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Local's Secrets for Exploring New Smyrna Beach

Nestled on the central east coast of Florida, New Smyrna Beach boasts an enticing blend of cultural experiences, natural beauty, and historical depth, presenting an appealing prospect for those keen to delve beyond the usual tourist spots. For those looking to experience this gem like a local, this guide unravels the tapestry of hidden spots, favorite restaurants, and unique hangouts cherished by those who call New Smyrna Beach home.

Hidden Jewels and Favorite Spots

Smyrna Dunes Park


While visitors often flock to the bustling shorelines of New Smyrna Beach, it’s Smyrna Dunes Park that holds a special place in the hearts of locals, offering a reprieve from the crowded tourist spots. This expansive park stretches over 73 lush acres at the northernmost tip of the New Smyrna Beach peninsula, and it is here that locals find solace and natural beauty that evokes a sense of being worlds away from everyday life.

Blessed with panoramic views that encompass the Indian River, Ponce de Leon Inlet, and the vast Atlantic Ocean, Smyrna Dunes Park is a celebration of Florida’s diverse coastal ecosystem – a patchwork of dunes, salt marshes, and maritime forests that are both rare and inspiring. As you venture onto the 1.5 miles of elevated boardwalk, you are afforded an opportunity to intimately connect with this landscape. Each step reveals a different angle of the surrounding beauty, from the gentle waves lapping at the sandy beaches to the graceful dance of the coastal grasses swaying in the sea breeze.

This boardwalk, a marvel in itself, preserves the delicate dunes while providing accessibility for all, including those with pets or on wheelchairs. The design is such that it elevates the experience of visitors, both figuratively and literally, raising them above the ground to minimize human impact on this pristine environment.

Smyrna Dunes Park is also ideal for nature enthusiasts and wildlife spectators. Early mornings or twilight hours usher in a ballet of bird species, each chirping its own tune, creating a symphony that serenades the sojourner. It is not rare to spy on the playful antics of gopher tortoises or catch the sight of a rambunctious raccoon family. For those with a keen eye, the area is habitat to a diverse range of fauna, including several threatened species that have found sanctuary within the park’s boundaries.

Anglers, too, find their solace here, casting lines from the sandy shores or the dedicated fishing pier that reaches hungrily into the mouth of the inlet. It’s a place where the rhythm of the tides dictates the passage of time and where a sense of community can be felt among those who share the passion for the catch.

Flagler Avenue and Canal Street


The popular thoroughfares of Flagler Avenue and Canal Street, the twin lifelines of New Smyrna Beach, bustle with life and activity, enticing visitors with a delightful mix of shops and eateries. However, there is more to discover in these historic streets than meets the eye. For those who venture beyond the obvious, a trove of hidden delights awaits, known and cherished primarily by New Smyrna’s residents. These tucked-away alcoves, revealing themselves only to those intrepid enough to seek them out, hold the essence of New Smyrna’s unique character and charm.

Flagler Avenue and Canal Street are renowned as vibrant hubs of local art and culture, each boasting an array of unique boutiques and art galleries that diverge from the cookie-cutter offerings found elsewhere. Amid these eclectic establishments, one can jog off the beaten path to discover artisan shops filled with one-of-a-kind creations and vintage stores that transport you to an era long past. These places are frequented by locals searching for distinctive finds or merely to immerse themselves in the space that embodies their community’s narrative and flavor.

Art connoisseurs will appreciate the numerous galleries dotting these streets, their walls adorned with a stunning array of pieces hailing from local and regional artists. Arts on Douglas is one such spot, showcasing a broad spectrum of artistic forms. It’s a place where the art world converges and fosters a robust local arts scene yet remains off-the-radar for most visiting tourists.

