Hitting the World's Most Famous Beach

The beautiful and hard-packed beach here runs for 24 miles along a skinny peninsula separated from the mainland by the Halifax River. The bustling hub of activity is at the end of Main Street, where you'll find the Main Street Pier (also known as the Daytona Beach Pier or Ocean Pier), the longest wooden pier on the East Coast. Out here you'll find a restaurant, bar, bait shop, beach-toy concessions, chairlift running its length, and views from the 180-foot- tall Space Needle. Admission as far out as the restaurant and bar is free (at about a third of the way, this is far enough for a good view down the beach), but you'll have to pay $1 to walk beyond that point, and more than that if you fish. Beginning at the pier, the city's famous oceanside Boardwalk is lined with restaurants, bars, and T-shirt shops, as are the 4 blocks of Main Street nearest the beach. The city's $400-million Ocean Walk Village redevelopment project begins here and runs several blocks north, featuring a movie theater, boutiques, restaurants, and even a 175-room hotel/condo, the Ocean Walk Resort (tel. 877/845-WALK [9255]).

You can drive and park on sections of the sand along 18 miles of the beach from 1 hour after sunrise to 1 hour before sunset. During sea-turtle nesting season, May 1 to October 31, driving hours are from 8am to 7pm. Traffic lanes and speed limits are clearly marked at low tide, but watch for signs warning of nesting sea turtles. There's a $5-per-vehicle access fee and 10-mph speed limit. Watch out for the tides. If you park at low tide and lose track of time, your vehicle may become an inadvertent rust bucket or artificial reef at high tide!

There's another busy beach area at the end of Seabreeze Boulevard, which has a multitude of restaurants, bars, and shops.

Folks seeking privacy usually prefer the northern or southern extremities of the beach. Ponce Inlet, at the very southern tip of the peninsula, is especially peaceful, as there is little commerce or traffic to disturb the silence. Lighthouse Point Park is the best beach, consisting of 52 acres of pristine beaches on the northern end of Ponce Inlet. It features fishing, nature trails, an observation deck and tower, swimming, and picnicking. Admission is $5 per vehicle.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.