Just an hour’s drive from Orlando, Daytona Beach is one of Florida’s most popular destinations. Vibrant and fast-paced, the iconic city houses the world’s most famous beach and the biggest stock car race in the world, but that’s far from all there is to see…there are some Instagram spots in Daytona Beach that you just should not miss!
In addition to the races and 23 mile stretch of glorious beaches, visitors looking for adventures in nature, interacting with local wildlife, and exploring historical sites will find those in the exciting coastal city.
Known for its hard-packed sand that allows cars to drive in certain restricted areas of the beach, the city has an array of beachfront parks with picnic areas, a lively boardwalk, and a pier for fishing or just hanging out.
I’m drawn to visual landmarks to capture some one-of-a-kind Instagram shots; with so much diversity, it only stands to reason that Daytona Beach would be overflowing with photographic opportunities. Here are our most Instagram-worthy spots in Daytona Beach, in no particular order.
World’s Most Famous Beach Sign
Without a doubt, Daytona Beach’s most-photographed site is the “World’s Most Famous Beach” sign.
The renowned sign arches over an entire street, framing the shores and waters as the backdrop. It’s a free attraction, and particularly popular for sunrise and sunset shots.
The World’s Most Famous Beach Sign is part of the Iconic Trail, which explores iconic, selfie-worthy stops in Daytona Beach.
When you’ve earned the nickname “The World’s Most Famous Beach,” spending time on this fabulous 23-mile star attraction has to be first on the list of things to do.
The long stretch of white, hard-packed sand on the Atlantic Coast was first given its moniker back in the 1920s when it became legendary for its high-speed automobile testing and racing which took place right on the beach. Today, there are still parts of the 500-foot wide beach (at low tide) where you can drive your own car on the hard sand.
If you don’t want to drive on the beach, there are other options such as swimming, parasailing, surfing, picnicking, boating, or simply walking on the beach (keep an eye out for cars!).
Daytona International Speedway
You can’t go to Daytona Beach without visiting the Speedway that made it famous. Since opening in 1959, the Daytona International Speedway has been the home of the Daytona 500, the most prestigious race in NASCAR as well as its season-opening event. The 180-acre complex has a fascinating history and, of course, lots of fun photo ops!
You will find numerous photo ops at the racetrack, especially if you take the one-hour narrated trolley tour that transports guests all over the 180 acres.
Sadly, when we were there, the Richard Petty Driving Experience wasn’t. This adrenaline adventure allows you to either drive or be driven in a pace car – up to 170 miles per hour! I really wanted to do that, but the experience was not opening for another month.
Kayaking in the 2,000-acre Tomoka State Park was our favorite outdoor activity in the Daytona Beach area. The Tomoka River is beautiful with biodiversity and wildlife. One bank of the river was so unique with a canopy of old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss on one side. If you don’t want to go on the water you can also hike in the park where Native Americans once lived.
For many visitors to Daytona Beach, the fun starts at the bustling boardwalk with the amusement park attractions sparking nostalgic memories of days gone by. The colorful boardwalk is also a popular place for a stroll in the warm ocean breeze at any time of day.
Non-stop entertainment options overlook the water, including the notorious hair-rising Sling Shot and other activities that can keep the young – and young at heart – amused for hours. You can find sweet treats like cotton candy, candied apples, and funnel cakes.
Hotels, boutique shops, arcades, dining options, and bars line the boardwalk. During the summer, it turns into a live entertainment venue with fireworks and free live concerts in the historic Bandshell.
Adjacent to the boardwalk is the iconic Daytona Pier, always good for a photo (which is why it is usually crowded with tourists).
Bulow Park & Ruins
The 150 acres of Bulow Plantation Ruins stand as a monument to the rise and fall of sugar plantations in East Florida.
In 1836, the Second Seminole War burned to the ground the thriving Bulow Plantation where the Bulow family grew sugar cane, cotton, rice, and indigo.
