A few months ago, my family spent three weeks in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida. We rented a condo on the beach through vrbo, and we really got to know the area. In my opinion, Daytona Beach is an underrated gem of a beach town in Florida.
Some people have wondered how we could possibly spend three weeks in one location. Actually, it was very easy! Here is a sampling of what we did to fill three weeks in and around Daytona Beach.
So since we were staying in a condo on the beach, naturally we spent a significant amount of time in our condo’s pool and at the beach. We’ve never had easier access to two pools, two hot tubs and the beach—just a quick elevator ride to paradise.
I would get up early and workout in the pool or walk along the beach. Sometimes we’d hit the beach during the day, but many times we’d go out there at sunset and then play in the pool after it got dark.
During the summer months, Daytona Beach has fireworks every Saturday night. Since we stayed over July 4th week, we also viewed fireworks for hours on the actual holiday as well as a few nights prior and after.
The beach was perfect for boogie boarding, surfing, wading in the tide pools and observing sea life like snails, pelicans and dolphins.
My boys spent a week at surf camp through Pure Life Surf School. They surfed for about three hours every day. Both of my boys had surfed twice on Hawaii trips for just a few hours, but living on the beach gave them the opportunity to spend a lot more time honing their skills and just enjoying the waves.
Eco Boat Tour with Ponce Inlet Watersports
One morning, we took an eco boat tour with Ponce Inlet Watersports. We saw dolphins, manatees and many other animals while we were on the water. We even saw a raccoon on an island!
The boat stopped at a small island for passengers to collect some shells.
My younger two kids got to drive the boat!
Marine Science Center
While my sons were at surf camp, I took my daughter to the Marine Science Center. This was our second time there, as we also visited it on our first trip to Daytona in 2015.
This isn’t a huge aquarium or theme park. However, it’s inexpensive ($5 adults, $2 children) and a great way to learn about local marine life.
Ponce De Leon Lighthouse
My daughter and I visited the Ponce De Leon Lighthouse and got a workout climbing the 203 steps to the top. We discovered that the town’s first responders climb the lighthouse every day as part of their workout routine.
The view at the top is worth it!
The grounds also contain a lighthouse museum where you can see lighthouse keepers’ quarters and lighthouse lenses.
Bonus: The Salty Dawg ice cream shop is delicious and located just across the street.
Daytona Speedway Tour
Nobody in my family is a huge NASCAR fan, but we still enjoyed a tour of Daytona Speedway.
Our tram tour guide explained the history of the speedway. We got to see first-hand how steep the banks are, and we stood on the winner’s podium.
The tour also included the Motorsports Hall of Fame museum.
Chocolate Factory Tour
There’s no way we were going to skip the Angell and Phelps chocolate factory tour. We did this on our first visit to Daytona as well. The tour is free and includes samples of the factory’s most popular items, chocolate covered bacon and chocolate covered potato chips!
Museum of Arts and Science
Daytona’s Museum of Arts and Science is actually quite large. It has several wings as well as a planetarium and train exhibit. We didn’t have time to see all of the exhibits, but we spent the majority of our time in the hands-on section.
No beach town is complete without miniature golf. Daytona has several miniature golf courses, and we chose the one across the street from our condo, Congo River Golf. It even has live alligators!
SpaceX Rocket Launch
The timing of our trip coincided with a SpaceX rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. We had a surprisingly good view from our condo beach!
We traveled about an hour south to Christmas, Florida for an airboat ride on the St. John’s River with Airboat Rides at Midway. My kids loved the special headphones with microphones that we all got to wear to reduce the boat noise and hear the captain speak.
We saw several alligators and other river animals. The sky reflected beautifully on the water, and towards the end we got to take some turns rather quickly. It was better than a theme park ride!
At the end, we all held a baby alligator and viewed the pig, snakes and birds inside the company’s store. Totally worth it!
De Leon Springs State Park
One day, we took an early morning drive to De Leon Springs State Park, which is roughly 40 minutes from Daytona. We wanted to get to the historic Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant before it got too busy. We still had an hour wait, but making pancakes on our table-top grill was a fun experience. The pancakes were delicious!
After breakfast, we took a dip in the springs. Brrrrrr, the water was cold! Good thing it was a hot summer day so that it felt refreshing.
De Leon Springs has a small museum that showcased the interesting history of the park. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the park was more of a theme park/resort. There was even an elephant water ski show!
Silver Springs State Park
When I was a kid, my family went to Florida several times for vacation. Back when Disney World just had one or two parks instead of four, we used to visit other attractions in the area. Silver Springs was one we drove to on every trip.
Silver Springs is about an hour and 15 minutes form Daytona. Back in the ‘80s when I visited, Silver Springs was more of an amusement park. Now it’s a state park, but it maintains the famous glass bottom boat rides over the springs.
We brought a picnic lunch to eat after the boat tour. I somehow convinced my kids to go on a short hike, and they played table games while my sister and I sat in rocking chairs next to the springs.
Going to Silver Springs was a nostalgic day for me for sure.
Day Trips to St. Augustine
During our time in Daytona, we made the one-hour drive to St. Augustine not once, but twice. There is so much to see and do in that historic city. I have a separate blog post devoted to our time in St. Augustine.
Local Restaurants and Entertainment
Last but not least, we explored some of the local restaurants and entertainment in the Daytona Beach area. We didn’t have a rental car for two of our three weeks, but we managed to get around just fine on the local bus.
One day, we went to the Volusia Mall for some fun activities:
My kids enjoyed SkyZone Trampoline Park twice. On Fridays from 3-5 p.m. it’s half-price Hoppy Hour!
I loved trying local restaurants and eating fresh seafood, which is hard to get in our home near Dallas. A few of our favorite restaurants:
Racing’s North Turn—it’s hard to beat the views right on the beach.
And the key lime pie, oh my!
Aunt Catfish’s on the River—this place is crazy popular! Thank goodness it has a playground and a view of dolphins to keep people occupied while waiting for a table. All meals come with a cinnamon roll, and the restaurant has a huge salad bar.
Boondocks—my husband and I had a date night here, and it was the best food of our trip!
DJ’s Deck—we ate here on both trips. The food is great, and you can feed catfish from the dock. It’s amazing to see the catfish swarm the fish food. It’s such a fun place!
There is no shortage of fun in the Daytona Beach area. I can’t wait to stay there again!
Have you visited any of these attractions in and near Daytona Beach? What is your favorite part about staying in a beach town?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.