It can be difficult living in the shadow of giants but it doesn’t’t seem to bother New Smyrna Beach, an Old-style Florida town on the state‘s east coast an hour northeast of Orlando and minutes south of Daytona Beach.

With Orlando being the theme park capital of the world and Daytona Beach having a worldwide reputation for motor car racing, New Smyrna Beach could easily suffer from intimidation and lack of identity, but this not the case.

“We are the very antithesis of Orlando,” said a spokesperson for the New Smyrna Beach Visitors Bureau referring to the town’s casual environment, laid-back character and lack of frenetic activity.

Instead of wall to wall theme parks, high-rise buildings and continuous hustle and bustle, the attractions in this community that locals pronounce “New Sumerna” the attractions here are eco-tourism, the arts, fishing, eclectic shopping in small merchant-owned stores, un-crowded beaches and outstanding dining opportunities that far exceed what is expected from a town of its size.

Geographically, New Smyrna Beach is bisected by the Intracoastal Waterway with a westerly mainland and an easterly island accessible via two bridges. The island’s Atlantic perimeter boasts a 17-mile stretch of white sand beach flanked by undulating dunes and masses of sea oats. While many Florida beaches claim to be the best, none outshine New Smyrna’s where, unlike many others, there is no endless line of high-rise hotels and condos lining the beachfront.

The island’s main road is Flagler Ave., a five-block walkable street lined with quaint shops selling one-of-a-kind items including clothing, jewellery, original art, souvenirs and more.

There is also number of professional artisans such as Kyle Carni, a master glass blower who not only turns out remarkable glass art and sculptures in his studio (Galleria di Vetro) but vacationers can sign up for a four-hour introductory glass blowing class. Almost any time of year, this street lined with funky-coloured shops and restaurants is a hive of activity.

The Breakers, a seaside restaurant at the east end of the street boasts – with certain justification – its burgers are the best in the world. Beyond Flagler Ave., Norwoods Restaurant, The Garlic and The Spanish River Grill are among many outstanding dining spots along 3rd Ave., a street rumoured soon to be renamed, Eat Street. For an Old Florida-style seafood meal, there is no spot more fitting than JB’s Fish Camp at the south end of the island. Regular items on the menu here include succulent fish sandwiches, steamed shrimp, snow crab, and fried gator. JB’s also rents kayaks and books eco tours and family fishing outings.

Mainland New Smyrna likewise has its own version of attractions. Canal Street is a wide avenue lined with antique shops, restaurants, art galleries and New Smyrna Outfitters, a store stocking more than 4,000 fishing-related items and offering a variety of fishing charters geared to everybody from novice anglers to experts.

The shop is owned by local resident, Scott Tripp, who regularly expounds on the area’s remarkable fishing opportunities as well as why New Smyrna Beach is the best place in Florida to live and vacation. “It’s a real cool town with a ton of quaint charm,” says Tripp. “We’d like to keep it a secret and have it as our own private gem but that doesn’t’t work from an economic point of view.”
Further along Canal Street there’s the Little Drug Co., an old-fashioned drugstore dating back to the 1950s. While vacationers might not consider a drugstore a local attraction, this one is an exception.

Beyond aisles of aspirin, cold medications and other drugs is a vintage soda fountain with long grey arborite counters and stationery stools with red leather seats. Visitors who grew up in the fifties era might be inclined to think they have stepped back in time. The Little Drug Co. is a city landmark and its soda fountain is a great place to order up a soda, ice cream sundae, lunch or breakfast.

Another unique feature of Canal Street (and also Flagler Ave.) are brick sidewalks. Among the thousands of bricks, there are hundreds bearing the names of tourists engraved in white print. A visitor wishing to replace a regular brick with one bearing their own name; can purchase one for $50 from the Visitors Bureau. It will be engraved with name and date and when installed becomes forever part of the New Smyrna Beach streetscape – something akin to a walk of fame.

Like most Sunshine State destinations, New Smyrna Beach also offers an extensive range of golf opportunities with 50 quality courses within 50 miles. Green fees are exceedingly affordable and there are also value packages starting at $299 that include three rounds on three championship-calibre courses plus four night‘s accommodation.

What visitors will not find in New Smyrna Beach is an inventory of name brand hotels. In keeping with the city’s unique character, accommodations are mostly smaller privately-owned hotels, B&Bs and condo rentals. The only branded property is a single Holiday Inn although a Hampton Inn is currently under construction. One of the most historic properties is the Riverview Hotel that dates back to 1885. Located on the island, the restored 18-room establishment overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway and features a satellite restaurant and a spa.

Since 1768 when the first colonists from Europe arrived at what is now New Smyrna Beach, whether by accident or design, this is a rare Florida town to have maintained a genuine sense of community with a real downtown core not lost to random development. While it exists in the shadows of Daytona Beach and Orlando, New Smyrna Beach is a prime example that big is not always better – ‘small’ may be just fine.

More information about New Smyrna Beach can be found online at or by calling 1-800-541-9621.

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