Integral to these vicinities are the quaint cafes offering refuge for those seeking to rest their feet and satiate their palate. Each café exudes its personality through its unique menu, cozy ambiance, and friendliness that resonates with small-town charm. Cafe Heavenly, best known for its lobster bisque and smoothies, offers a warm respite where the locals gather, share stories, and enjoy gourmet eats amidst the hustle and bustle.

On the second Saturday of each month, Canal Street transforms into an exhibition ground for car enthusiasts at the Classic Car Show. A highly anticipated local event, the street comes alive with the low revving of engines, the glint of polished chrome, and the camaraderie among those who share a love for vintage automobiles. While this event draws a crowd, it’s much more frequented by locals who find joy in the nostalgic echoes of the past and celebrating them in the present.

The Eldora State House

within the sprawling expanse of the Canaveral National Seashore, one of Florida’s most cherished natural wonders, lies an almost hidden historical gem that many visitors overlook—the Eldora State House. This elegant structure, a relic of a bygone era, stands as a quiet sentinel overlooking the Atlantic, harboring tales of the flourishing Eldora community of the 19th century. The journey to this secluded site is a pilgrimage into the past, an adventure through natural landscapes that leads to the threshold of history.

The Eldora State House once sat amidst a thriving community during a time when Florida’s coastline was dappled with such settlements, each with its own story of hardship and prosperity. Today, it serves as a tangible link to that era, offering visitors not just a peek into the architectural styles of the time but also into the lives of the people who once called this place home. The house has been preserved and maintained, allowing for an immersive experience into the rich tapestry of the area’s history.

Venturing to the Eldora State House is akin to stepping into a quieter, slower-paced world. Locals, who are well-versed in the secrets of their coastal enclave, often seek refuge here, finding solace in the house’s solitude and its surrounding natural beauty. It offers a unique vantage point from which to contemplate the undisturbed landscapes of the Canaveral National Seashore, a stark contrast to the bustling beaches and commercialized attractions found elsewhere in New Smyrna Beach and its environs.

As you approach the Eldora State House, its architectural nuances become apparent—the craftsmanship of a bygone era, the subtleties in its design reflecting the lifestyle and environment of its original inhabitants. Inside, the air is thick with stories of endurance, of festivities, of life and loss, all echoing through the now-empty rooms. Each visitor is invited to explore at their own pace, with interpretive signs providing context and stirring the imagination, painting vivid pictures of the Eldora community’s daily life, their struggles against the elements, and their triumphs in carving out a settlement on the edge of the wilderness.

Local Hangouts

The Garlic

For those in search of authentic local flavors coupled with a unique dining experience, The Garlic stands out as a culinary gem nestled in the heart of New Smyrna Beach. This restaurant, revered for its dedication to Italian cuisine, beckons guests into its enchanting world each day. Its commitment to creating an unforgettable dining ambiance is evident through the meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of its setting and offerings.

Beneath a canopy of lush oak trees, interwoven with twinkling lights that cast a warm, inviting glow as the sun sets, The Garlic presents an atmosphere that is both magical and intangible. This outdoor setting, brimming with an eclectic charm, sets the stage for an evening of relaxation and indulgence in flavors that promise to transport diners straight to Italy. It’s this rustic yet refined ambiance that makes The Garlic a preferred sanctuary for locals and visitors eager to escape the ordinary.

At the heart of The Garlic’s allure is, undeniably, its culinary masterpieces. Each dish is a testament to the art of Italian cooking, with garlic playing a starring role, infusing richness and depth into every bite. From classic pasta dishes bursting with flavorful sauces to an assortment of entrées that showcase the finesse of Italian cuisine, the menu caters to varied tastes and preferences. The marriage of traditional recipes with fresh, high-quality ingredients ensures that each visit to The Garlic is an exploration of authentic Italian flavors.

