Photo: Chris Higgins Photography/Shutterstock

Seven Unexpected Things to Do in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Road Trips Outdoor
by Jen Ruiz Feb 3, 2022

contrary to what its name implies, New Smyrna Beach isn’t new at all. It’s an old city steeped in history. Through the city, travelers can see foundations for a would-be palace from 1770 sitting alongside newly renovated hotels, with a flamingo-pink burger joint tucked in-between. Warm, salty breezes are almost a given, luring residents and visitors alike towards 17 miles of wide-open Florida shoreline.

There are plenty of things to do in New Smyrna Beach to fill a long weekend, especially if you’re keen on soaking up the vintage Florida vibes. It’s less than an hour from Orlando, making it a great place to visit if theme parks and family vacations aren’t your thing. Just don’t forget the important items to pack: flip-flops, sunscreen, and sunglasses, because the forecast doesn’t change too much: sunny, with a chance of dolphin spotting.

Seven unique things to do in New Smyrna Beach

1. Go for a walk through Smyrna Dunes Park

Walking through Dunes Park is one of the most popular things to do in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Photo: Jen Ruiz

With an elevated and accessible boardwalk, Smyrna Dunes Park draws birders and wildlife enthusiasts, especially early in the morning. New Smyrna Beach is known for being a surfer city, and the park provides access to the most desirable surf spot in town – the Ponce Inlet. It’s where the Indian River, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Halifax River meet the Atlantic Ocean. It’s common to see locals carrying their boards on the way to catch some waves through the park, and on windy days, watching the surfers is one of the most popular things to do in New Smyrna Beach. The park has both a pier and a beach for fishing (make sure to pick up a fishing license) and is one of the few city parks where pets are allowed.

2. Take an art lesson or browse an off-beat gallery

The Hub on Canal, a creative artist co-op open to the public

Photo: Jen Ruiz

An unexpected dose of culture awaits inside The Hub on Canal, a co-op of 65 artists that create, display, and sell their work on-site in a building that was once a silent movie theater. Works include everything from watercolors to handcrafted shoes and prices run the gambit. They have a number of community outreach efforts like music nights, art lessons for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and guitar therapy for veterans with PTSD. Visitors can also drop in for lessons on everything from language classes to music and watercolor lessons, and the venue often hosts live music and stand-up comedy nights, among other fun entertainment options.

3. Browse some funky downtown stores

One of many inviting small shops on Canal Street

Photo: Jen Ruiz

While on Canal Street, take some time to peruse rows of chic, locally-owned shops, even if you’re not regularly a shopper. The Galley is a gourmet food store with uniquely flavored olive oils and vinegar on tap infused with ingredients like ginger or pomegranate. The Posh Pineapple is a boutique featuring souvenirs, gifts, and home goods and is great for gifts for people at home. Bikini Company is a swimsuit store that sells tops and bottoms in different sizes, so it’s easy to find something that fits. And for lunch or dinner, head to CorkScrew Bar and Grille – the mojito scallops are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Be aware that visiting CorkScrew for happy hour is one of the best things to do in New Smyrna Beach, so it can get pretty crowded on weekends.

4.Visit the New Smyrna Museum of History

Exhibits at the New Smyrna Beach history museum, one of the best things to do in NSB

Photo: Jen Ruiz

The New Smyrna Museum of History is small but impactful. It exhibits centuries-old navigational maps, a collection of Norman Rockwell posters, and lots of rare coins. And it’s impeccably curated, packing a tremendous amount of information into a relatively small space. During your visit, take the time to speak with a volunteer, all of whom are knowledgeable on everything from archeology to surfing. The museum is across the street from the Old Fort Park Archeological site, celebrating the remains of what may have been the ruins of an early home — or not. No one really knows for sure. It’s free and open to the public.

5. Hike near the Sugar Mill Ruins

One of the best things to do in New Smyrna Beach if you love history — the Old Sugar Mill

Photo: Jen Ruiz

Though it was destroyed before ever becoming operational, the old sugar mill is still happening. The Sugar Mill Ruins date to the 19th century and are currently a lovely (and photogenic) spot for a picnic and quick hike. The ruins stand largely undisturbed, with informative placards and QR codes positioned throughout for guests to learn about what they’re seeing. Visitors can stick to the perimeter of the ruins or venture out into the surrounding nature trails. The turnoff is easy to miss, so make sure you’re using a map or paying close attention on the drive. It’s a fascinating piece of history tucked into the Florida wilderness.

6. Tour the Sugar Works Distillery

A tasty cocktail from New Smyrna BEach's Sugar Works Distillery

Photo: Jen Ruiz

The Sugar Works Distillery should be on every libation-lover’s list. The creative mixologists and pros use fresh herbs and fruits from the distillery’s garden to craft unique cocktails, all impeccably mixed and ornately garnished. Their offerings change seasonally, but they usually have a few rums, a whiskey, and even moonshine, all made without artificial colors, flavors, or chemical sweetening. Visitors can tour the distillery while sipping on custom creations, and the resident mixologist is always open to trying a new recipe.

7. Kayak with the Marine Discovery Center

A dolphin swimming in the Indian River Lagoon

Photo: Sara Matulonis/Shutterstock

The Marine Discovery Center is a multi-purpose facility with a lot to offer guests interested in marine life. It has a range of educational programs about the Indian River Lagoon. It’s the most biodiverse estuary in North America, with more than 4,000 species of plants and animals. Taking one of the two-hour guided kayaking tours of the lagoon is one of the most popular things to do in New Smyrna Beach, though the tours on a 40-person pontoon boat are pretty fun, too. The center also has specialty tours, like a full moon tour or lighthouse cruise. Expect to see dolphins, shorebirds, and leaping fish on your trip.

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