Continuing our East Coast Ocean Road Trip – I’ve now named the scenic coastal drive from Fort Pierce to St Augustine such – we headed North to Daytona Beach(D) of our fix of sun, sand, surf and speed!
But I’ve skipped a point along my suggested map above! Extraordinarily hungry, as there was a seeming lack of stores along the coastal roads (stock up on the mainland before you take off), we stopped in Cape Canaveral for lunch (C). Cape Canaveral ring a bell? Cape Canaveral is home of the Kennedy Space Museum, and the launch site for NASA’s previous Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs. While NASA has stopped their space shuttle program and you can no longer view launches into space, you can still see the giant rockets, tour launch areas, meet veteran astronauts, and train in spaceflight simulators!
What we didn’t realize was that the Space Museum is an actual theme park, and you can’t tour the site without hopping on a tour bus at the Visitors Complex. Admission starts at $50 for adults and $40 for children and parking is around $10. We will be heading back to Cape Canaveral when we can put a full day aside for the space museum – wasn’t really worth entry being 4pm!
We made it to Daytona Beach around 6pm with still 2 hours of daylight left to explore; courtesy of Florida’s amazing summers. It claims to be the most famous beach in the world, and probably comes close – nearly 200,000 students descend on the area each year for Spring Break despite the city of Daytona trying to discourage them. The 23 miles of Daytona Beach are some of the only in the world where cars are allowed on the sands – a tradition carried over from the days when motor enthusiasts would race on the beaches.
I absolutely loved Daytona Beach – obviously offering a very different vibe from Spring Break, the beach was packed with couples, families, surfers and cyclists enjoying the longest days of the year. The sand is so hard-packed it’s one of the easiest beaches to walk on, and the water is so incredibly clear and clean. I can’t think of any other way to describe the water than clean – because of the hard-packed sand the water isn’t mixed with sand, mud or any other elements as the waves crash onto the shore, and it’s a very different sensation than spending time at a regular beach. Daytona was by far one of the best beaches I have ever been to, in my opinion rivaling the top beaches in Australia and Hawaii.
Daytona is obviously a mecca for Motorsports fans, with the other world famous attraction being the nearby Daytona International Speedway. The “world center of racing”, the Speedway draws huge crowds, and over 110,000 spectators fill the seats each year for the Daytona 500 (tickets sell out a year in advance) and other sports car, motorcycle, go-kart and charity races. For those times of the year when no races are taking place the visitors center has a great hall of exhibits, and computers which let you design and take part in simulated interactive pit stops as well as race commentary! You can also take a half hour tram tour of the track itself.
We absolutely loved Daytona Beach and could have easily spent more time there. While we didn’t catch spring break or the Daytona 500, the great thing about visiting during the off season is a lack of tourists, lack of 200,000 rowdy teenagers, and incredibly cheap hotels who drop their rates to starting at $40 per night in an attempt to fill their rooms.
Hotel Review coming tomorrow!
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