Wondering where to go on your road trip through Florida? Leave plenty of time to explore the best things to do in New Smyrna Beach. Visiting this popular vacation getaway, located in Volusia County south of Daytona Beach, you’ll experience pristine beaches and ancient ruins in equal measure.
The top tourist attractions in New Smyrna Beach range from historic neighborhoods to diverse parks featuring some of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States. It’s easy to see why New Smyrna Beach is much more than just your average Florida beach town.
Not sure what to do in New Smyrna Beach? Let us give you a hand with this guide to the best places to visit in New Smyrna Beach, FL.
Best places to visit in New Smyrna Beach, FL
Smyrna Dunes Park
Ponce Inlet splits the town’s offshore barrier island. On one side is the iconic lighthouse; on the other is Smyrna Dunes Park, one of the coolest places to see in New Smyrna Beach.
Hikers will love heading to Smyrna Dunes Park to walk the wheelchair-accessible scenic boardwalk, guiding you to several viewpoints. Along the way, you’ll cross paths with incredible views of Ponce Inlet, the Indian River, and the ever-present crashing of the Atlantic Ocean waves.
But there’s more to Smyrna Dunes Park than nature walks. You’ll also find a dog-friendly beach, perfect for a day on the water with your beloved pal. Anglers can also make use of the 300-foot fishing pier, shooting out from the shore.
Canal Street Historic District
Coursing through the heart of town is the Canal Street Historic District, New Smyrna Beach’s historic old town. The tree-lined street—lined by an array of restaurants, coffee shops, and galleries—is one of the best places to go in New Smyrna Beach for sightseeing.
The spacious footpaths along historic Canal Street make this main artery a pleasant place to walk. Stroll between historic buildings, now housing boutique shops, and prominent galleries such as The Hub.
With its central location in the historic downtown, the Canal Street Historic District is a great launching point to experience NSB’s highlights. In any case, you’ll quickly be taken in by the lively atmosphere. A hub in its own right, Canal Street is a fun place to people-watch and to get a brief insight into local life.
Turtle Mound National Historic Site
Located along the Indian River 20 minutes south of historic Canal Street lies the Turtle Mound National Historic Site. One of the top New Smyrna Beach points of interest, The Turtle Mound National Historic Site is home to a hard-to-believe number of ancient shells, some dating as far back as the 9th century. Called a shell midden (a man-made accumulation of shells), the mound provides an incredible look into the lives of the Timucuan people.
The stunning midden stands at over 50 feet tall and forms the silhouette of a turtle. Visitors can explore and get up close to the midden along the boardwalk, leading to a beautiful observation deck. From the elevated platform, you’ll also enjoy spectacular vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and Mosquito Lagoon.
The Hub on Canal
Located on Canal Street, the Hub on Canal is an eclectic mix of history that reflects the exterior historic district and modern culture. The interesting combination plays out well as the venue has risen to be one of the top New Smyrna Beach attractions.
The Hub on Canal is an artistic co-op and art gallery where over 70 local artists display their work, lead workshops, and initiate talks on art. The creative hub sits at the forefront of New Smyrna Beach’s cultural revitalization.
The gallery remains fresh and relevant, with a consistent display of new work and a series of festivals and exhibitions throughout the year. Most of its events are held during the winter months.
Sugar Mill Ruins
Beginning life as a steam-fueled sawmill and sugarcane mill towards the beginning of the 19th century, the New Smyrna Sugar Mill Ruins are an ode to the town’s early colonial settlement. Located within the former Cruger-dePeyster Plantation, the intriguing site spans 17 acres. You can explore the area via a series of nature trails with many spots to sit under the shade and enjoy a picnic lunch.
What makes the New Smyrna Sugar Mills so important isn’t necessarily the mill itself but what happened only a few years after the mill opened. In 1835, Seminole Indians raided and destroyed the plantation as a part of the Second Seminole War, a small but significant retribution for lost lands.
New Smyrna Museum of History
Looking for more of a taste of local history? Pay a visit to the New Smyrna Museum of History. Housed within a beautiful Spanish colonial-style building with a cream brick facade on Sams Avenue, the museum dives into the small town’s big past.
At the museum, you can peruse exhibits that explore the region before New Smyrna Beach made its way onto the map. Slowly make your way through several eras, from Native American communities, settlement, and, eventually, the modern-day.
Some of the top exhibits at the New Smyrna Museum of History include those focused on the long history of Native Americans in the region. You’ll also learn about the life of the town’s first colonists, including the Scottish doctor who led the settlement of the area.
