Daytona Beach: An Intro to Volusia County, Florida
Volusia County encompasses the Central East part of Florida. Volusia County includes the towns of Daytona Beach Shores, Ormond Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Daytona Beach, and DeLand. All of the cities make up the greater Daytona Beach Area. It runs from the Atlantic Ocean west to the St. John’s River.
The geographical makes vacationing or visiting these Florida cities a plus because they are so close in proximity that you can enjoy them all within only a few minutes drive. Each town is full of interesting things to do, entertaining everyone in your family. I visited Volusia County this past summer and was both surprised and awed by these small town gems.
Exploring Volusia County’s Greater Daytona Beach Area
I had seen Ormond Beach advertised but I never knew where it was. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon it, only a few minutes from Daytona Beach. Ormond Beach is a beautiful beach community that has a large artist population and almost non-existent crowds. Since Ormond Beach’s prices are well below typical coastal Florida rates, I found this to be a wonderful vacation option.
Nature lovers flock to Tomoka State Park for camping, canoeing, boating, and fishing. The park attracts birdwatchers with its 160 different species. You can also find The Casements (John D. Rockefeller’s winter home), state parks, and mini golf in Ormond Beach. Visit in December to see Ormond’s Beach Holiday Tour of Homes.
DeLand is a hidden jewel that I recommend to both tourists and locals. This brick and mortar town has a retro feel with a down-home friendliness that makes you feel welcome and wanted immediately. Historic buildings don plaques that share the age and original function of them. Due to a fire in the early 1900’s, many buildings in DeLand were burned; some have been restored, though they mix quite well with the modern ones.
Downtown DeLand has your typical Main Street USA feel. Locals are exuberantly proud and supportive of their town. The historic and lovely Athens Theater dates back to the early 1900’s. Independent businesses offer bistros, cafes, shopping, and art. My favorites are the two vinyl stores bursting with cool music and the Museum of Art Store. Be sure to check out the 12 painted murals from 1998, long before street art was a popular attraction. Festivals are abundant in DeLand; look online for the schedule.
DeLand’s Ever Popular Hot Spots
While in DeLand, be sure to tour the famous Stetson Mansion, marking its 150th birthday this year. Seasonal and year-round tours are available to see the famous hat-maker’s opulent winter escape. The Stetson Mansion is currently owned by JT Thompson and Michael Solari, who welcome you into their home. Note that this is also a popular wedding venue.
Skydive DeLand is a world-class entertainment option. If you do not wish to skydive, just watching is thrilling. Should you choose to skydive, the cost is roughly $1400 for the schooling to become certified. After certification, you can either purchase or rent your equipment and assume you are packing your own chute, jumps are only $25. Skydive DeLand hosted an international competition back in March and people from around the world participated.
Are you a key lime fan? Well, one of the best known key lime shops in the world is right here in DeLand. Kermit’s Key West manufactures all of their desserts at this DeLand location. Best of all they offer shoppers discounted prices at their store. Kermit’s also sells products such as jellies, salsas, taffy, and gift baskets. In case you are wondering who Kermit is, he is the pie thrower in Key West with the best key lime items anywhere.
If you are a lighthouse fan, Volusia County has a fantastic one for you. The Ponce de León Inlet Lighthouse is Florida’s tallest, stretching 175 feet in the sky with its fabulous red tower. Built in 1887, this lighthouse sits on a gorgeous remote peninsula. It has been in operation for more than 115 years. This National Historic Landmark includes a tour of surrounding buildings where the lighthouse keepers and caregivers lived and worked. School and group tours are available.
Driving through the inlet is highly scenic and offers great photo opportunities. If outdoor adventures are your forté, Ponce Inlet Dolphin and Manatee Eco-Tours provide Intracoastal Waterway cruises with opportunities to cast nets and comb the islands for seashells. Ponce Inlet Water Sports will entertain you with the likes of water skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing charters.
New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach is labeled one of the “100 Best Small Art Towns in America”. I found it to be upscale and trendy, while still offering that throwback Florida feel. The Atlantic Center for the Arts is one of NSB’s big draws. It is an artists residency that draws musicians, poets, visual artists, composers, and writers several times to mesh their talents into pure magic. There are ongoing programs throughout the year, including summer art camps, holiday home tours, and the annual Images- Festival of the Arts. Admission to the Festival is free and showcases the works of nearly 250 artists.
Another art space that will wow you is the 9,000 square feet Hub on Canal. Here, over 75 artisans and artists gather in a common workspace and show off their talents and treasures. Drop in to watch the artists work and make a purchase. The Hub on Canal participates in community outreach to disabled, underserved populations, and the elderly through therapeutic art classes, teen and children’s art classes, and tutoring/reading/writing classes for young children. The Hub is open 7 days a week, allowing everyone to drop by and enjoy their events.
Flagler Avenue is a historic street running 5 blocks long, from the river to the ocean, where you can shop for treasures, have a meal, or enjoy people watching. Flagler features the “Walk of Fame” with engraved bricks. This area is a must when visiting New Smyrna Beach.
The Perfect Spot (located inside of Skydive DeLand) offers omelets and potato pancakes, but the best part is watching the skydivers in action around you. Choose an outside seat for the best view.
The Grille at Riverview, in New Smyrna Beach, is hard to beat. The views of the Intracoastal Waterway are fantastic and you might even spot a dolphin or manatee. Be sure to try the Strawberry and Brie Salad as well as the Bruschetta Pomodoro.
The trendy Rose Villa transports guests back to a Prohibition-era speakeasy. This is the only Absinthe lounge in the area; ask the bartenders to share its history and magic with you. Supposedly, you will “chase a green fairy” if you drink too much of it. Rose Villa’s Southern dishes with a modern flair are highly enjoyable. Although the Lobster Macaroni & Cheese and Cauliflower Soup are great, be sure to save room for dessert.
Racing’s North Turn is a historic landmark sitting on the spot where racing began, in Ponce Inlet. Memorabilia from the sport’s origin until the races moved to the International Motor Speedway fill the restaurant. Though the food and drinks at Racing’s North Turn were impressive, the sunset was the star of the show. I recommend the Lobster Salad Roll, Mahi Frangelico, and the bangin’ Bacon-Cabbage Hash as a side dish.
The Cracked Egg Diner is a retro cafe with superb breakfast entrees. House favorites include the Eggs Chesapeake (Benedict with a crab cake), Corn Beef Hash (with eggs), and the Cracked Egg Omelet (topped with sausage gravy). Do not miss the homemade apple fritters tossed in cinnamon sugar.
Volusia County Photo Gallery:
You can find more information about the Original American Beach, Daytona Beach, here.
Special thanks to the Daytona Beach Area CVB for the hospitality, meals, and having me. As with all posts on this site, all opinions and conclusions are 100% my own and unbiased.
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