When New Yorkers want to kick back, they escape to the Hamptons. If Orlandonians want some downtime, they head to New Smyrna Beach. You might not have heard of it, but that’s set to change as the beach town on Florida’s east coast is promoting itself outside the US for the first time.
Funway now offers New Smyrna Beach product, and operators including Thomas Cook will feature the destination by the end of the year.
Debbie Meihls, executive director of the New Smyrna Beach Area Visitor Bureau, tells me the destination has hosted two fam trips for UK agents who were impressed with what it had to offer.
“New Smyrna Beach is a good value destination: you get a lot for your money. It’s also a walkable area, which is rare for the US, making it appealing for families. It’s the perfect winter sun destination too.”
Orlandonians dub New Smyrna Beach “the real Florida” thanks to its laidback attitude, its array of independent restaurants, and its strong relationship with art and culture. The coastal town is a two and- a-half-hour drive from Tampa International airport, or 50 minutes away from Orlando and its attractions and amusement parks.
“New Smyrna Beach is ideal for repeat visitors to Florida, or for those looking for something a little different to the traditional Florida product,” explains Meihls.
The destination has two historic downtown streets: Flagler Avenue and Canal Street, both of which have great shopping. Canal Street has an upscale feel and smart shops, while Meihls describes Flagler Avenue, which has direct beach access, as reminiscent of early Key West days.
“Agents were amazed at the restaurants, most of which are independently owned,” says Meihls, giving the example of Norwood’s Eatery, a seafood restaurant with its own wine shop and a treehouse bar. The two streets form part of the six-mile Waterfront Loop, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Indian River Lagoon on the other.
“The lagoon is part of a reserve park and teems with marine life, including manatees and bottlenose dolphins,” says Meihls.
Its Marine Discovery Centre offers eco-boat tours to discover the lagoon’s 4,000 species of plants and animals.
The city offers accommodation ranging from quirky B&Bs to condos and boutique hotels. A new 114-room beachfront hotel, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, is set to open near Flagler Avenue this July. The area will also welcome a new retail complex which is currently being developed, adding to its reputation as a shopping destination, with Daytona Beach’s outlet malls half an hour’s drive away.
It seems the Hamptons has some Floridian competition…