces whiskey, bourbon, and vodka, among others, all in-house, and is always enthusiastic about giving tours to those interested in the distillation process. 

Historic Canal Street

Historic Canal Street, New Smyrna Beach
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

New Smyrna Beach’s historic Canal Street is an excellent place to spend an afternoon. You will find locally-owned shops and boutiques, art galleries, fine dining options, and the New Smyrna Beach Museum of History

For those who enjoy music and the arts, a visit to The Hub on Canal is a must! The hub, a nonprofit organization, is home to the artwork of more than 70 local and regional artists. There are also 17 working studios where you can chat with the artists and admire their masterpieces come to life! Check out their calendar while you’re in town, as The Hub on Canal also hosts live music and events throughout the year. 

Shopping along historic Canal Street includes boutiques like The Posh Pineapple and LuSea, where you’ll find the latest in Florida fashion and unique gifts to take home. 

Flagler Avenue

Flagler Avenue, New Smyrna Beach
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

Named after Henry Flagler, the famous industrialist and railroad builder, Flagler Avenue is the city’s main beach street, where you can find restaurants, bars, boutiques, surf shops, inns, and the beach! Fun events like wine walks, block parties, music festivals, and live entertainment can also be found here. 

Marine Discovery Center

Florida manatee
Photo Credit: [@svetas/DepositPhotos]

The Marine Discovery Center is an excellent place for families and nature enthusiasts to explore one of North America’s most diverse estuaries! With a “hands-on, feet wet” approach, vacationers can go on eco-tours, by boat or kayak, of the Indian River Lagoon, where they’ll have opportunities to spot manatees, dolphins, shorebirds, and other wildlife while guided by certified Florida naturalists. 

Ponce Inlet & Lighthouse Museum

Ponce Inlet and Lighthouse Museum
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

A national historic landmark, the Ponce Inlet & Lighthouse Museum is an excellent place to explore, take in the views, and learn about the area’s history. The grounds consist of original structures turned into museums, along with the lighthouse that leads to gorgeous views of the Ponce Inlet. Visitors can take guided or self-guided tours of the property and climb the 203 steps to the top of the lighthouse! 

Your New Smyrna Beach, FL Vacation Awaits

New Smyrna Beach
Photo Credit: [@Alexandrea Sumuel]

Those looking for an authentic Florida beach vacation should look no further than New Smyrna Beach! A happy beach community filled with locally-owned establishments, luxury bed and breakfast stays, and a whole lot of creative vibes, New Smyrna Beach, is an excellent place for families, couples looking for a romantic getaway, and anyone else looking for a laid-back escape.

This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.