Road trips are a journey and the people you meet along the way are the highlights!
I must thank our family & friends for for being so gracious as to have us as guests while offering the comforts of home. You really made our trips extra special!
Since Florida is one of the only states in the U.S. with 2 full coasts of beaches, there are too many to count. I have been to some and the experiences are different each time.
For those of you who are geographically limited: the east coast reaches into the Atlantic and the west coast is in the Gulf of Mexico.
The east coast is cooler due to ocean winds, with temps varying fro 59F in winter to 89F in summer. The tides are stronger and the sand is white, but more rocky. The west coast has slightly warmer temps, with warmer water – sometimes 10-15 degrees higher. The sand is much softer and whiter on the gulf side, and it is know for washing up lots of shells.
East Coast -vs – West Coast
Let’s start with the my faves along the East Coast:
Central Florida’s beaches are just an hour outside of Orlando, leaving you plenty of time for the other touristy destinations. If you are road tripping, the next three are within an hour of each other:
Known as the “World’s Most Famous Beach”, it was known for the wild spring break parties you saw on Mtv, back in the 80’s and 90’s. It has recently undergone a bit of restoration, with the addition of the new Hard Rock Hotel. Daytona’s population is one of the largest of the central Florida beaches, at 55,000.
Being a big tourist destination, you many find the beach extra crowded on any summer day. Since it stretches for 23 miles, I am sure you will find a spot (subject to tides). It can be less crowded to enter the beach at one of the 26 entrances to the beach and park there.
Check the map at https://codb.us/407/Beach-Information before visiting to be sure. You can drive right onto the beach, but it will cost you $20 per day. There is also parking in some of the lots on Atlantic Ave. that charge by the hour.
From May 1st to Oct.31st, the sea turtles are known to nest here, so that explains why you may see areas roped off and protected.
Want to grab a bite to eat? Ocean Deck (https://oceandeck.com/) is a fun bar/ restaurant right on the beach, where you can sip a margarita on the deck and watch the waves roll in. The main pier also has a Joe’s Crab Shack for a more family atmosphere. There is a small amusement park for date night with a ferris wheel and go-karts along the boardwalk.
Daytona Beach Pier & Boardwalk
You should also cruise down Main St. and check out the tourist shops, restaurants and bars. Always check the city website for events before visiting, as local traffic can be unbearable during Daytona 500 (Feb.) Bike Week (March) and Biketoberfest (Oct.).
Daytona Bikeweek on Main St.
Starting in Feb., there are lots of live concerts around the clubs and on the main stage by the beach.
Daytona Speedway is also a must see and is just up the road – I recommend taking a tour of the speedway to get the feel of what its like to be on the track.
There are a ton of hotels along the coast, along with rentals on www.vrbo.com
We met here at Bikeweek 2014 and returned for our 2017 wedding at the newly renovated and lovely Holiday Inn & Suites:
We found love in Daytona Beach.
View from our room at the Holiday Inn
New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna is a smaller community, with a population of 22,000. The beach is smaller, so you get more of the local vibe here. You can drive onto the beach or park in the main lot for an hourly rate. There are also public bathrooms and showers, in case you plan on going for a stroll after a sandy and salty day.
Can’t beat this parking spot!
The village here is what draws so many tourists and locals – there are lots of small boutiques offering one of a kind souvenirs –
- Gifts With Humanity sells handmade Fair Trae certified items from all over the world. https://www.facebook.com/GiftsWithHumanity/
- There are also a few shops with handmade art and tees from the locals and imports from Bali, Mexico and South America.
Shopping in New Smyrna Beach village
There are many great restaurants to choose from, but our two favorites are:
- Flagler Tavern for the mahi sandwiches and island drinks: https://flaglertavern.com/
- Tayton O’Brian’s Irish pub – Ask for the ‘snakebite’ or ‘chocolate cherry’ (for a beer and cider combo). They are famous for their scotch eggs and of course, fish & chips: https://taytonobrians.com/
There are a few smaller motels and apartment or villa rentals in the beach area.
(check http://www.vrbo.com for condo rentals to fit your budget).
This is another small beach community, complete with local shops and restaurants. The population here is only 11,000.
There are 2 large bridges that cross the Indian River and the Banana River before you arrive at the coastal part of the city. Its a beautiful drive, so get your camera ready, co-pilot! It also borders Cape Canaveral, which is just to the north.
map of Cocoa Beach area
The beach is much wider here and less crowded. We always park in the main lot and pay hourly. The wooden footbridge is such a beautiful entrance onto the sand.
Our last trip, we ate lunch at a beachy, surf style grill called Murdock’s Bistro. The vibe here is fun – they had an acoustic guitarist inside that sounded great. The patio is large and a great place to enjoy the weather. Go for the southern style dishes on the menu – the fried okra is the best!
Ron Jon’s Surf Shop is a must for anyone looking for trendy summer clothing – not only do they print their name on anything and everything to do with the beach (swimwear and mugs to surf boards!), they also carry all the surf and skater style brands – Vans, Billabong, Volcom, Salt Life, etc.
Dinner was fun, tasty and affordable at Long Dogger’s – they have every type of fish – the Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl was delicious! Their ‘long hot dogs’ are a thing here – loaded with everything from pork and bacon to cheese and veggies. Their menu is also a bit long, but they have a ton of local craft brews on tap.
Of course, if you are in this area, you need to experience Kennedy’s Space Center in Cape Canaveral, for everything NASA.
Hope you enjoyed our suggestions for the East Coast of Central Florida. I would recommend staying for at least 2 days at each stop, so you have time to settle in & enjoy the sites!
Next up…West Coast beaches…