Daytona Beach, Florida, has long shed its former reputation as a wild place for college spring breakers (they’re all heading to Panama City Beach, Cancun or Jamaica these days). In fact, it’s quite a popular warm-weather destination for families, and also has a romantic side for honeymooners. If you and your fiancé are adventurous types, Daytona Beach just might be an ideal spot for you to not only take intimate walks on the beach, but also sample some adrenaline-charged activities, as well.
Where to Stay
Daytona’s only four-diamond luxury resort, the Shores Resort & Spa, is a perfect honeymoon property. It’s upscale and elegant, while being hip and relaxed at the same time, and has a lovely location in Daytona Shores, on the south end of the 23-mile strip of white-sandy beach. Rooms feature pretty views of the Atlantic Ocean or the Intracoastal Waterway. Romantic accommodations feature chic furnishings, warm hues, Italian marble bathrooms and pillow-top, four-poster beds. For a special, romantic treat, indulge in private cabana dining on the beach. Under soft lighting at a table for two, enjoy a romantic five-course meal and champagne served by your own private wait staff. The property also offers destination-wedding packages.
Another option is the historic Plaza Resort & Spa. Dating back more than 100 years (with several, multi-million-dollar renovations in the meantime), the property has an ideal location on the beach, within walking distance of several area restaurants. Or dine on property at elegant Magnolias, and then retire to your oversized guest room. I can personally vouch for a fabulous massage at the Plaza Resort’s Ocean Waters Spa. Two honeymoon suites are available here, and the hotel offers on-site weddings as well.
Where to Eat
Choose from among more than 400 restaurants in the Daytona Beach area. Naturally, seafood reigns in this coastal town, but you an also find steakhouses, burger joints and nearly any type of international cuisine under the sun. Here are a few I sampled on a recent visit:
The Cellar: Fine Italian Dining in the historic former home of President Warren Harding. Intimate setting and gorgeous stained-glass windows; ask for a two-top in the corner.
Stonewood Grill: This casual eatery is a chain restaurant in Florida and North Carolina, but it has its roots in Ormond Beach, Florida, the community just north of Daytona Beach proper. The Bleu Cheese Chips, Grilled Asparagus & Brie Salad and the Oak Grilled Tenderloin Skewers are excellent. I really liked the sophisticated, but fun, vibe.
Martini’s Chophouse: A contemporary restaurant set amidst a pretty garden exterior. Dine beside the 20-foot waterfall or gather round the outdoor fire pit. Steaks, seafood, salads and more on a seasonal menu that changes daily.
Dancing Avocado Kitchen: Enjoy healthy, but oh-so-yummy, dishes for breakfast and lunch. Start with fresh-squeezed juice or a frothy fruit smoothie, then dig into a hefty Big Breakfast Burrito or Ultimate Omelet (I’m partial to the Iguana Vegetable). Lunch brings burritos, burgers, salads, sandwiches and wraps.
What to Do
Here’s where the action-packed part of your honeymoon comes in. Choose from these amazingly cool experiences and pepper them into your itinerary, in between relaxing on the beach, playing a round of golf or touring some of the sights, like the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse.
If you’ve ever dreamed of tandem skydiving, Skydive Deland (less than 30 minutes from Daytona Beach) is the place to do it. The staff is extremely experienced, and tandem skydiving (where you are attached to a skydiver, who guides you through the freefall and parachuting adventure) was actually developed here. You’re trained within 30 minutes, then hop in a plane and jump with your tandem guide at nearly 14,000 feet, falling at speeds of up to 120 miles an hour for one minute. Then it’s about a three-minute parachute ride to the ground. (What a great gift for your new husband! The cost is about $250 for the jump and a video CD and still-photography CD.)
Ride along at 160 miles an hour in a racecar for three laps around the Daytona 500 Speedway or actually learn how to drive the stock car yourself, with the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Prices range from $109 for a ride-a-long to $2,999 for the “Advanced Racing Experience.” If you’re looking for something a bit less adrenaline-charged, consider the simulated race at Acceleration Alley ($5) at the Daytona 500 Experience, an attraction that also has a nifty display tracking the area’s racing history.
Join Daytona Beach Jet Boats for a thrilling, 45-minute jet-boat ride around the Intracoastal Waterway. Captain Bill will make the boat slide, sashay and take 360-degree spins that can only be done in this specially constructed boat. It’s a great time – particularly on hot days when you’re happy to get splashed! Prices are $30 per person; children half price. Boat rides depart from the dock at Aunt Catfish’s restaurant.
Other fun outdoor activities in Daytona Beach include surfing, parasailing and deep-sea fishing. For more information, visit the Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau website.