New Smyrna Speedway
Inspired by the Daytona International Speedway, New Smyrna Speedway is one of the best things to see in New Smyrna Beach. Stretching for a half-mile, the racetrack is home to the Whelen All-American Series. The event takes place every Saturday night with exciting quarter midget racing held on Fridays.
Just 12 miles from the iconic Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Speedway is known for its high average speed and steep banks. The racetrack has seen several famous NASCAR drivers, from Davey Allison to Neil Bonnet, hit the pavement.
While racing New Smyrna Speedway may not be as renowned as Daytona, their weekend events make for a fun night out with the family.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum
Standing ominously at just shy of 180 feet, it’s easy to see why the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum is one of the top points of interest in New Smyrna Beach. Coated in rich red, the lighthouse contrasts with the lush green landscape and the pulsating blues of the surrounding water.
The intimidating landmark wasn’t always as striking as it is today. The tallest lighthouse in Florida, it’s seen its fair share of trials when it was weakened by pounding surf and erosion.
Now meticulously restored, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is open for exploration. Visitors will love the chance to walk up the 200 steps to the epic viewpoint at the top. Stick around and experience the museum, retelling the story of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, from its inception in 1887.
Canaveral National Seashore
With Mosquito Lagoon on one side and the surging Atlantic on the other, the Cape Canaveral National Seashore is a spectacular barrier island of dunes, forests, wetlands, and historic archaeological sites. When the sun is out in New Smyrna Beach, some of the best beach days can be found right here.
Upon arrival at Cape Canaveral National Seashore, you’ll be blessed with 24 miles of remote, sandy beaches without a glimpse of development. The untouched paradise is the perfect place to kick back and let the breeze wash over you.
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Beyond the sandy shores, you’ll have your choice of nature trails through the area, where you’ll find some of the most diverse estuaries in the United States.
Just north of the Cape Canaveral Seashore, Apollo Beach is one of just two legally nude beaches in Florida. The pristine sands from the seashore continue up along the coast, greeting visitors with gorgeous white sand and crushed coquina shells.
Apollo Beach costs $3 to access. While cheap, it allows for lower crowds and a more remote experience. There are only a limited amount of car spots; get there early before they fill up. Once the last spot is taken, access to the beach closes. After completing a short walk to the beach, you can enjoy a secluded spot with no signs of civilization.
Flagler Avenue Park
Offering a mix of surf, sand, and park space, Flagler Avenue Park is a family-friendly destination in New Smyrna Beach. The colorful Flagler Ave runs through the center of the town’s barrier island, ending at a delightful welcome arch that’s quintessential Florida.
When the swell is up, resident beach bums and out-of-towners hit the waves from sunup to sundown. While the long stretch of sand at Flagler Avenue Park is a popular place to bask in the sun, there’s also plenty going on just steps away. Along Flagler Ave, you’ll find rows of boutique stores and restaurants. The park itself has several picnic tables and a pavilion to enjoy.
Marine Discovery Center
Exploring the natural life within the Indian River Lagoon, the Marine Discovery Center allows guests a hands-on wildlife experience. The center offers a look into the lives of various marine life, from seahorses and turtles to sharks and horseshoe crabs.
Visitors will have multiple options for exploring the diverse marshland around the Marine Discovery Center. You can venture out on foot, join a narrated boat tour, or paddle out into the wetlands on a kayak trip.
At the center, you’ll learn about, and where possible, interact with the lagoon’s natural world. You’ll also explore the important role the Indian River Lagoon—and other waterways like it—play in maintaining Florida’s beautiful, yet fragile, ecosystem.
Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens
Covering ten beautiful acres in Port Orange, the Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens is part historical site, part botanical gardens. Located in the moss-laden Dunlawton Plantation, the gardens are a live look into old-time Florida. In fact, the plantation outdated the state of Florida by about three decades.
The Dunlawton Plantation has seen many lives over the ensuing centuries. Originally used to grow sugar cane and molasses, the mill also burned down during the Second Seminole War. From there, it was mistaken for an old Spanish Monastery before sparking a new temporary life as an amusement park.
Today, you can wander through manicured gardens, with plants from around the world and a children’s garden with full-sized stone dinosaurs.
Old Fort Park
Add a little more history into your New Smyrna Beach itinerary with a visit to Old Fort Park. Over the years, the fort ruins have led to much speculation about who designed it and when it came to be. The design shares many similarities to Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, an hour north. Others argue it was the work of the Scottish doctor, Dr. Andrew Turnbull, who helped settle the town.
Either way, while walking around the center of town, you’ll love checking out fascinating ruins at Old Fort Park. A block from Canal Street and Riverside Park, pay a visit and see if you can crack the mystery.
