After leaving Melbourne, on my Big Gay Florida Road Trip, I headed further up Florida’s Space Coast to the beautiful New Smyrna Beach. This popular beach town is an hour north of the Kennedy Space Center and less than 30 minutes south of Daytona Beach.
Technically still considered to be a town on Florida’s Space Coast, New Smyrna Beach is a surf hub known for its beaches. The town is also a popular shopping hub, which was a selling point to me when deciding where to stop for the night. And it’s one of the few beaches that you can drive your car onto.
I spent the evening exploring Flagler Ave Boardwalk – shopping, eating and soaking in the sun until storms rolled in. The SpringHill Suites by Marriott was my home for the evening. With balcony views directly on the beach, it was the perfect respite. The next morning, I headed to Canal Street for more shopping before departing for lunch in Daytona.
If you’ve been looking for stunning sunrises, ocean waves and a little shopping, then plan a future New Smyrna Beach road trip.
How Gay is New Smyrna Beach?
To be blunt – not gay at all. But this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself in this east coast beach town. The town is friendly and accepting to all, so feel free to put your own gay in a gay New Smyrna Beach road trip.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking for a beach property, then you have several options. I’ve provided a Booking.com map below as to assist. However, if you are looking for a beach hotel with shopping, dining and plenty of things to do nearby, then the SpringHill Suites is the place to stay.
SpringHill Suites by Marriott New Smyrna Beach
512 Flagler Avenue
Make yourself at home at this casual oceanfront property. At the SpringHill Suites by Marriott New Smyrna Beach, you’ll find spacious suites with separate living areas, kitchenettes, free wifi, and other comforts of home. Many suites offer balconies and/or ocean views!
After a day at the beach, relax in the beachfront pool or at the lobby restaurant and piano bar. And in the morning, enjoy a breakfast buffet courtesy of the property.
In addition to the beach, this property is also just steps away from New Smyrna’s restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.
My SpringHill Suites Experience
When I informed the New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau about my month-long road trip focused on promoting Florida as LGTBQ-welcoming, the SpringHill Suites by Marriott was quick to offer their support. I was ecstatic! I used to work for Marriott over a decade ago, specifically the SpringHill Suite properties, so I was delighted to know that the popular brand was promoting themselves as LGBTQ-welcoming.
Familiar with Marriott quality, I also knew that the rooms would be clean and the staff pleasant. However, my expectations were beyond surpassed when I drove up to the stunning property sitting along the beach.
The building itself was stunning and the Flagler Ave beach location ideal. Although a hotel, the exterior had a beach cottage feel. The interior was just as beautiful with an open lobby and beach views. The rooms were classy and clean, and my room had a balcony overlooking the pool and beach below.
After adventuring into town, I loved spending the evening on my balcony, sipping wine while watching the afterglow in the sky of the storms earlier in the evening. It was majestic. I even caught a double rainbow in the sky, although I failed to capture its beauty on camera.
There are several hotel chains along New Smyrna Beach, but I can’t imagine any being as perfect for a New Smyrna road trip. And if you want an LGBTQ-inclusive place to say in a non-LGBTQ populated town, Marriott properties offer comfort and belonging. The majority of Marriott properties provide LGBTQ training to staff. I have no doubt that all would feel welcome at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott in New Smyrna Beach.
Start planning your seaside stay here.
Other Places to Stay
Where to Eat & Drink
I hope you’re hungry, because you could eat your way along Flagler Ave and Canal Street. I was only in town for one night, so I dined at the Ocean Breeze Tiki Bar & Grille, which was closest to the hotel. But the coffee and treats shops I passed during my shopping adventures left me drooling for a future visit.
For those of you looking for a more upscale experience, check out Norwood’s Treehouse & Eatery. Although I didn’t dine there during my visit, I have it on my list for my next gay New Smyrna Beach road trip adventure.
Ocean Breeze Tiki Bar & Grille
521 Flagler Avenue
Stroll from the SpringHill property over to Ocean Breeze for happy hour on the ocean view patio. Dig into some great comfort food for lunch or dinner. Menu favorites include firecracker shrimp, blackened fish tacos, and tuna poke.
Enjoy the low-key casual vibe, friendly servers, and yes, the breeze off the Atlantic. Bring the whole family. Well-behaved, leashed fur babies are permitted in outdoor areas! Find out about daily specials and all the fun here.
My Tip: Try the salmon tacos. With avocado and strawberries, they were sinfully delicious! If you like to watch the storms roll in, this is also the place to be. The views of the water are incredible. But take my advice. Don’t sit along the bar near the deck during a downpour. It gets very wet.
Beachie Bean’s Coffee House
411 Flagler Avenue
Start your day right or take a beach break with delicious coffee at this homey spot. The team at Beachie Bean’s can whip-up your favorite coffee or introduce you to a new one! They also offer baked goods, sandwiches, smoothies, mimosas, and beers. Try one of their Iced coffee drinks served with frozen coffee cubes so your last sip will be as flavorful as your first.
Head inside the antique-meets-coffee shop or hang outside on the sun deck. There’s more than one reason this is a local favorite. See what all the buzz is about here.
Treats on the Beach
504 Flagler Avenue
No day at the beach is complete without snacks and ice cream! Head back to simpler times at Treats on the Beach. This cheerful spot offers all the summer snack classics including burgers, chili cheese dogs, and fries. The menu also features fresh-made wraps and salads.
