The city of Daytona Beach, Florida, has been tagged as the most famous beach in the world since the roaring 20s. And though that claim may be in question, it is undeniably popular with tourists from all over the world. After all, 10 million visitors flock to Daytona Beach each year.
Arguably, Daytona Beach’s biggest claim to fame is its beautiful and hard-packed sandy beaches. The unique quality of the sand in the area, particularly on Ormond Beach, gave birth to the rise of motorsports because historically, motorists could drive on the hard shore. Today, you can still do so, but don’t expect to set land speed records because beach drivers can only go as fast as 9 miles an hour there. Speed is still very much the name of the game in Daytona Beach as NASCAR has its headquarters in the city. The races formerly held at the Daytona Beach Race Course were transferred to the Daytona International Speedway which was built in 1959. It remains the most prestigious racecourse in the world.
Apart from motorsports and speed, Daytona Beach is one of the most popular spring break destinations for college students in the country as well. Historically speaking, the city has always been attached to eternal youth, especially upon the arrival of explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. He may or may not have found it in Florida, but he did discover the wonderfully healing De Leon Springs west of Daytona Beach, which is still worth a visit these days.
Apart from its surface beauty, Daytona Beach has a beautifully deep part in the civil rights movement in the United States. It is here, in this city, that Jackie Robinson, the first African-American Major League player, played in the first integrated baseball game. A stadium bearing his name still stands today as a testament to this important part of history. The city is home to one of the first collegiate institutions to educate female African-Americans, the Bethune-Cookman University, founded by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, who went on to do greater things in the sphere of politics.
Needless to say, Daytona Beach is a city teeming with history while retaining a youthful and modern vibe. And as it is surrounded by magnificent waters, it is yet another Florida city that anglers should definitely check off their bucket list.
Daytona Beach is gifted with 23 miles of coastline and great big access to the Atlantic Ocean. Not only that but it is divided by the wonderful Halifax River Lagoon and blessed with warm waters all year round. In short, it is a fantastic fishing haven for fresh water and saltwater anglers of all levels. It is a year-round fishing destination, but it is particularly topnotch during fall.
For anglers looking to do some pier fishing, Daytona Beach has great piers for you to access the Atlantic Ocean with. Many visitors drop by the Daytona Beach Pier because it is a great family-friendly destination with its beautiful beach and its many attractive amenities. It is a true city icon but what makes it even more iconic is its fishing. Another classic is the Sunglow Pier. At both locations, you can catch pompano, redfish, and flounder, although you will need to pay a $7-fee to fish at Sunglow Pier.
West of Daytona Beach, anglers will find a worth fishing hotspot at the Ponce Inlet. If you’re planning to stick inshore, you can catch quite a few black drum and bluefish at the jetty. The public docks at the inlet itself are very productive as well. But while here at the Ponce Inlet, you will want to head offshore via the Inlet Harbor. Go 25-35 miles on a charter boat to get to the Party Grounds, a fantastic reef system that’s home to red snapper, amberjack, grouper, and some sharks. Head further at least 45 miles offshore and target some trophy fish over at the Rolldown, where you can catch sailfish, mahi mahi, and tuna off the natural ledges.
If you’re heading to Daytona Beach in spring, Halifax River should be on your go-to list as it is teeming with spotted sea trout, snook, and redfish. The best spot to access it is the Halifax Harbor Marina, where anglers can fish both from a charter boat or cast from the shore.
Freshwater fishing is also rich on Daytona Beach. Tomoka River, easily accessible from the wondrous Tomoka State Park, has great brackish water that’s home to 90 fish species, both freshwater and saltwater alike. If you’re looking to fly fish for largemouth bass, though, St. Johns River should be your spot. Bass anglers often head to Lake Monroe and Lake George which both run along this river.
Daytona Beach also hosts many fishing tournaments. The most notable of which is the King of the Inlet Offshore Fishing Tournament, which has three separate rounds for wahoo (April), dolphinfish (May), and kingfish (June). What’s attractive about this tournament is that it allows anglers to be as competitive as they can get. They can either compete in one of the tournaments or attempt a grand slam and register for all three catches. The Halifax Sport Fishing Club (HSFC) also hosts the annual Lady Angler Tournament for three consecutive weekends in June. And finally, a true Daytona Beach special, the Hot Rods, and Reels Fishing Tournament, which is a unique opportunity angle and mingle with NASCAR drivers and legends for a good cause.
Fishing is abundant in Daytona Beach all year long, as is the case for the rest of Florida. It is, however, particularly productive in the colder months of summer and fall. Many species, such as mahi-mahi, grouper, amberjack, largemouth bass, spotted sea trout, and redfish are available all year long. Tarpon join in the biting at the height of summer to early fall, while pompano make an appearance right after from September to October, before reappearing in January until early March. Hard-fighting Snook bite actively starting October, along with Sheepshead.
Daytona Beach may be a youthful city, but it’s got loads of history if you know where to look. Pay homage to Jackie Robinson at the Jackie Robinson Baseball Stadium. See the oldest beachside home, the Lilian Place, built in 1884 and featured prominently in the Stephen Crane story, “The Open Boat.” Another grandiose structure, the Stetson Mansion, is worth visiting as it is Florida’s grandest Gilded Age estate still standing today. And finally, the tallest lighthouse, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, in Florida is in Daytona Beach and is well worth a visit.
Daytona Beach has its fair share of odd destinations that are endlessly fascinating. For example, on the Halifax River banks on Riverside Drive, you will find the Holly Hill Gnomes, which has become a beloved local legend. Simply pay a visit or leave gifts for the gnomes in exchange for a wish if you want a more authentic experience. Venture south of Daytona Beach, about three miles, and you’ll find the Dunlawton Sugar Mills Garden, where you will find loads of history dating back to the dinosaur age. This once-prosperous sugar mill plantation played a huge part in the Seminole Indian Wars and the Civil War. Still, today it is a peaceful hideaway in the residential areas of Daytona Beach, where you will also find life-size recreations of different prehistoric creatures as you enjoy a scenic walk and picnic on the grounds.
If you want a literal bird’s eye view of Daytona Beach, book a helicopter trip down on Ormond Beach with the Heli-Hogs. Not only will you get to view the beautiful coastline of Daytona Beach from up high, you might even get a chance to fly amidst rare bald eagles.
Cap off your Daytona Beach trip with a stroll down the iconic Boardwalk. It’s a family-friendly affair. Go on the Ferris wheel, try a few arcade games, indulge yourself in some world-famous Zeno’s taffy, and then catch the fireworks if you happen to come by during the summer.
If you want to rub elbows with the locals while enjoying a wholesome time at the beach, head to Ormond Beach. It has a stunning beach and a friendly neighborhood vibe.
South of the city proper, you will find the calm and charming Daytona Beach Shores. It’s a great place to head to if you want a little quiet time just strolling down the shores and enjoying the vast seascape.
A beautifully maintained wildlife preserver, the Lighthouse Point Park is where you go if you want some unspoiled natural beauty along with your swimming. Bring your pets (must be leashed) for a stroll down the shore, or witness the dolphins and manatees in the inlet waters before you go for a swim.