Visiting Daytona Beach - What to See and Do
(Daytona Beach International Airport DAB, USA)
Motor racing enthusiasts and spring breakers are well-versed in the star power of Florida's Daytona Beach
. For decades, this beach city on the Atlantic has been a hot spot for college breaks, bikers and motorheads. Though it still hosts a series of major races like the Daytona 500 and fun gatherings like March's Bike Fest, there is more to this spot than the obvious diversions.
For starters, Daytona Beach has a surprisingly solid art museum, interesting science center and plenty of evening entertainment. The city has also done a good job of redeveloping the central beachfront strip into the snazzy new Ocean Walk Village, with its plentiful shops, eateries, tourist attractions and drinking establishments. It is right next to the classic Main Street Pier, which has also seen some sprucing up in recent years.
The beach remains the highlight of Daytona and the city makes a point of keeping it very accessible to everyone. You can drive on sections of the sand, watch nesting sea turtles in season and enjoy a bit of solitude at the southern end of town, near Ponce Inlet.
Ten things you must do in Daytona Beach
- The Main Street Pier has always been the centerpoint for local beach life. It is the longest wooden pier on America's east coast, offering a place to watch the sun rise, go fishing or just mingle with the tourists. A slick chairlift carries people along its length, suspended about 9 meters / 30 feet in the air. From here, the fantastic boardwalk begins with its funky line-up of souvenir shops, bars and eateries.
- Daytona Beach has been touting itself as the 'World's Most Famous Beach' for decades, and in many people's opinion it is a deserved title. Of the 24 miles / 39 km of hardpack sand, 18 miles / 29 km are open for the public to drive on during daylight hours. This has created a whole sub-scene of dune buggy riding, four-wheeling and other fun motorized activity, right to the sea's edge. You have to go slow and follow the rules, but only a few beaches in America let you do this.
- The latest beachside development in Daytona is the US$400 million Ocean Walk Village. This fresh and lively entertainment complex starts at the Main Street Pier and stretches for several blocks north. It is filled with nice restaurants, bars, movie theaters, shopping and even a large hotel. It is just another great way to hang out along the beach besides the boardwalk and pier.
- Even if you're not a big fan of lighthouses, it is definitely worth spending a day at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum. Built in the 1880s, it is the country's second-tallest lighthouse, surrounded by lovely brick Victorian buildings and a scenic park. You can climb to the lookout at the top of the lighthouse for some very rewarding views, or browse the 12 exhibits that present the history and role of this beautiful brick and granite lighthouse.
- The Daytona International Speedway is one of the world's greatest auto racing venues. When the nine or so races aren't being held at the track, you can check out the state-of-the-art Daytona 500 Experience. This high-tech attraction has some very appealing interactive exhibits and rides that let you experience the thrills of racing at high speed. The IMAX theater's film is also superb, and lots of displays present photos, memorabilia and other treasures from the races.
- With some 25 golf courses within 30 minutes of the city, Daytona Beach is a perfect golfing destination. The weather is great all year round, and the greens fees at the public courses are really cheap. From the Indigo Lakes Golf Course to the semi-private Pelican Bay Country Club, just ask your hotel to arrange your tee time and rentals. Golfing is one of the most popular activities for visitors.
- You can get a solid dose of culture in Daytona as well. Just head to the Museum of Arts and Sciences for an eclectic mix of art, natural history and astronomy that really covers the spectrum. Its Cuban art collection is a highlight, while the planetarium has a great 30-minute show. Kids will also have lots to do here, especially in the Charles and Linda Williams Children's Museum, with all its clever hands-on exhibits catering to the little ones and their impatient sense of curiosity.
- Without a doubt the prettiest and quietest beach around is the Lighthouse Point Park. Perched on the extreme southern end of the peninsula, it has no vehicle traffic to disturb the calm. With 52 acres / 21 hectares of pristine beach to work with, you can easily find a private place to walk, swim, fish or picnic. Nature trails and a neat observation tower add to the attraction.
- To get an in-depth education of the marine environment along this part of Florida's coast, stop by the Marine Science Center. Its exhibits showcase the different ecosystems on the coast, while educational workshops teach visitors about issues like the local sea turtles struggle to survive. Its aquarium is home to many rehabilitated sea turtles and seabirds.
- If you have any interest in deep-sea fishing, then Daytona Beach is a great place to try it out. There are several charter companies like the Critter Fleet that run daily fishing trips, either all day long or shorter morning and afternoon jaunts. Rates are very reasonable, and the outfitter provides all the gear and bait to fish for red snapper, cobia, sea bass, shark and more.