Our day at New smyrna beach (NSB)- 5 stars
Before I review New Smyrna Beach, it would be prudent to set the foundation for our future Florida reviews. Our intent is to show how a family can beach hop in Florida for an extended period on a shoestring budget. Additionally, it's important to understand the reviewer... I am a 41 year old husband and father of four who hates heat, sand, crowds, and sweating. So needless to say, the beach is not my favorite place. I know this puts me outside of the norm, but I am who I am. In order to negate some of these irritants, we are beach hopping in the off season, the last week of December through January. The temperatures are typically in the 70's, the crowds are at a minimum, parking and traffic is much improved, and things are proving to be cheaper. That said, this non beach bum dad is a much happier camper. In our reviews, we will give an star rating out of 5 stars. We will average the opinions of the 6 of us and base it on things like cleanliness, parking, beach quality, amenities, beauty, cost, x-factor, and conveniences like beachside showers. With that ground work laid, let's get on with our review.
New Smyrna Beach was a big WOW moment for the whole family. We pulled into the Riverside Park area seeing water, many sail boats in a marina, and a town square and thought we had arrived. We parked our car and began to explore. We saw River Park, the ruins of an old Spanish fort and thought how neat, but quaint. We then walked the pretty lined street to a beautiful shop lined road and we were charmed. In the simple, but interesting museum on Live Oak Street we learned all about NSB's rich history of pirates, wealth, strategic military location, and its renown surfing heritage. We were grateful to the very kind and helpful museum curators who in addition to a wealth of knowledge about the area, gave a town map. After studying the map over our packed lunch, we sheepishly discovered we were not even on the ocean. We were on the inlet side of the town and needed to drive another 5 minutes or so to see what NSB really had to offer. Once we crossed the causeway bridge we popped out on the main ocean front road which if followed to its end takes you the back way to Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. The strip was nicer than Daytona's, but much more low key and reserved. Lined mostly with hotels and resorts, there wasn't nearly as much in the way of amenities... restaurants, attractions, and such. After a short jaunt along the ocean front road, we were left wondering about this rich surfing history we had heard of. They, after all, hold the annual East Coast Surfing Championships here annually, according to the museum curator. Being a bit of a hippie myself, I knew this posh, sculpted, cookie cutter hotel district would not be very conducive to a beach bum demographic. After re-consulting with our map we saw Flagler Avenue marked and it appeared to be lined with "mom and pop" style shops and decided to check it out. We are SO glad we did.... amazingly perfect! 40 plus shops line Flagler Ave all the way down to a main public beach entrance. The shops were right out of a tropical paradise. Many were converted beach houses and restored to immaculate detail. The rest of the shops blended perfectly, adopting the tropical island motif. The willow, live oak, and palm tree lined roads were all draped with Spanish moss very reminiscent of Savannah's historic district. Even high res pictures don't quite do it justice... you need to see it for yourself. While we were there, there was live music everywhere we looked and also a "Wine Walk" was in progress. We noticed in our exploration, flyers for numerous other fun community activities... (most combining shopping with alcohol in some way, 😆). The beach was very nice. Un-crowded. We didn't see any city public restrooms or beachside showers, but there are public restrooms in the stores right down by the beach.. happy for the extra foot traffic. The beach had shells everywhere you look which was a big plus for our kids. It was very clean and uncrowded (at the end of December at least). All four of my children (ages 7-16) and both my wife and myself, got back into the car at the end of the day saying, "That was amazing!"
New Smyrna Beach is getting a big 5 stars from us. As we discover other amazing Florida beaches, our scale may adjust in kind. However, I can't imagine any adjusted perspective dropping this location under a 4.5. The negatives are few, but there are a couple. Other beaches we've seen have fantastic public facilities such as splash pads, clean restrooms, and beachside showers. NSB didn't have any of these from what we saw.. but to be honest.. those things wouldn't have fit the vibe from this surfer Mecca anyway. Instead, they would have likely ruined the feel of this place for me should they ever be added. The positives are plentiful. NSB has a beautiful beach with a ton of shells, amazing local culture, a fantastic surfur/tropical vibe, great shops, perfect decor/scenery, great community activities, and tons of live music which all come together to make this a place we would all love to revisit for an extended amount of time.
A final note: Smyrna Dunes Park, located close to Flagler Ave on the northern tip of the beach, is said to be fantastic. The beach there is only about 100 yards away from the Beautiful Ponce Inlet Beach (we will review later) and is said to be a great and beautiful beach for children to explore. All day parking at the SDP was $10 and I wish we had carved out some time to see it in person. We will definitely include it on a future trip to NSB.
$5 in diesel for the bus
$10 in Gas for the car
$33 in groceries for a family of six
Accommodations... we stayed in our skoolie (school bus conversion) for free
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