JB’s Fish Camp

Positioned on the picturesque waterfront of New Smyrna Beach, JB’s Fish Camp is not merely a place to eat; it’s an institution deeply woven into the local fabric since its humble beginnings in the late 1970s. Founded by the late John “JB” Bollman, what started as a shack on the river has blossomed into one of the most cherished seafood eateries and adventure destinations in the area. Renowned for serving “Southern Seafood with an Attitude,” JB’s Fish Camp epitomizes the quintessential laid-back beach lifestyle that both locals and visitors seek.

Offering more than just dining, JB’s Fish Camp provides a window to Florida’s breathtaking marine life. Guests can enjoy fresh seafood dishes with the chance of spotting dolphins frolicking or manatees leisurely passing by in the waters adjacent to the dining area. This unique feature elevates the dining experience, allowing patrons to connect with nature as they indulge in some of the finest seafood in town.

But the allure of JB’s Fish Camp extends beyond its culinary offerings. True to the spirit of New Smyrna Beach, the establishment integrates adventure with gastronomy through its rental services. With kayaks and paddleboards available on-site, guests are encouraged to explore the serene waters at their own pace or join guided tours that promise an intimate encounter with the area’s natural wonders. These adventures, known as JB’s Lagoon Adventures, cater to all levels of experience, ensuring an unforgettable adventure for everyone.

Uncovering the Unseen

Turtle Mound National Historic Site


Stretched along the coastline of the Atlantic, Turtle Mound is a site of great significance not only for its historical value but also for the sense of peace and wonder it offers to visitors. This prehistoric shell mound, often referred to as a midden, stands out as a testament to the Timucuan Indians—indigenous people who inhabited this region hundreds of years ago. Carrying the weight of centuries, Turtle Mound serves as a poignant reminder of the area’s deep-rooted past, making it an essential destination for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

As the tallest shell mound in the mainland United States, Turtle Mound reaches a remarkable 50 feet in height, offering panoramic views of the stunning surroundings. From the top, the vast expanse of the Atlantic unfurls, mesmerizing visitors with its rhythmic waves and an endless horizon. This is the kind of scene that inspires contemplation and an appreciation for the natural world that words often fail to capture.

One of the remarkable features of Turtle Mound is its structural composition. It’s primarily made out of oyster shells, discarded as waste by the Timucuan Indians who once dwelled in this part of Florida. Archaeologists believe that the mound’s construction spanned over 1,000 years, reflecting the long-lasting influence of the Timucua people in this region. Those who ascend Turtle Mound are, in many ways, tracing the steps of these early inhabitants, connecting with a history that resonates from the mound’s base to its very peak.

Beyond its historical significance, Turtle Mound presents a unique experience for those wishing to escape the usual touristic paths. Amid the whispering winds and the symphony of bird songs, visitors find a quiet retreat from the bustling life, offering a unique opportunity for quiet contemplation and solitude. It’s a chance to breathe in the sea air, feel the sun’s radiance, and marvel at the enduring history of the land, all while standing on a formation that has withstood the tests of time.

The Little Theatre of New Smyrna Beach

The Little Theatre stands as a beacon of the performing arts, lauded for its rich contribution to local culture. For 76 years, this esteemed theatre has offered up a colorful tapestry of performances, with genres spanning the emotive spectrum of comedy and tragedy. This longevity isn’t just a testament to the institution’s resilience—it’s a reflection of the area’s unwavering commitment to the arts.

The Little Theatre’s programming is diverse and inclusive, ensuring that there is something for everyone, from the delightful escapism of musicals to the reflective depths of drama. Comedy, with its lighthearted reprieve, sits alongside the poignant narratives that challenge and move audiences. It is the variety and richness of these performances that have solidified The Little Theatre as a cornerstone of the local arts scene, making it a must-visit destination for residents and tourists alike.

More than just a venue for the performing arts, The Little Theatre is a gathering place where the community spirit thrives. It is within its quaint and intimate walls that the pulse of the city’s creative heart beats strongest. As audience members from all walks of life come together, the theatre becomes a shared space where laughter, tears, and applause mingle, and the passion for theatre binds people together.

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