For couples seeking epic, historic, nature, and pure adrenaline experiences, the number of West Volusia adventures will blow your mind!
Located only 40 miles from Orlando and 20 miles from Daytona Beach, West Volusia is the perfect spot to break up your visits to theme parks and the beach.
With the motto “Old Florida, New Vibe,” this secret gem combines the feel of real authentic, unspoiled Florida, a plethora of super-fun nature and outdoor activities, and an eclectic collection of quirky attractions (we love those!).
The attractions run the gamut from those in the air to those under the water, and everything in between. Visitors can snorkel in the freshwater springs, hike in the vast forests and wetlands, and have a paranormal experience, all on the same day.
Want to spot wildlife such as alligators, manatees, turtles, and herons? You can do that, too.
West Volusia at a Glance
- Area: 1,432 mi²
- Founded: December 29, 1854
- Population: 553,284
- Communities: DeLand, Deltona, Barberville, Cassadaga, DeBary, DeLeon Springs, Enterprise, Glenwood, Lake Helen, Orange City, Osteen, Pierson, Seville, and Volusia/Astor.
Here are our choices for the best West Volusia adventures Florida for couples:
10 Stetson Mansion
Known as “The House That Hats Built,” the 1886 Stetson Mansion is Florida’s most historic home, only Gilded Age mansion, and the largest, grandest, most innovative home ever built in Florida before 1900.
Home of John B. Stetson, Florida’s first “snowbird” and famous hat baron, the Gilded Age estate has always been occupied and is still a private estate. When wealthy John B. Stetson first visited West Volusia in the 1800’s he fell in love and decided to build his “small” winter home in DeLand. John and Elizabeth Stetson were famous for hosting over-the-top parties for locals and famous people like Grover Cleveland, Thomas Edison, Henry DeLand, and Henry Flagler. In fact, Flagler brought his famous railway right to Stetson’s estate.
Since then, the home has been carefully restored to its former glory and now offers tours around the property.
What’s unique about it? As Florida’s first luxury estate, Trip Advisor lists the Stetson Mansion as the top-rated landmark attraction in Florida. How can you miss that?
I opted to wear my real black Stetson hat on the tour….it was a big hit!
9 Barberville Art Emporium
Barberville Art Emporium is a unique landmark, roadside attraction, strategically located in the heart of Central Florida. Three acres full of whimsical pieces, hundreds of thousands of handmade, one-of-a-kind Talavera Mexican pottery, local chainsaw art, Haitian reclaimed oil drum figurines, souvenirs, and various sized tchotchke are stuffed throughout the site.
We had a blast exploring the grounds, smiles never leaving our faces as we walked from one whimsy to the next.
And yes, I did buy the pink flamingo for my yard! Well, Kary bought it for me.
8 Dynoclimb Rock Wall
dy∙no / noun: A dynamic move to grab a hold that would otherwise be out of reach. Generally, both feet will leave the rock face and return once the target hold is caught. Non-climbers would call it a jump or a leap.
This climber calls it a no-go.
Still, Dynoclimb was a fun and challenging experience.
“We want to evolve with the sport by offering a unique climbing experience that ties into the roots of climbing while breaking the monotony,” their website states.
Monotony? Hanging on for dear life (okay, I confess I had a harness) was anything but boring.
While the act of putting your feet on rocks to get to the top may sound simple, the truth is it is not. It’s more complex and involves balance and a good deal of muscle strength. It also involves a good amount of problem-solving when you have to figure out a way to get to what seems like an unreachable stone.
Strength, power, and endurance are necessary attributes to excel in this sport.
7 Channel Your Inner Carnivore
I love chili, but 5-meat chili? Yes, count me in! Cress Restaurant’s chili consisted of wild boar, bison, prime beef, lamb, and duck cooked low and slow and served with a polenta cake, roasted corn pico de gallo, and crème Fraiche. The result was thick and bowl-licking tasty!
6 Downtown DeLand
Voted “America’s Best Mainstreet” in 2017, vibrant downtown DeLand is home to eclectic boutique shops, art galleries, museums, award-winning restaurants, microbreweries, and wine bars. The combination of chic alongside the authentic, small-town Florida vibe offers visitors an inimitable experience.
Haunted Antique Shop
I’ve been a doll-lover ever since I was a little girl…yes, I supposed that includes haunted dolls. The Haunted Antique Shop in downtown DeLand is such a quirky place! I downloaded a “ghost hunting” app to my smartphone exclusively for this experience. It did not disappoint.
Talk about quirky! Sure, it’s human nature to break things, especially when mad (so I’ve heard). But why break your own stuff when you can smash someone else’s junk things? Safely, of course. You can do just that at Fellow Earthlings Rage Room.
After obtaining your One-Year Rage License, you don a protective suit and helmet, then channel your fury in a session from 15 minutes up to 40 minutes, depending on your level of passion.
It was so quirky and fun! I wasn’t very good at breaking anything except glass – I guess I’m just too happy and rage-free!
Wings of the West
Wings of the West mural trail offers visitors their Instagram selfie op in six different locations, starting with the original in downtown DeLand.
The creative DeLand wings, painted by Erica Group on a door in a downtown alley became a mecca for selfies and a viral sensation that inspired a trail of wings through West Volusia County.
Other wings murals can be found at:
- Biplane wings at Skydive DeLand
- Peacock feathers at Barberville Pioneer Settlement
- Fairy wings found at the end of a fairy trail in Cassadaga
- Scrub jay wings at Lyonia Environmental Center
- Swallow-tailed kite at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge
- Sci-Fi wings at Fellow Earthlings Rage Room
The DeLand Artisan Alley Farmers Market is a vibrant marketplace situated in a cute little back alley in downtown. There are over 80 vendors and farmers spread out around a charming courtyard. The market takes place every Friday evening from 6-9 p.m.
