New Smyrna Beach: Where to Eat, Drink and Be Merry

img_9424Nothing says summer quite like an 1100-mile road trip with your dog. The drive down took us 19 hours—and this includes the Goethals Bridge being shut down at 4:30 am without notice (even though I had two GPSs running and the traffic radio on), the entrance to I-95 closed due to a construction crew ‘repaving’ (also with no word on the radio or GPS—and yes, my anxiety was in overdrive and it wasn’t even 5 am!), bathroom breaks and dog walks, and stop-and-go-and-standstill traffic near Richmond, Virginia. Thank you, EZ Pass express lanes!

Emma was a saint during the entire trip. Until recently, she hated being cooped up in the car. Now, she loves it. Every time we stopped for a break, we took her for a walk/run to stretch her legs. I swear, she’s a much better traveler than I am.

Sharing the drive with someone made the trip easier. I have to admit, with a bad back and currently under the care of a physical therapist, I was not looking forward to this drive (but I was ordered to do exercises at every stop and while as a passenger). The ride wasn’t too bad—coming back is another story (let’s just say my dad’s homemade limoncello that we had stashed in the cooler saved me. And don’t worry, I was a passenger when I drank, and the driver didn’t get any!). But about three hours before we reached New Smyrna Beach, I was beyond fried. Thankfully, dinner and cocktails awaited us, thanks to one of my besties.

Once we had a good night’s rest and recovered from the long drive, it was time to have some fun. It’s a beach town, so of course, the beach was a must! Also, New Smyrna Beach has several new restaurants. Some are very good; others, just eh.

If you decide to visit this fun beach town, here are some things to add to your to do list:

The beach. What I love most about New Smyrna Beach is that you can drive your car onto the beach. There are only seven beaches remaining in the U.S. where you can do that. Pack a cooler with plenty to drink and munch on, and you’re all set for a relaxing day in the sun. There are several access points; but for those who prefer the traditional parking lot and schlepping all your stuff, there are lots on Flagler and Sapphire Street.

Restaurants. I don’t eat meat, so whenever I visit NSB, I’m always ready for the fresh seafood my favorite spots have to offer. Happy Hour specials are abundant and can be found at pretty much all the bar/restaurants in town. If you’re not a fan of sitting outside in the heat (or blazing sun), keep your outdoor dining and cocktails reserved for the evenings when it gets cooler. Here are just a few of my faves (*dog-friendly):

  • Corkscrew Bar & Grille* has $5 margaritas all day, every day. And they are quite good. The day we were there, I had the special: fresh-caught grouper from Tampa. Yum.
  • Outriggers Tiki Bar & Grille* has one of the best spots on the water. Sit in the comfort of the shade, feel the warm breeze, all while sipping your cocktail of choice. Their crab cake eggs Benedict for Sunday brunch is delish!
  • Hottie Coffee is touted as being NSB’s original coffee roaster. They have a coffee shop where you can sit and sip some of their fair-trade coffees while reading or hanging with friends. Whenever I visit, I always bring home some of their coffee.
  • The Garlic & Blu Bar is a cool place. Whether you want to dine at The Garlic or enjoy tapas at the Blu Bar, you will not be disappointed.
  • The Treehouse Bar at Norwood’s* is another great place for drinks and apps. It’s built like an actual treehouse, duh, hence the name.
  • The Bounty at Flagler Tavern is a unique speakeasy overlooking Flagler Avenue, ideal for people-watching while enjoying hand-crafted cocktails by an expert mixologist.
  • Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille is a must after a day on the beach. After we packed up the car, we enjoyed yummy rum runner cocktails (which we have made since returning home) and the best seared tuna tacos I’ve ever had.

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The Spa at Venetian Bay. My bestie and I hit the spa for some much-needed pampering and girl time. Inspired by the bath houses of Europe, the spa includes a heated nautilus pool, heated stone loungers, a Himalayan salt sauna and much more. We could’ve stayed all day. It was a great way to relax and only a five-minute drive.

White Sands Buddhist Center. Okay, so this is not in New Smyrna Beach, but it’s only a 20-minute drive south to Mims—and worth every mile. The center is situated on a beautiful plot of land featuring the three largest granite statues of the Buddha in the state of Florida. Open from dawn to dusk.

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Seminole Lake Gliderport. Not in New Smyrna Beach either, but if you’ve got your pilot’s license and want to soar the skies on a beautiful day, this is the place. It’s about 90 miles from NSB, so it’s not too long of a drive.

If you make it down to New Smyrna, let me know your favorite places!