The World’s Most Famous Beach? Did Daytona name itself that? Is that kind of like Joshua Norton proclaiming himself The Emperor of the U.S. back in 1849?
We often poke gentle fun at Daytona Beach, mostly because any town that is anything “world’s most famous” makes us run like the wind in the opposite direction. Because our mission statement includes “off the beaten path” and “small town coastal Florida,” we’d be steering fellow travelers in the wrong direction by recommending Daytona Beach. ALTHOUGH, the gorgeous walkable riverfront historic part of Daytona Beach is worth a visit; more on that later.
And Daytona Beach does have retro-vintage-old-Florida family owned mom-and-pops, cool 1950’s architecture, gorgeous beaches (as long as you don’t mind cars driving past your beach towel…) friendly locals and fun bars.
Originally The Clarendon Hotel, built in 1895, now named The Plaza Resort & Spa. Photo on the right is courtesy of The Plaza Resort & Spa.
But enough about Daytona Beach!
Doesn’t it seem as though you drive through most towns in Florida? As in “Oh, this place looks worth a stop but dang we’re due in Podunk for Great Aunt Olive’s 98th in twenty minutes…” so you keep going. The exceptions, the destinations where you roll to a stop and stay awhile, are gems like Fernandina Beach, Boca Grande, and Cedar Key.
Ponce Inlet is at the end of the road, unless you’re towing your boat and want to skim on over to New Smyrna Beach or explore the Halifax River and coast past islands with illustrious names like Piddler and Daggett.
Mostly residential, and home to the Historic Ponce de Leon lighthouse (read about our state’s tallest lighthouse here) the peace settles around you as do the giant live oaks stretching over the silent winding roads.
For a little town that values nature, quiet and privacy, its mini plethora of waterfront watering holes is an unexpected bonus. Three on the riverfront, one on the ocean, and a tiki hut pizzeria, all with outside seating and live music. The only thing missing is a bungalow type old timey motel, a mom-and-pop, or a B & B within walking distance of any of the above mentioned. Should we put our heads together, and your wallet, and open one? #GoodInvestment
Or you can stay in Daytona Beach, just make sure you agree on who will be your DD for this day of bar sampling. Two examples of classic beach stays reminiscent of simpler days, that we would recommend based on online reviews, location and size, are Sand Castle Motel, and Dream Inn.
Our bar sampling day included just three of the five, along with one of us being the good guy and only having one beer. We’ll return soon to check out the oceanfront Historical Landmark, Racing’s North Turn, and the rather anomalous Jerry’s Pizzeria Tiki Bar and Grill. (Though combining pizza and a tiki bar is our fondest dream…)
This bar sampling tour lead us along the river front starting with:
4940 South Peninsula Dr.
Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
Hidden Treasure is a family of restaurants: You can hop on their weekend shuttle boat – “Red Solo Cup”! – to visit their Port Orange location, Hidden Treasure Tiki Bar and Grill, on Rose Bay. Hidden Treasure’s newest location, Hidden Treasure Raw Bar and Grill, is in Flagler Beach on the Matanzas River.
- VIBE: Coastal Florida’s perfect blend of stay-and-chill and vibrance. Colorful, funny signs and other flotsam completes the rustic/bohemian decor. The staff is attentive and love their work.
- ARRIVE: By boat or by car. The parking lot is a little tricky, twisting around the mammoth old trees, but yay they didn’t cut them down!
- SIT: All seating has views of the river – inside under cover but open air, by the bar, on the outside deck under umbrellas, or on a boat!
- SIP: No designated Happy Hour, but a drink-of-the-day special for $5 – the day we were there it was Electric Lemonade!
- NOSH: You’ll just have to check out their HUMONGOUS menu yourself, with everything you’d imagine at a waterfront restaurant and also healthy choices as well. All you can eat specials weeknights, and a Pirate Burger Challenge – “Many have tried, few have survived…” Yikes!
- LISTEN: Live music Friday through Sunday; twice on Saturday.
- WE LOVE: The unpretentious bonhomie, and the pet friendly outdoor seating.
4894 Front St.
Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
Handed down through generations since 1908, and originally a fish camp (where big “fish stories” were told that were “too salty” for the ladies), Down the Hatch retains a nostalgic feel of timelessness, and also seems to be a place more frequented by locals than our other two visits of the day.
- VIBE: Peaceful. A great place to relax and take in the beautiful view.
- ARRIVE: By boat or by car.
- SIT: The inside bar area is the original pub. There are several choices outside under cover, all with water views.
- SIP: Happy Hour is 4 – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- NOSH: Lots to choose from with a good mix of fried and steamed, along with full dinners of steak, chicken, pork or pasta. Try the smoked fish dip, and end with the key lime pie.
- LISTEN: Live music Friday, twice on Saturday and Sunday.
- WE LOVE: The outer deck is literally ON the water! Also the live music isn’t so loud that you can’t have a conversation.
133 Inlet Harbor Rd.
Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
The largest and most lively of the three, with a 400 person outdoor deck, Riptide Bait & Tackle, a fishing pier (no fishing license required), full service marina, fishing tournaments, gift shop, and charter fishing and scenic tour boats, you might decide there is too much going on for just one evening’s visit. (Great place to open a B and B! Who’s in? #GreatIdeaForaBandB )
- VIBE: Dynamic, bustling, tropical and colorful. Good people-watching as well as fishing boats unloading their catches.
- ARRIVE: By water or by car. Parking the car is a breeze in their spacious parking lot.
- SIT: Inside, outside under cover, outside at bar stools overlooking the action (inside and out), or at the end of the pier.
- SIP: Happy Hour is daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- NOSH: Another varied menu with something for everyone. Try their signature Fried Shrimp platter, or their “World Famous Sandwiches; Just Like Our Beach!”
- LISTEN: Live music daily!
- WE LOVE: The verve of the place, the view, and the happy people dancing.
We’d love to hear about your bar sampling experience in Ponce Inlet, and which were your favorites, and why. And, besides the perfect equation of pizza +tiki bar = dream come true, what do you think of Ponce Inlet + waterfront restaurants = successful and much needed bed & breakfast ? We’ll bring the wine, you bring your wallet, and let’s talk.
Ponce Inlet is on Florida’s Atlantic coast, 10 miles south of Daytona Beach and 78 miles north of Cocoa Beach.