Today, a scenic walking trail through the ancient trees of Bulow Hammock leads visitors to the towering coquina rock ruins of the former plantation, a sugar mill, a unique spring house, several wells, and the crumbling foundations of the plantation house and slave cabins.
Beautiful Bulow Creek State Park protects one of the largest live oak trees in the south, the Fairchild Oak, which has stood sentry to the transformation of the Bulow Plantation for over 400 years. It’s impressive and the centerpiece of this stunning park.
Several trails allow hikers to explore the interior of the park, where visitors can observe wildlife such as white-tailed deer, barred owls, and raccoons.
The Hard Rock Hotel
Colorful and entertaining, the Hard Rock Hotel is almost a destination in its own right. We enjoyed our morning sunrises greeting right on fantastic Daytona Beach. And the beach is only the beginning. This hotel is chock full of photographic prospects:
Fascinating rock and roll memorabilia
Optional electric guitar or record player with 10 albums in your room
Private cabana at the pool
Filet mignon eggs Benedict brunch accompanied by a Prosecco Colada
There are actually three great photo spots in Ponce Inlet…
1 Ponce de Leon Lighthouse
Built in 1887 and restored to service in 1982, the iconic Ponce de Leon Lighthouse stands 175-feet tall – the second tallest masonry lighthouse in the United States. The lighthouse spent most of its life providing a much-needed beacon to the area’s mariners who often navigated the coast’s tricky waters at night.
If you choose to, you can climb the 203 steps to the top of the tallest lighthouse in Florida. For our efforts, we were rewarded with a stunning panoramic view of Daytona Beach and 20 miles of surroundings (on a clear day). And of course, a great spot for selfies or Instagram captures. It’s particularly lovely at sunset.
The red brick lighthouse is about 10 miles south of the city and has varied hours during different seasons, so check their website before heading out.
Back at ground level, there’s an on-site museum with a collection of historic exhibits and a 20-minute film about the history of the lighthouse, a Marine Science Center with rescued birds and a sea turtle rehab facility, and an on-site gift shop with nautical-themed gifts.
2 Ponce Preserve
Home of the Green Mound, a significant archaeological site, Ponce also has ancient dunes, wildflowers, and scenic views. Don’t miss the 300-year old oak standing sentry on top of the Green Mound.
3 Ponce Lighthouse Park
This was our favorite photo spot in Daytona Beach! We arrived just before sunset and headed out to the jetty to capture the waves crashing against the rocks.
Next up was looking towards the beach, just before sunset. The soft blues and pinks of the sky juxtaposed against the white and gray clouds were positively dreamy.
For the sunset photo, we turned from the beach to face the guard station with the glowing orb going down behind it. So dramatic!
Surfside Historic District
Daytona Beach’s Surfside Historic District is a nice juxtaposition of historic with contemporary, with plenty of things to do. Visitors will find a plethora of shops, galleries, antique stores, restaurants, and bars. It is a popular venue for both locals and visitors looking to experience the essence of the historic city as well as live music in the evenings. It’s a great spot for an afternoon stroll as well as some great happy hour specials.
There are three spectacular places to capture sunrise…
We didn’t have to go very far to find our first sunrise! Our room in the Hard Rock Hotel was only yards from the water’s edge. And with sunrise at 7:30 a.m. during the time of year when we were visiting, we were up for sunrise every day, with each one a different and spectacular kaleidoscope of shades.
Another great sunset is looking through the World’s Most Famous Beach sign, see #1 above. As we arrived just before sunrise, it started to rain. Holding an umbrella, we were still able to capture a bit of pink just over the horizon.
Lastly, a place for a great sunrise is over the marsh just north of Ormond Beach. To get there, drive past Tomoka State Park and just over the bridge. The “windshield” drive is lovely unto itself. You’ll go for miles, driving under old oak trees making an overhead canopy dripping with iconic Spanish moss.
Also in Ormond Beach, The Casements is a 9,000 square foot mansion built in 1910 and famous for being the winter residence of American oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. It is currently owned by the city of Ormond Beach and is used as a cultural center and park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours of the mansion and gardens are available.
