When most people think of the Orlando area of Florida they think of theme parks and attractions, big resorts with so much entertainment, fast-paced action and endless thrills. This part of the sunshine state is most definitely all of these things, and there’s much fun to be had here. But it’s not just these, there’s another side to the Eastern coast of Florida, the area around New Smyrna Beach, that is simply a breath of fresh air, a glimpse into an uncomplicated Florida, a throw back to the days before the theme parks and which is still present and thriving.
New Smyrna Beach is an old Floridian town with bags of charm. With a huge stretch of golden sand bordering the town and the Atlantic Ocean it’s somewhere to come and relax and enjoy.
We visited Florida in October when the chill of autumn was distinctly felt across the UK. It felt wonderful to bask in the warmth of the state at this time of year, deliciously warm and with none of the crowds or humidity of the summer.
We pulled up into New Smyrna Beach and straight in to the Atlantic Plaza, a lovely beach side apartment complex with beautiful views across the sea. While a little twee in places we immediately felt at home and it was the perfect space for our family to relax, unpack and feel like we’d moved in. Waking up to the sun rising, sending orange shoots of colour across the sea I felt so relaxed here.
New Smyrna Beach is one of those places where people go out of their way to be friendly and welcoming. Florida is well used to dealing with tourists and in parts it can feel like a well oiled machine but New Smyrna Beach hasn’t lost that old school hospitality, the smile that reaches the eyes and a genuine desire to make you feel at home.
This whole coastline is somewhere to come and recharge your batteries and we loved walking through the town, popping in to little gift shops and stopping for huge ice creams (this wasn’t even the large!) –
New Smyrna Beach is filled with the sweetest little shops and restaurants. I lived in Philadelphia for a year between school and university and hadn’t tried salt water taffy since those summer days spent travelling out to the New Jersey shore, so when I saw an old-fashioned candy shop selling taffy in so many different flavours I knew we had to stop and fill some bags!
But it was days by the beach which really allowed us to stop and relax. When we visited there were turtles nesting in the sand so we wandered bare-foot along the beach, looking for turtles that hadn’t made it to the sea to hand in to the patrols. The salty sea air here was fresh and comforting and we could have spent our entire time in this area just sat here on the sand, the children happily building sandcastles or paddling in the sea.
On one of our days here we took a cruise with the Marine Discovery Centre, travelling down the Indian River Lagoon where salt and fresh water mingle, to look for various wildlife. While the cruise is an amazing insight in to all the creatures of this area there was one that I really wanted to see – the bottlenose dolphin. There are plenty of people who travel to Florida to swim with dolphins but in my opinion these beautiful creatures should only be seen in the wild. It was important to me to talk to my children about why dolphins, these highly intelligent creatures who naturally form sociable groups should never be viewed in captivity and we were rewarded by the most wonderful show of dolphins swimming alongside our boat, jumping out of the water and looking absolutely beautiful. I could feel tears threaten to fall down my cheeks as we watched them dance and play around us. If seeing dolphins is one of your dreams, please consider coming to a cruise like this to see them where they truly belong. It can’t be beaten (you can see more in our video at the bottom of the page).
The rest of our days were spent lazily enjoying the peace and tranquility of New Smyrna Beach. We ate in the restaurants, in the delicious AA Garden Fusion where we feasted on delicious Asian inspired food and pots of green tea.
And a wonderfully old school fish restaurant by the sea, DJ Decks, where a spectacular storm suddenly hit the area just as we arrived which took all of the power out. Far from causing a dampener on the evening it brought the whole restaurant together with wonderful good cheer as we all bonded over the lack of light. It was a memorable evening for some great fried fish (and fried jalapeno poppers for me!) and watching the cat-fish darting about in the bay.
We loved New Smyrna Beach and our old fashioned fun by the sea, breathing deeply and contentedly and really relaxing. This is somewhere so different from the parks and fast pace of Orlando and compliments it perfectly.
Check out our video of our time in New Smyrna Beach here –
We were guests of New Smyrna Beach for the purposes of this review but all opinions are our own.