New Smyrna Beach: A Chill Memorial Day Weekend on Florida’s Atlantic Coast

New Smyrna Beach’s 17-mile stretch of white sand on Florida’s mid-Atlantic coast is known for its surfing and its laid-back vibe.  You won’t find Miami’s frenetic pace or  trendiness here. New Smyrna Beach takes things slow.  This stretch of beach is known to surfers and seasoned visitors to the Atlantic coast of Florida as a place with a low key atmosphere while still providing plenty of  hidden adventures.  It’s an area surrounded by history, artistic talent, one-of-a-kind boutiques, food, beverage and fun.  More than enough activities to fill your Memorial Day weekend getaway.

Start the weekend exploring Flagler Avenue- a true seaside beach street. Lined with boutiques, galleries, surf shops, restaurants and pubs, Flagler Avenue is an ideal place to explore after a day at the beach and to get the feel of the town’s friendly, laid back vibe.

Stop in at Flagler Tavern for a microbrew and a bite. Soak up the sun on one of the tavern’s four outdoor sections.  Two levels of decks provide street-level views of lively  Flagler Avenue- while up above you’ll also get a bird’s eye view of  the ocean.

Take in the view of the marina-  and enjoy the American fusion fare-  at Outriggers Tiki Bar and Grille.  Or try the burgers, fried seafood and draft beer at the iconic Breakers Restaurant- right on the beach on the far eastern end of Flagler Avenue.  

New Smyrna Beach’s monthly Wine Walk returns to Flagler Avenue on Saturday, May 29th.  Sample up to 100 showcased wines.  Wine tasting passports are $30 and include 20 tasting tickets and a keepsake wine glass.   The event takes place inside host locations up and down the avenue from 1PM until 7PM.  You can order tickets online.  Day of event tickets can be purchased at the event for cash only.

From there, check out nearby Canal Street- the town’s cultural and artistic center.  This is also the home of The Hub on Canal.  More than a gallery,  the center rents space to local artists and offers workshops and classes at all levels.  Hone your skills at a watercolor or acrylic painting workshop, or learn to rip off some chords in a ukelele class.

Nearby on Canal Street you’ll find a time capsule of sorts at The Little Drug Company.  Head to the soda fountain, sit at a stool and have an old fashioned milk shake, sundae-  or a bite to eat.  Not much has changed since the pharmacy opened in 1920.

For a quiet retreat, pack a lunch and spend a calming day at nearby Smyrna Dunes Park-  a pristine 70-acre expanse on the northern tip of the New Smyrna Beach peninsula.  You can get there by foot, car, or even by boat.  Explore the five ecosystems (ocean, river, dunes, scrub zone and saltwater marsh) along two miles of elevated walkways.  Along these paths, you’ll find picnic areas, pavilions and an observation tower.  Dogs are welcome on the inlet dog beach (but not allowed on the boardwalks.

On the southern tip of New Smyrna Beach lie the beautiful wide beaches of Canaveral National Seashore.  It’s one of the longest stretches of untouched beaches in the US.   You can hike or bike along one of the 8 trails, or bring your own horse along for a gallop along the shoreline (you must purchase a permit). Or simply lay out and enjoy the ocean views.  NASA launch pads are visible from the southern end of the park.

Head inland and you’ll find areas for fly fishing around the oyster bars in Indian River Lagoon.  Go kayaking around unspoiled back-country islands.  It’s also a bird-watcher’s paradise. Stop in at the Canaveral National Seashore Visitor’s Center where friendly rangers will help you navigate the park.

For a nature experience on a smaller scale, there’s the cypress-lined shores of Lake Ashby.  Another excellent spot for birding, it’s also family-friendly-  with a 3,500 square foot playground area.  Enjoy the flora while hiking the trails, or go on horseback.   Like “roughing it”?  Pitch a tent at one of the many campgrounds on the lake in a beautiful setting under a canopy of oaks.

Of course, there is no shortage of conventional accommodations, if camping is not your style.  Ocean Trillium Suites has private beach access and an oceanfront pool.  Spacious apartments include kitchen facilities,  private balcony and laundry facilities.

If you’re looking for an old-time B&B, there are several downtown options.  The Inn on the Avenue is a favorite of regular visitors to New Smyrna Beach.  This two-floor, old French country-style cottage has six rooms overlooking Flagler Avenue.  It’s a great spot for those who want to be near the beach, shopping and dining.  The staff’s attention to detail and old Florida charm are just a reflection of everything this throwback beach town has to offer.