Andy Romero Park
Located on South Atlantic Avenue, Andy Romero Park offers a series of amenities such as gazebos, barbecue grills, picnic areas, and playgrounds.
The facilities and beach are well-maintained, and there are restrooms and showers. As you’d expect, the park can get quite crowded on the weekends, so you may want to consider visiting during the week instead.
Jackie Robinson Ballpark
The historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark is located at 105 East Orange Avenue on City Island, in the Halifax River. It is widely recognized as one of the best ballparks in Minor League Baseball. The historic ballpark opened on June 4, 1914, and is the 4th oldest ballpark still used in professional baseball.
Now located at the One Daytona shopping and eating area, the Jantzen Girl is one of only six mannequins produced for the Jantzen Swimsuit Company in 1959.
The icon in a bathing cap first made its way to Daytona Beach in the 1960s, suspended high above Ocean Avenue on Stamie’s Smart Beachwear shop.
Lilian Place was once the original home of one of the founding families of Daytona. The wonderful 1884 Victorian Museum is open for tours and is a fine example of late-nineteenth-century architecture on Daytona beachside. Visitors can step into the past for a tour of the oldest grand home on Daytona beachside or enjoy formal Victorian Tea.
Located between Bay Street and Orange Avenue in the downtown area of Daytona Beach, historic Beach Street offers a picturesque riverfront ambiance.
Visitors can choose from more than 60 shops that range from galleries, restaurants, antique shops, and jewelry.
A popular stop is Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, where visitors can sample locally made chocolates. Also popular is the Halifax Historical Museum for Daytona-specific artifacts.
Flea and Farmer’s Market
When I first heard there was a Saturday farmer’s market, I was less than enthusiastic (I eat very little plant-based food because it creates inflammation which causes my autoimmune issues to flare up).
What we found was quite different than expected. The majority of the large gigantic mammoth space was a flea market. It was a veritable labyrinth (yes, I got lost) consisting of isles and isles of everything imaginable. I bought some dazzling handmade blingy earrings and two pairs of high-fashion sunglasses.
Bonus Tip: Spa
After our busy days exploring Daytona Beach, we opted to treat ourselves to one of the most unique pampering sessions ever – the Synchronicity Massage at the Hard Rock Café.
The massage is perfect in techniques, pressure, and rhythm. And when I say “rhythm” I’m talking not only about touch, but also the masterfully blended music soundtrack that makes the whole experience both memorable and pleasurable. The treatment was infused with natural organic essential oils (which smelled soooo good) to reduce stress, ease muscle tension and detoxify.
The musical massage has the effect of losing track of time and space in the most relaxing way possible. Music has never had such a magical physical/psychological impact before!
I am telling you the truth… as a Baby Boomer, I’ve had my share of massages, and the Synchronicity Massage was the BEST massage that I can remember having. Seriously.
Where to Stay
We highly recommend the Hard Rock Hotel. If the photos above don’t convince you, then add to that the friendly and impeccable service and uber cleanliness. There’s a stage with live bands – we could see and hear it from our room.
What to Eat
Off the Hook: This laidback eatery at Ponce Inlet is a fun, colorful eatery right on the water.
Boondocks: this local gem is an open-air restaurant overlooking a scenic marina.
Caribbean Jacks: This was our favorite restaurant! Located on the river, guests can dine at one of several swinging tables with a gorgeous view (and some wind!). Try the shrimp and scallops in creamy lobster sauce – it is lick-the-plate yummy!
The Cellar: Considered to be Daytona Beach’s finest dining establishment, the upscale Italian restaurant is located in the basement of what was once the winter home of President Warden G.Harding. The lovely 1907 home is on the National Historic Registry.
With 230 days of sunshine, Daytona Beach is a year-round destination filled with activities and scenic spots for photography buffs.
All photos ©Kary Kern unless otherwise indicated.
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Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Visit Daytona Beach during her stay, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.
She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.
Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.