Stretching for more than five miles along the Atlantic Ocean (and just a few hundred yards wide), Daytona Beach Shores is located on a beautiful barrier island where famed race drivers once vied to set world speed records.
Daytona Beach Shores is a town of about 4,300 people just south of Daytona Beach. The oceanfront community is so small that it has no schools and no industry to speak of, unless you count building vacation condos.
Taking up about 5½ miles along A1A, Daytona Beach Shores was created in 1960 by a group of motel owners seeking a smaller, more manageable community along the Atlantic. Burgeoning development was changing the face of the region, and Daytona Beach Shores followed suit.
Today about 90 percent of the population lives in one of the numerous condo towers lining the beach. Hotels aren’t as prevalent on South Atlantic Avenue as they are further north. The bulk of the housing is either retirement apartments or time-shares, which makes it a haven for vacationers who want the waterfront without the crowds of Daytona Beach.
Like much of Volusia County, you can drive on the beach here, and there are just enough amenities to get through a weeklong trip without venturing far. Of course, it’s also close to enough attractions to easily keep you as busy as you’d like to be.
Daytona Beach Shores’ lack of major hoteliers and beach attractions suits the local guests just fine.
The surf here can be a little rough, but what most beachgoers here are looking for is a strip of sand to call their own. The beach is backed by a sea wall that prevents there from being much in the way of dunes. Most access is down from street level.
The tide comes in almost all the way to this sea wall, which can wreak havoc on beach encampments at high tide. But that also means that when the tide is out, the beach stretches out for hundreds of yards in places.
There are lifeguards, but alcohol and dogs are not allowed. There also doesn’t tend to be the density of beach gear rental kiosks as in some other beaches in the area.
The most notable thing about this stretch of beach is how hard and well-packed the sand is, making it well-suited to driving. That also means that if you have children with you, all of you will have to be aware that cars can come from either direction as you run from your time-share to the surf line.
Auto Racing Hall of Fame
It’s no wonder many of its attractions center on racing memorabilia – the Auto Racing Hall of Fame with plaques honoring the great drivers and racing figures from the past, the racing memorabilia in the Community Center, the Legends Walk of Fame which feature bricks commemorating the daring drivers of the beach racing era, and the special events like Race Weeks and Bike Week.
Of course, Daytona Beach Shores also enjoys all the attractions of its northern neighbor Daytona Beach, just five miles up the road, and of the entire area – the Daytona International Speedway’s DAYTONA USA, a custom-designed state-of-the art interactive motorsports attraction and museum, its many other museums, theaters, and performing arts festivals, its botanical gardens, historic ruins, state parks, waterways, and nationally recognized landmarks.
Down the road, at the southern tip of the peninsula, is the scenic fishing village of Ponce Inlet with some fine seafood restaurants and charter fishing boats. The Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet sits in the shadows of the historic 1887 Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Florida and one of only a handful of lighthouses in the United States to have all of its original buildings still standing. With interactive exhibits on the area’s marine environment, a seabird sanctuary and sea turtle rehabilitation facilities, the Center provides a unique and entertaining learning experience for young and old.
The city boasts 10 courts built for Pickleball, which is kind of like playing Ping-Pong on a full, tennis-sized court. Give it a try and realize how hard Ping-Pong can be.
Congo River Golf
There are a few miniature golf course in town, but this is part of a chain that always features a crashed airplane, so it’s got that going for it.
Accommodations in Daytona Beach Shores
Residence Inn by Marriott
You know this chain already. The highlight here is that the entire building is comprised of suites, which is always a bonus for a beach getaway.
Best Western Aku Tiki Inn
This is a budget-friendly, beachfront hotel that enjoys the distinction of being a local landmark, thanks to the giant tiki head out front. There’s a Polynesian theme all over this joint, which honestly makes for a fun, kitschy thrill for the kids and the adults.
Tropic Shores Resort
This time-share tower is pretty indicative of the whole condo canyon experience in these parts: Pleasant, family-oriented, with a pool, a grill and gear to be lent out. Units are clean, spacious, versatile and have waterfront balconies.
Food & Drink
The Cracked Egg Diner
It’s always good to know a good breakfast place while on vacation. This is a good breakfast place, which you know because it can get pretty packed on busy days.
Vittoria Italian Coffee & Pastries
If you don’t want to go full cholesterol, you can get an espresso and something sugary at this fab Italian coffee shop. Of course, cannoli aren’t a breakfast food, per se, but any time is a good time for cannoli.
If you’re really feeling like Italian, this full service restaurant and pizzeria is on the same block as Vittoria. They’ve got full, family-style meals, tablecloths, the whole nine.
Parked right on the Sunglow Fishing Pier, this seafood staple is about as showy as restaurants get in Daytona Beach Shores. The dinner-with-a-view factor is unbeatable here.
A hole in the wall with authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex. We ordered a truckload of tacos and nachos for take out during our trip and fed a small army for a reasonable amount, with quality exceeding many counter service joints.
Getting to Daytona Beach Shores
Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) is a small but pleasant airport offering flights from major carriers. Rental cars and shuttle services are available, as are Uber and Lyft. New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport (EVB), also known as Jack Bolt Field, is south of Daytona Beach, while Orlando International Airport (MCO) is to the west.
The town is south of the intersection of interstates 4 and 95, although if you’re coming in from Orlando there is a spur that points you to U.S. Highway 92 east into Daytona Beach instead of the I-95 interchange, which is further south. Coming off the 4/95 interchange you’ll end up on State Road 400, a.k.a. Beville Road.
U.S. 92 becomes International Speedway Boulevard which, as you may have guessed, goes past Daytona International Speedway on the mainland. Going this route will take you to the barrier island; Hang a left heading south on A1A (Atlantic Avenue) and you’ll reach Daytona Beach Shores in short order.
There’s a more direct route from Interstate 95, south of I-4. Taking this will put you on Dunlawton Avenue (State Road 421), which heads directly into the southern end of Daytona Beach Shores over the Halifax River. Otherwise you’ll need to come from points north.
You don’t technically need a car to get around, but it sure helps if you’re doing anything more than four blocks from your hotel, or between the island and the mainland. Votran, Volusia County’s public transit system, offers several routes over the Halifax River, including Route 17A on Atlantic Avenue (including north to Daytona Beach) and Route 17B that crosses to the mainland on Dunlawton Avenue.