Take a peek at anyone's bucket list and you will find that almost every one includes paying a visit to one of Florida's beautiful sandy beaches. However, because of their popularity, most of Florida's beaches are packed to the brim with tourists. At just an hour's drive outside of Orlando, New Smyrna Beach offers that lucrative drive-on Atlantic beach experience much like nearby Daytona Beach, but it has much less crowded sands and a quaint historic town nearby that makes it a must for any serious bucket list.
1. The Beach
The beach is, of course, the star attraction of New Smyrna and beloved by all of Florida, winning Florida's Best Beach award seven years in a row. Outside the town sits 10 kilometres of white sand perfect for sunbathing, swimming and strolling. Visitors can drive over the dunes right up to the shoreline to enjoy a day of beach merriment without the generous crowds of tourists that come with other Florida beaches.
2. A Long History
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While it may not seem like it today, visitors to New Smyrna are standing on a piece of history. As early as 2,000 BC, Timucuan Native Americans inhabited this stretch of land, making it what some historians believe to be the second oldest city in Florida. New Smyrna colony was officially set up by the British. Within the city's museums and 30 different historical sites, visitors are sure to be intrigued by the long history of this seemingly simple area.
3. The Atlantic Center for the Arts
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The city of New Smyrna continues to be a haven for the arts. The major attraction for the cultured visitor is the world-renowned Atlantic Centre for the Arts. This centre houses a collective of different artists from around the world where they create and share different ideas that push the boundaries of the artistic world. Inside, visitors can meet the artists and tour the centre's several different art galleries.
4. Sea Turtles
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Sea turtle nesting season begins in May and runs through the end of October. During that time, some sections of the beach are closed off as conservation areas, so visitors will have to view them from afar. Those who come to the beach at night can watch the sea turtles emerge from the surf to lay their eggs. Two months after the mothers nest in the sand, over 100 hatchlings can emerge from one nest and make their journey to the sea.
5. Eclectic Birding Opportunities
Bird watchers love New Smyrna Beach. They flock to the area by the thousands to view the 400 different species that call the area home throughout the year. The nearby Canaveral National Seashore is a protected bird sanctuary and the Indian River that runs outside the town provides a fertile ground for some unforgettable bird watching.
6. Pampering Spas
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While many of the hotels and condo developments in town host gyms and spa centres, the town also hosts a wide array of independent spa centres for visitors that need to relax. In town and even on the beachfront, visitors can find a spa to suit their every need. Whether it is to a massage or a pedicure, they have what you need.
New Smyrna Beach is well known to surfers. It offers up some of the best wave action on the eastern United States, with swells that can reach a metre in height. The town is also home to both the New Smyrna Beach Museum of East Coast Surfing and the famous Jimmy Lane Surfing Academy for beginners who haven't quite found their sea legs on the board just yet.
8. New Smyrna Speedway
Although New Smyrna is not far from Daytona and it's infamous Daytona International Speedway, the town caught racing fever from their neighbour and built up its own speedway. Visitors can enjoy auto racing every Saturday night from March through to December, with racing held nightly during events like the Governor's Cup and the World Series Asphalt Stock Car Races.
9. World Class Fishing
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New Smyrna offers both deep sea fishing adventures and lazy day angling on the Indian River. The town's docks are full of captains waiting for private charters while still having plenty of room for visiting boaters to rent a slip out. There are also opportunities for fishermen to test their skill competitively in local fishing tournaments like Memorial Day's FishStock.
10. River and Sea Cruises
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Not only does the Atlantic Ocean and Indian River attract hordes of fishermen, but they both serve as excellent places for a more leisurely water excursion. Among the fishing charters down at the docks are yachts and tour boats that head out to both of New Smyrna's perfect water destinations to view the expansive wilderness.