Daytona Beach is one of our favourite getaways in Florida. It was the first trip Dave and I ever took together way back in college and we have returned again and again to enjoy its 23 miles of white sand. But there are plenty of amazing activities off the beach to make for an excellent Florida vacation. So, we’ve put together our favourite things to do in Daytona Beach both on and off the beach from our regular road trips to Florida over the past two decades. Let’s get started.
- Note: Some attractions may be closed or have restrictions due to COVID 19, make sure to check the website before visiting. See the Daytona Beach website for more information.
The Best Things to do in Daytona Beach, Fl
There is no doubt that it’s the world famous beach that makes Daytona Beach such a popular destination, but there are plenty of things to do off the beach as well. We’ve visited Daytona several times since the 1990s and it has come a long way baby. If you plan to take a road trip to Florida, this is a great place to make a base for at least a few days as you enjoy the beautiful Florida sunshine.
Daytona International Speedway
If you go to Daytona Beach and are a race car fan you should take part in the Richard Petty Driving Experience where you can either ride along as a passenger or drive yourself around the world famous Daytona 500 track. It’s definitely a bucket list item in Daytona Beach.
There is also a Speedway Tour where you can get out on the track. For the price, the 30 minute Daytona International speedway tour was pleasant and entertaining. It’s a good thing to do if you want to get away from the beach for awhile. And it’s great for families. One dad even carried his newborn around with him on the tour – so clearly it’s perfect for all ages! Check out Our Top 4 Motorsport Experiences (hint it includes the Daytona International Speedway)
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse
Ponce de Leon Lighthouse is located 20 minutes south of Daytona Beach on the Ponce Inlet. Take a scenic drive to see this is historic lighthouse. When visiting the state’s tallest lighthouse (and the country’s 2nd tallest lighthouse) at 175-foot tall, you have the opportunity to step back into history and see what life was like for the lighthouse keepers and their families.
Make sure to watch the 20 minute film about the history of the lighthouse before exploring the grounds. You’ll see the lighthouse keepers quarters as well as the assistant lighthouse keepers house. There are maps, uniforms, and artifacts furnishing the buildings. The star attraction is being able to climb the climb its 203 steps to the top of the lighthouse for a bird’s eye view of the area. Visit the Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark. for more information.
Stairs up to the top of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
If you are visiting the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, I highly recommend going for sunset. Give yourself time to climb up to the top of the lighthouse and make sure to wear sturdy shoes. People wearing flip flips or heals are not allowed.
- Entrance fee: $6.95 – $1.95 for children aged 2-11
- The Lighthouse opens at 10 am and closes at 9:00 pm. Last admission is 8pm
- It’s about a 20 minute drive from Daytona Beach
- To climb the lighthouse wear proper shoes. It’s steep and the railings are low.
- Visit the website for more information.
Marine Science Center
You can spend the afternoon in this part of Daytona and visit the Marine Science Center where they rescue sea turtles and have an emergency ICU for injured marine life. They have a sea turtle and seabird rehabilitation center. The Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Sanctuary has rescued and rehabilitated more than 18,000 birds. This is an excellent place to visit to learn about conservation and environmental efforts. You can also catch some sun on the beach and enjoy the jetty. It’s another excellent spot for photo opportunities.
Main Street Pier – AKA Daytona Beach Pier
The Daytona Beach Pier is a 1000 foot long pier that has been a landmark since 1925. It’s fun to walk out and see the fisherman working on their daily catch. It also offers beautiful views while looking back at the beach.
Make sure to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack for some fresh crab when visiting the massive pier. It’s like a scene fresh out of Jerry McGuire as you eat a giant bucket of crabs. Or you can just enjoy a cocktail while enjoying the sunset.
Daytona Beach Boardwalk
The Daytona Beach Boardwalk is a family fun entertainment are that is fun to visit at least once. I felt as if I had stepped back in time and was suddenly transported to a memory of when I walked with my parents to the pier and took a spin on the go-carts. It’s nostalgic and fun to relive. There are souvenir shops selling every beach item you can imagine at the Ocean Walk Shoppes. There’s classic arcade games and naturally there are some amusement park rides too.
Some highlights include: Sandblaster Roller Coaster, arcades, Zeno’s Boardwalk Sweet Shop, historic Bandshell, and racing fans will enjoy reading the markers commemorating historic racing on the beach. Yes they used to race On Daytona Beach!
Hit the Beach
Yes we said that there is more things to do in Daytona Beach than just the beach, but come on, it is the STAR Attraction! At 23 miles long, our favourite thing to do in Daytona is to talk the beach. Hotels line the white sand, and you can pop in for a bit or a cocktail as you enjoy the views. This is a great walking beach but keep an eye out for cars, you can drive in certain areas of Daytona Beach for $20 per day per vehicle.