Indian River Lagoon Park
Located along Sandpiper Avenue, Indian River Lagoon Park features an abundance of wildlife, a vibrant underwater world, and ample hiking trails to experience a touch of both.
If you’re looking for a lovely waterside walk while in New Smyrna Beach, make your way to Indian River Lagoon Park, where you can wander through dense forests towards the estuary. While here, keep your ears and eyes open for migratory birds fluttering high in the canopy.
The Indian River Lagoon Park also includes two docks. From here, you can connect to the Volusia County river trail. Friends and family can also gather in the picnic area with plenty of space for the kids to run around.
Atlantic Center for the Arts
On Turnbull Bay, named after the town’s founder, the Atlantic Center for the Arts delivers a dose of high culture in New Smyrna Beach. Within the four walls, visitors can explore a rapidly evolving collection of work. The space is also home to temporary residences and studios for artists hailing from all over the world.
The unique living situation provides guests with an invaluable insight into the artistic process as you can watch the art come to life. The Atlantic Center for the Arts also hosts a number of exhibitions and community events throughout the year, providing further opportunities to interact with artists.
27th Avenue Beachfront Park
Facing east, there are many places in New Smyrna Beach to capture a golden sunrise. Perhaps the best of the lot is 27th Avenue Beachfront Park. Spanning almost four acres, the park is a picture-perfect spot to complete your early morning escapades. Get up early and watch the sun rise uninhibitedly over the eastern horizon.
After that memorable experience, settle in for a day at the beach. You’ll enjoy access, not just to the soft sands and blue water, but to the wide array of park amenities.
27th Avenue Park also comes with basketball courts, racquetball courts, spacious picnic areas, and playgrounds along with an oceanfront boardwalk.
Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park
Wedged between the Indian River and Atlantic Ocean, the 6-acre Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park is a relaxing escape from the busier shorelines elsewhere in Volusia County.
The park gets its name from civil rights activist Mary McLeod who helped establish the area as an African-American beach during segregation in Florida. It’s so important to the area’s history it’s listed on the Florida Black Heritage Trail.
Bethune Beach Park features an array of amenities that make it a fantastic place for a seaside escape. From the Atlantic, you can take a relaxing walk on the boardwalk or head further inland to the riverfront fishing pier to cast in a line.
If you’re looking for a little more activity, warm up on the basketball or tennis courts or grab a surfboard and hit the waves.
The Breakers Ocean Front Restaurant & Bar
Perched at the edge of Flagler Avenue on the Atlantic shores, The Breakers Ocean Front Restaurant & Bar is one of NSB’s most popular food & drink hotspots. With an eclectic menu, complemented by incredible ocean views, it’s not surprising that this waterfront gem is a favorite for locals and tourists alike.
The Breakers is most famous for its burgers, recently ranked as the top 5 in Central Florida by Orlando My Way. Even if you don’t want to indulge your appetite, the beachside patio is the perfect place to let loose and sip cold beers or tropical cocktails with the sea breeze brushing your face.
Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum
If you’re a history buff visiting New Smyrna Beach, be sure to slip in a visit to the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum. The museum is housed in a former church, dating back to 1899. The church, once known as Sacred Heart and St. Rita, was one of the area’s most important congregations for African-American Catholics.
On its centennial, the former church was converted into a museum. Today, the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum walks through the struggle for civil rights in Florida in the 20th-century through an interesting collection of photographs and artifacts.
Located in the historic West Side community, the museum is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and Saturday from 1 pm to 4 pm. Admission is free, with donations gratefully accepted.
Best places to stay in New Smyrna Beach for sightseeing
With a fantastic location in the historic center, this B&B offers travelers colorful, unique rooms. Enjoy a delicious breakfast before hitting the town for some sightseeing. End the day relaxing in the B&B’s homey terrace.
Just nine minutes from the beach, the Riverview Hotel is the perfect retreat for your New Smyrna Beach trip. Enjoy the daily continental breakfast and a chance to cool down and relax at the on-site pool and spa. The hotel also offers complimentary bike rentals for exploring the town.
With its Art Deco furnishings and decor, the Inn on the Avenue is the perfect complement to your historic sightseeing adventure. Enjoy spectacular views from your private balcony or lace up your walking shoes for a quick 5-minute walk to the beach.
At this family-friendly hotel, you’ll enjoy a wide selection of rooms and suites. Upgrade to an oceanview suite to enjoy spectacular sunrises or kick back at the outdoor pool to cool down in the hot Northeast Florida sun.