Florida's State Road A1A winds through some of the coolest beach towns in the South—and this is one of them.
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Florida’s A1A Beach Towns
Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Even if you never leave the handful of blocks between Indian River North and the Atlantic Ocean, you'll still find plenty of things to do in New Smyrna Beach. That's this town is tailor-made for flip-flop adventures. This quirky little town is so much fun! Flagler Avenue dead-ends at a popular beach access point, where 10 bucks will get you and your vehicle onto the sand. Truth be told, most people don't drive very far. They pick a sandy spot, park, and unload their gear as they need it. It's so much more humane than slogging your beach bags, chairs, umbrellas, and the all-important cooler all the way from your condo to the beach.

New Smyrna Beach, just like Flagler Beach up the road, is a surfing mecca. (You'll notice that the beach patrol station next to Flagler Avenue Beachfront Park looks like a pumped-up lifeguard stand.) You'll also spot surfers with their boards in hand, making their way down a long and meandering boardwalk at Smyrna Dunes Park, which has an Atlantic overlook and steps down to the beach. Ready to go? Here's you're 3-step plan for a great trip to this A1A beach town:

1. Choose Your Stay

When it comes to turning in after a long day on the sand, you'll have your choice of comfy rooms. Our beachfront pick? The retro-cool The Salty Mermaid Hotel, a vintage motor court on the oceanfront that's been renovated with style. Instead of a pool, it has a lawn area with lounge chairs and umbrellas overlooking the Atlantic. Like mainstream chains? There's a cottage-y Hampton Inn just a short walk from the beach. Prefer to stay off the beach but near the water? Head to Indian River North just off the North Causeway and try the historic Riverview Hotel & SpaIt's minutes from the beach—which you can drive on, remember? If you're a fan of bed-and-breakfasts, check out the Black Dolphin Inn for a sleek property with Mediterranean-style designs or the traditional Night Swan Intracoastal Bed & Breakfastalso with river views.

2. Explore Flagler Avenue

Start at Flagler Tavern, which is right in the thick of things. Not only does it have good food and drink, reasonably priced, but its big double porches offer box seats to all the beachy to-doings nearby. Order up surf 'n' turf in the cool 1920s building that houses the restaurant, and you'll want to become a local in no time. Other favorites near the beach include The Breakers for casual fare with an Atlantic view; The Beacon for down-home breakfast; ice cream at Treats on the Beach or Beachside Candy Co.; "beach-inspired Tex-Mex" (that's been an area favorite for 30 years) at Clancy's Cantina; and fresh pizza, serious java, and wine selections at Third Wave Café & Wine Bar. You'll find plenty of local shops tucked along Flagler as well.

3. Hit the Beach

It's why you came, right? Atlantic beaches have a different vibe from those along the Gulf, and if you typically vacation on one coast, it's fun to experience the other for a change. So pack that cooler, load all the chairs and umbrellas into your trunk, and head down A1A. Tell The Salty Mermaid we sent you. No matter when you make the trip, New Smyrna Beach is sure to have some beachfront magic in store for you.