Daytona Beach Shores
A laid-back community south of Daytona Beach, catering to families on vacation and retirees with time-shares and condos.
- When the tide is out, the beach is huge.
- The condos, time-shares and hotels usually offer everything you need on a vacation.
- Just enough food options to provide some choice.
- You have to dodge cars driving on the beach.
- A1A can also be tough to cross, with only three stoplights in the whole town.
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 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.
As a condo-heavy community, Daytona Beach Shores can be a little light on parking. Out-of-towners who aren’t staying in a tower of some kind may find it difficult to find an open spot past mid-morning.
Most of the big surface lots you see will be for renters and owners, so you’ll be out of luck if you don’t have a parking pass from a particular resort or condo. Even lots on the west side of A1A are often spillover parking for paying guests. Do yourself a favor and pay attention to signage.
There are a few public spots at any of numerous parks and beach approaches, but you have to get there early if you want to avoid the hassles.
Moving north to south:
There’s an open lot with free spots across Atlantic Avenue, between Flamingo and Botefuhr avenues.
Frank Rendon Park, on A1A at Richards Lane, has a particularly large paved lot, plus a playground, bathrooms and picnic pavilions.
There are a few spots along the beach approach next to Van Avenue Park, which appear at first to be for guests for the Tropic Shores Resort but are for public use.
Fornari Park on A1A at Simpson Avenue has a few spots, plus beach access.
There are spots at the Florida Shores Boulevard ramp, the El Portal ramp between Cascade Terrace and Esmerelda Avenue, and the Demotte Avenue ramp.
Otherwise, your best bet may be to do what many others do and pay the fee to drive onto the beach and park there (more on that below). You’d certainly be closer to the action.
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.
DRIVING ON DAYTONA BEACH SHORES
About 23 miles of Volusia County’s beaches are open for folks who like to drive off the pavement and onto the sand. Many people think the sand is hard-packed and smooth because of the cars, but really, the cars are here because the sand is hard-packed and smooth.
The “road” for cars driving on the beach is limited to two lanes, one in each direction, near the close end of the beach, away from the waterline. There is space for parking next to dunes or hotels or sea walls or what have you (as long as you’re not on the conservation easement).
Small camps of beachgoers tend to set up shop right next to their vehicles. This means drivers and beachgoers have to keep an eye out for each other to make sure they don’t meet at an inopportune time, such as when a sunbather chasing a Frisbee runs in front of a Ford F-150. People staying in beachfront lodging also have a tendency to not pay attention to the traffic lanes.
To see where driving is and is not allowed on a consistent basis, check the map here.
Daytona Beach Shores provides several access ramps to drive from A1A to the beach (note that Wilbur-by-the-Sea, south of town, does not allow driving). These ramps are available at just about every beachfront block in town. Golf carts and off-road vehicles end up out there almost as much as cars and trucks.
Hours vary by season and will be posted at the entry points, but the general rule of thumb is roughly sunup to sundown. Read more about the hours here. Annual passes are available, but as of this writing, the daily pass costs $20.
Sometimes access is closed because of high tide, or if wet conditions are making the sand too soft to drive in safely. The speed limit is 10 mph, and drivers in motion must have their headlights on and windows down.
To get a feel for what the experience is like, you can watch our very own trip across Daytona Beach in a 4x4 pickup truck here:
Keep in mind that sometimes sections of the beach are closed, for reasons ranging from weather conditions to events to city ordinances. Parking also is regulated, and lifeguards and patrols will constantly remind you if you’re violating some rules.
WHERE TO STAY
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.
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.
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.
Most of the big-time events are in adjacent Daytona Beach or other places in Volusia County. That said, DBS does have a community center that offers a lot of activities for a town its size.
The city hosts free concerts on the last Friday of the month at the Shores Pavilion. They usually start at 6:30.
THINGS TO DO
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.
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.
This church features a small hall with a huge parking lot, where you’re welcome to pull up, tune into an FM station and hear the scheduled sermon. Rest assured, the carside service is just an option, not a requirement. Be respectful if you’re just coming by to gawk; It’s a house of worship, not a sideshow.
WATERSPORTS AND FITNESS
Even with 5½ miles of oceanfront, the boat ramp options in Daytona Beach Shores are limited. This marina is on the Halifax River, and is technically not in the DBS city limits. Expect full service, slip rental and more.
Deck boats, speed boats, fishing boats, pontoons, paddlecraft and yes, Jet Skis are available for rent here. It’s just down the street from Seven Seas Marina on the Halifax River.
The pier and the Crabby Joe’s restaurant on it are inseparable. But if you want to sink your own line instead, you can do that for a fee. There’s gear rental and a bait shop if you’re just dropping in.
PLACE TO EAT AND DRINK
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.
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.
A family-owned jewelry shop that offers several nautical-themed pieces. It’s a great option for people who want beachy souvenirs that aren’t t-shirts.
Although if you want t-shirts, those are available, too. The local surf shop is, of course, the place to get boards, wet suits, t-shirts, leashes, waxes and more. Mad Dog offers its own line of El Salvador-grown coffee, too!