Paddleboard with Manatees
When staying at a beach, you have to get out on the water and one of our favorite water sports is paddle boarding (SUP). Manatees and dolphins frequent these waters and Sup is a non invasive way to enjoy them book a tour and head out in search of wildlife in the calm waters of the Halifax River.
There’s also surfing at Daytona Beach with plenty of places to learn to surf. Its sandy break and easy waves are the perfect place to learn to surf.
If you are looking for a bit of a quieter beach to visit, Ormond Beach is located just North of Daytona Beach. Located between the Tomoka River and the Atlantic Ocean there are watersports to suit everyone’s needs. Fun Fact: John. D. Rockefeller called Ormond home. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. You can actully tour his winter home which has been turned into a cultural center and museum.
Tomoka State Park
Having a car is a must when visiting Daytona Beach so that you can get out and explore the surrounding areas. Located just 20 minutes from the Beach, Tomoka State Park is a 2000 acre reserve that is perfect for bird watchers. There is an abundance of wildlife here from alligators to bald eagles. Make sure to get out of the car and go for a hike through its many nature trails or go kayaking in search of Manatees.
Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS)
One doesn’t normally think of museums when visiting Daytona Beach, but it has some awesome museums. The Museum of Arts and Sciences is Florida’s premier arts, science and history museum. Founded in 1955 it has some impressive displays with the largest display of Cuban art outside of Cuba. There’s a train station that has two railway cars and the history of Coca Cola. We found it a great way to spend an afternoon.
Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum of Art
For the largest collection of Florida art on display, a visit to the ever so chic Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum of Art is a must. You’ll feel so refined visiting this gallery after spending time at the neon lights of the Daytona Boardwalk. It is a beautiful gallery. It can be visited in conjunction with MOAS.
My dad has a Stetson cowboy hat and he is pretty proud of it. Dating back to 1885, The Stetson Mansion is a historic home in Florida that is considered one of the most popular Florida attractions. Built by John B. Stetson it’s catchphrase is the house that hats built. It is Florida’s oldest and grandest mansion and visitors can explore the grounds and the outdoor gardens. Guests can enjoy a tour of the recently restored mansion that has been updated to give a sense that a rich family still lived in it giving a sense of what it would feel like to live in the mansion today. Visit Stetson Mansion for more details.
Daytona Beach Historic Downtown
It took us several visits before visiting “downtown” Daytona Beach but it is a great place to hang out. There are plenty of things to do in this historic part of Daytona with plenty of shops and dining. Be sure to stop in to sample locally made chocolates at Angell & Phelps’ Chocolate Factory, visit the Halifax Historical Museum for Daytona specific artifacts and pick up some fresh Florida oranges at Florida’s oldest farmers market. Check out Off the wall art and digital mash ups at Aberrant Art Gallery and grab a healthy fresh Kale juice for your stroll at the Kale Café Juice Bar.
Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp
Looking for a little zen and meditation on your Daytona trip? The Cassadaga is a spiritual camp dating back 120 years! A national historic site, it was a retreat for mediums and psychics. Today, you can tour the camp where physics still practice spiritual healing. Try a guided tour at night in search of hot spots and energy.
While in Cassadaga, make sure to go to dinner at Sinatra’s Italian Ristorante located in the Cassadaga Hotel.
If you are looking for things to do in Daytona Beach at night, you may want to consider a movie later at the area’s only indie movie house Cinematique http://www.cinematique.org/. They have daily and nightly events
Daytona Beach Shores
Our favourite place to stay in Daytona Beach is Daytona Beach Shores. When you are done with a bucket of crabs at Joe’s Crab Shack and the neon lights of the ferris wheel, it is time to escape to tranquility, beauty, and romance. Daytona Beach Shores Hotel is a top choice for a couples travel vacation. We checked into our poolside suite and instantly flopped on the canopy bed to bask in the luxurious duvet and perfectly fluffed pillows.
Even if you are not staying there, The Shores is a great place for dinner to sit by the fire and enjoy canapés and fine wine. As we sat with content smiles on our faces, we said to each other, “This place can actually be a nice alternative to the Caribbean.” Before Daytona Beach Shores, we only thought of Daytona as a family vacation destination or a spot where students escape during the Spring Break. Our minds were changed after a stay at this spa and resort.
Frequently Asked Questions about Daytona Beach
Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory in historic downtown Daytona offers free tours. In Ormond, the winter home of JD Rockefeller offers free tours as well. And of course the beach is free to pedestrians and bicycles 24/7.
Yes, you can drive on Daytona Beach. It costs $20 per day per vehicle. It is only allowed in certain areas, and vehicles are off limits to the conservation zone to protect sea turtles.
And these are some of our favourite things to do in Daytona Beach? Have you been to this famous beach resort town? What should we add to our list when we visit next?