5 DeLeon Springs
DeLeon Springs State Park is one of the must-do adventures in West Volusia. Once called Acuera, or “Healing Waters,” by Mayaca Indians who inhabited the area, De Leon Springs is a place to view gorgeous scenery from a kayak (see #3 below), swim in clear waters, hike trails through a lush subtropical forest that features a massive old-growth bald cypress tree, and immerse oneself in its rich history.
The spring run was once used to turn a sugar cane mill followed by a grist mill to turn corn into flour during the Civil War. Now, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill is fun and charmingly rustic restaurant where patrons are seated at a table with a griddle in the middle where they can cook all-you-can-eat pancakes with a variety of toppings and syrups.
Cassadaga is one of the most unusual places in Florida. The small unincorporated town of Volusia has earned fame as the “Psychic Capital of the World.” The “Spiritualist Camp” was founded in the mid-1890s by George P. Colby who claimed that the Native American spirit guide, Seneca, led him to the site.
Nowadays, people come here for a reading, healing, or plain old curiosity. Some say the place is a spiritual energy vortex, similar to Sedona or Stonehenge where they felt a deep feeling of calm while visiting.
Small and unassuming, the 57-acre community hosts a 55-home neighborhood of small, charming bungalows, and Colby Memorial Temple. It’s is a fun destination with a lot of history, a beautiful lake, a gazebo overlooking a meditation pond, and a bookstore. Tours, workshops, and seminars are available. The Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp was designated in 1991 as a Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I loved hiking the whimsical Fairy Trail on the northern side of the park under a canopy of dense trees. It’s alleged that this 0.2-mile looping trail is where psychic energy mingles with peaceful places. I won’t lie, part of my motivation for visiting Cassadaga was to get my pixie Instagram moment with the “Fairy Wings” located on a lovely trail strewn with fairy houses, gnomes, and wildflowers.
But the pièce de résistance is of course getting a psychic reading from one of the 40 Certified Mediums at the camp. Lori Carter was ours, and it was a hoot!
3 Kayak Blue Springs
In December 1971, Jacques Cousteau came to Blue Spring, Florida, to film his documentary, The Forgotten Mermaids. Cousteau put West Volusia front and center for nature lovers. He showed the world what was then a little-known marine creature, the manatee. Because of Cousteau, preservation efforts persevered and what was a population of about 10 or 11 manatees in the refuge has expanded to hundreds, seeking shelter from the cold Saint Johns River in the warmer spring waters.
Encompassing over 2,600 acres, Blue Spring State Park’s water is crystal clear and a consistent 72-degree Fahrenheit…a little too chilly for me to go swimming, but on a hot Florida summer day, many do swim and tube in the park.
The scenery is stunning, especially as viewed from our kayak and the boardwalk. We kayaked in a protected area so as not to disturb the manatees. If you’d like to see the manatees, you can spot them from the overlooks.
My first airboat ride was quite eventful! The very windy conditions played a big role in our scouting for gators. When we found a mama with several babies, we stopped the motor of the boat to just observe. Suddenly, a huge gust of wind blew our boat towards her. She did not like that at all, and bit our boat!
Next, the wind blew us into the scrub and it took both Kary and Captain Josh to get the boat loose.
Lastly, we found ourselves in a group of manatees. They were hard to see in the tannic water, but our captain pointed out the mud swirls and occasionally a snout would pop over the water.
What a ride with Airboat & Gator Charters and another bucket list adventure realized!
1 Skydive DeLand
Why yes, we did the granddaddy of all adventures – skydiving in DeLand! Surprised? So were we. Amazingly, tandem skydiving was conceived and developed right here in charming DeLand. So, of course, we had to do it!
Tandem skydiving is the best way to experience a jump because with an experienced pilot, you can dive higher. It was my second skydive (the last one ten years ago in Hawaii), but Kary’s first.
I’ve been an adrenaline junkie since I was a small child, and if there’s something more exhilarating than jumping out of a plane 13,500 feet in the air, I haven’t found it yet.
Established in 1982, Skydive DeLand is one of the busiest drop zones in the world. It’s a mecca for skydivers and one of the most sought-after facilities in America.
I love how they do the video and stills at Skydive DeLand because a separate videographer actually jumps alongside you to take the action.
Once the canopy is open, you have an approximate 5-minute parachute ride before landing. There can be no doubt, the skydiving experience is the most adrenaline-raising of all West Volusia adventures!
The unique perspective of seeing with your own eyes our beautiful Earth beneath you can only be experienced via skydiving.
Where to Stay
The DeLand Hotel, a charming 1925 boutique hotel with original architecture, is the oldest operating hotel in DeLand. Décor includes claw foot bathtubs with shower, vintage furniture, and vaulted ceilings complemented by sparkling chandeliers and wood flooring. The location could not be more convenient, just 4 blocks away from Stetson University and the quaint downtown.
Where to Eat
These were our favorite eating places during our West Volusia adventures:
- The Table
- Airport Restaurant and Gin Mill
- Cress Restaurant
- DeLand Eatery
- Old Spanish Sugar Mill
West Volusia is the perfect spot to visit on a vacation to Daytona Beach or Orlando. You can either enjoy the more laid-back vibe of Old Florida, quirky attractions or participate in a variety of outdoor pursuits.
All photos ©Kary Kern unless otherwise indicated.
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Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Visit West Volusia 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.