Be sure to save room for ice cream! Their large selection of hand-scooped favorites never disappoints (make mine Coconut Almond Joy)! Or indulge in their guilt-free 95% fat free soft serve creations. You can even customize your own twist combo of two of over a dozen flavors. Learn more about this sweet spot, including current hours and flavors, here.
115 Flagler Avenue
Café Heavenly has been serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to hungry beach goers and locals for over 20 years. Enjoy your meal, coffee, or gelato indoors or on their outdoor patio.
Café Heavenly is known for their Maine lobster rolls, jumbo crab cakes, and award-winning chowders. Satisfy your pizza craving with a customized pizza baked in their 10,000 pound wood-fired pizza. Don’t overlook homemade classics like signature salads, meatballs, and sandwich platters. The menu features plenty of vegetarian options including Beyond Burgers.
For dessert, explore their rotating case of gelato flavors! Find out yourself just what’s so heavenly about this casual local spot here.
Norwood’s Eatery & Treehouse Bar
400 East 2nd Avenue
Norwood’s has been serving fine-dining fare since 1946. Enjoy an upscale yet affordable lunch or dinner in the original whimsical dining room or Roots Lounge. For a unique experience head up to the Treehouse Bar (ages 21 and over only). This one-of-a-kind bar is literally built around a massive tree! Have a seat at the bar or pull up a rustic chair to a table made from tree branches.
Norwood’s diverse menu has something for every diner. This is the go-to local place for fresh seafood, hand-cut steaks, and locally-sourced produce. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free offerings are clearly marked indicated. Favorites include seafood pot pie, hand-cut steaks, house smoked mahi fish dip, and a vegan-friendly BBQ jackfruit sandwich.
They take their love of trees and the environment seriously. They have their own “Sustainability Garden” and compost program. Learn more about their eco-friendly operation, explore the menu, daily specials, and entertainment line-up here.
What to Do in New Smyrna Beach
Whether you’re a surfer girl or guy, shopping addict, foodie, or history buff, you’ll fall in love with New Smyrna Beach. Although one of the smaller regions I visited during my Gay Florida Road Trip, it was definitely one of my favorite.
Flagler Ave Boardwalk
Flagler Avenue from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River
Take a break from the beach to explore historic Flagler Avenue. This fun little street packs a lot into the five blocks from Flagler Avenue Beachfront Park and Boardwalk west to the Indian River. There’s plenty to see, do, and taste in this charming and funky district.
Grab a bite or a beverage at one (or more!) of the 20 restaurants and bars that dot The Avenue. Explore the dozens of eclectic shops, boutiques, and galleries for souvenirs for everyone on your list, including yourself! Unwind with a treatment at one of the Avenues spas or salons. Plan your visit here.
My Tip: If you like to shop until you drop, this is the place to be. I purchased several souvenirs and gifts during my visit to New Smyrna Beach. I hadn’t done much shopping up until this point, but I made sure to rectify that situation while here.
Ponce DeLeon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum
4931 South Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet
Get your steps in, 203 of them to be exact, at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum! Your reward? A great workout, reaching the top deck 164.5 feet above, and spectacular 360 degree views of the Atlantic Ocean and beyond.
If staying on the ground is more your thing there’s still plenty to see and learn at this museum complex. Kiddos will enjoy time in the playground and the whole family can relax together at one of the casual eateries on the grounds. The nearby Marine Science Center offers fascinating insight about what goes on below the waters. Plan your visit to Florida’s tallest lighthouse here.
Marine Science Center
100 Lighthouse Drive, Ponce Inlet
Learn about Florida’s environment and waterways at the Marine Science Center. For over 20 years this organization has been educating nature lovers of all ages about environmental conservation.
Stop by the Turtle Terrace rehabilitation facility. Here you can observe the gentle sea creatures as they are nursed back to health. Learn more about Ponce Inlet’s Marine Science Center and its programs here.
Smyrna Dunes Park
2995 North Peninsula Avenue
If you’re in the mood to explore Smyrna Dunes Beach Park has what you’re looking for. This 184-acre park is surrounded by water on three sides. Hit the surf, or the sand, of the Atlantic Ocean. Stroll out over the Indian River on the 300-foot long fishing pier. Climb the observation tower for amazing views of the Inlet and surrounding area.
Bring your canine companion to the inlet-side dog beach! Arrive early to explore the park’s elevated boardwalk (pets are only permitted on the boardwalk before 10:00 a.m.). Start planning your visit to this beautiful oasis here.
Canal Street Historic District
This pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined historic district offers a vibrant blend of parks and historic buildings, specialty shops and service businesses, fine dining, art galleries, cultural attractions and the New Smyrna Beach Museum of History.
Start exploring Canal Street Historic District here.
Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum
The Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum showcases photos, oral histories, memorabilia and artifacts from Africa American culture and history. A 501c3, the museum educates citizens about the history of race relations in small town Florida during the 20th century. The building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and was once a church for a congregation of Black Roman Catholics.
To learn more about the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum and other culture stops along Florida’s Space Coast, click here.
As New Smyrna Beach and Volusia County reopens information is frequently being updated to best meet the needs of the community and ensure safety for residents and visitors.
During this unusual time please travel safe. Check with your hosts, restaurants, and other venues in advance to learn their current plans and regulations.
Plan Your gay Road Trip to New Smyrna Beach
The natural beauty and bustling culture of New Smyrna Beach make it an ideal gay Florida road trip destination.
Whatever your interests and energy level you’re sure to return home with lifelong memories of this Florida East Coast oasis.
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