One fine Daytona | 

The sparkling sands of Florida’s Daytona Beach are a must-see

Scratch under the surface of the familiar tourist sights in Daytona and you discover hidden gems that make a visit to the east coast one to add to your holiday bucket list.

The sparkling sands of Daytona Beach

Kevin at the Hard Rock Hotel

The towering hotel

A beachgoer paddle-boarding at Daytona

Kevin enjoys a drink at the bar

Kevin at the races

Kevin PalmerSunday World

The Florida holiday resort that has long been a favourite with American tourists is famous for its stunning wide beaches and the iconic oval racetrack that stages the Daytona 500 race each year.

It was also known as a home for spring break vacations taken by youngsters looking to get drunk and lap up the sun while wearing as little as possible.

Yet those days are long gone for Daytona and its 73,000 residents, with families now being encouraged to visit as part of a trip to Florida.

Scratch under the surface of the familiar tourist sights in Daytona and you discover hidden gems that make a visit to the east coast one to add to your holiday bucket list.

Tragically, Daytona Beach was hit hard by Hurricane Ian in mid-September, with our visit coming just a week before the storm blew through and left a trail of destruction that will take many years to fully repair.

Kevin at the Hard Rock Hotel

Yet the Daytona community have a spirit that ensures they will fight back and continue to deliver a getaway option that could add to a traditional Florida trip focused around the theme parks or Orlando.

Exploring different areas of this vast state will broaden your horizons and the starting point at Daytona Beach is a coastline that may just be the most sparkling one you will ever visit.

You need to take the plunge, as this is a location that features one of the world’s truly great beaches, spanning 23 miles and packed with crisp white sand throughout.

Such is the size of this beach that visitors are allowed to drive their cars on sand or even hire golf buggies for fun rides down along the seafront.

Record-breaking speed king Malcolm Campbell used Daytona Beach for some of his land speed record attempts in his famous Bluebird supercar, setting a record of 272 miles per hour (438 km/h) in February 1933.

The silk tyres he used for his record-breaking bids were shredded by the sand he raced across, with the cars he used on display at the Daytona racetrack museum.

A visit to the track is a must, even if you are not a fan of fast cars, as the aura of the venue takes the breath away.

You can only imagine the noise when the stands are filled for Daytona 500 every February.

A beachgoer paddle-boarding at Daytona

And if you are daring enough to jump in a car and be driven around the banked walls of a track that features a towering stand in the home straight, sit back and enjoy the ride.

The beach and racetrack are the obvious drop-offs for anyone visiting Daytona, but this town really comes alive when you meet some locals.

A trip to Rose Villa is an experience to remember, with owner Patrick Sullivan offering a welcome and service that ensures a night to remember.

With a name like that, it will come as little surprise that Patrick has a rich Irish heritage — and he is keen to tell the stories of his family, as well as regale visitors with the legend of friendly ghost Mary, who, according to legend, has long been a presence at his establishment.

Walking up the steps at Rose Villa takes you to a secret door that offers a pathway to a glorious oasis featuring colourful decor and a drinks menu to savour.

The speciality is a smoked old-fashioned bourbon, which is prepared in front of you as the glass is filled with smoke and the ingredients are added. This tipple is almost too delicious. The trouble is, you will want more and more.

The food at Rose Villa befits a high-class restaurant, with the value on offer ensuring this venue needs to be added to any Daytona itinerary.

The hotel next to the racetrack, Sir Malcolm, houses another classy eatery. It is named after speed king racer Campbell and serves up some delicious beef and steak offerings.

Kevin at the races

Mama Foo Foo is also a good restaurant to visit, positioned in the shadow of some impressive boats in a marina that is a resting point for Daytona visitors.

Lunch on the beach is another delightful experience that needs to be sampled, and you are spoiled for choice in Daytona, with Racing’s North Turn and Crabby’s Oceanside offering great seafood dishes.

One of the first things you notice is that the restaurants are all bursting with guests, as locals and tourists mix happily in an atmosphere that feels safe and welcoming on every step.

Looking for something a little different to entertain kids young and old when you are in Daytona?

Pop along to Three Brothers Boards for a paddle-boarding experience to cherish on the Halifax River.

The perfectly still water provides a perfect setting for paddle-boarding novices to try their luck, with kayaks also available to hire if you want to make sure you stay dry.

A boating experience should also be sampled at Ponce Inlet, where catamarans can be boarded in the shadow of the towering and distinctive 175ft red lighthouse.

Deciding where to stay on a visit to Daytona Beach is a challenge, as there are so many options on the beachfront.

The Hard Rock Hotel houses some iconic music memorabilia, including a sparkling car once used by Madonna and guitars from some of the giants of rock.

The towering hotel

Yet if you are looking for class and elegance combined, Daytona Grande is a good option for families of all ages.

All rooms at this hotel feature floor-to-ceiling windows which offer dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean or Intracoastal Waterway, and it also boasts the only infinity pool looking out into the ocean.

It takes about an hour to drive from Orlando to Daytona Beach, and after a week of queues in the heat at the theme parks, you will be looking for something to add to your Florida experience if you are aiming to make this a 10-day trip.

So while it may seem like the theme parks of Orlando are the big pull for tourists to visit Florida, this state has so much more to offer away from the rollercoasters and Disney-themed fun.

Adding a few days at Daytona Beach to your experience in America’s Sunshine State will tick every box.

And by the time you leave, there’s every chance your best Florida memories will have been created away from Orlando.

TRAVEL FACTFILE

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

See daytonabeach.com

■ DAYTONA Beach’s iconic 23-mile expanse is so wide, you are allowed to drive on it.

■ A TRIP to Daytona race track is a must — you can ride on the famous track at 170mph.

■ THERE are many hotels on the beach front — the Daytona Grande is a shiny new addition.

■ DAYTONA Beach is a one-hour drive from Orlando’s theme parks.

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