After exploring a few highlights in the Palm Coast area, (see previous post) we returned to Flagler Beach the next day. Our first stop was at Swillerbee’s Craft Donuts and Coffee Bar for a sugary treat and a bit of caffeine before beginning the slow ride home. Yum!
After our highly indulgent and delicious breakfast, we headed toward A1A but this time, instead of turning left as we had done the day before, we turned right, toward Daytona Beach and home. Except for the beach, which is consistently beautiful all along this coast, the drive was very different than the previous day. As you approach Daytona, the towns are more developed with newer construction and neighborhoods that suggest year-round residents and a sense of community. Ormond Beach was a standout for us in terms of being a place to live versus a place to visit.
While Daytona Beach is exactly as anyone would imagine it to be (commercialized and touristy), Ponce Inlet which is just south, was a little jewel. We exited A1A and entered the beach there. Much of this coast allows driving on the beach and there are many entrances along A1A. Ponce Inlet is the last possible opportunity to have this experience before A1A ends and you have to cross the inlet and head toward New Symerna to connect with it again.
It is hard to believe that as a native Floridian I have never availed myself of this opportunity – a drive on the beach. For just $10 you can get a day pass which allows access to the beach and one reentry during the same day. Locals can purchase an annual pass for $25 and seasonal residents spend just $100 for unlimited visits. Any way you look at it, it’s cheap entertainment. We drove about a mile, parked the car on packed sand instead of the fluffy white stuff by the dunes to avoid getting stuck. Not intending to spend the day and on a schedule, this was clearly a shameless photo opp. Rule #1, don’t shoot toward the sun when you want clarity on your subject! I rushed these, and missed an opportunity for a decent shot, but you can still get the idea of the vastness of the beach area and the driving surface.
Fortunately, you cannot and should not rush the experience of being here and soaking it all in. It was just after 8:00 a.m. and the surfers and sunbathers were already out. Malcolm pulled the car over to a more practical parking area and we lingered for a while enjoying the peacefulness of the morning.
The GPS informed us that we needed to loop around to US 1 to continue South toward home, but we decided to press forward toward the inlet for a bit more sight-seeing before getting back on the route. So glad we did.
We would have missed this closeup view of the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, the museum and the marina which sit on the point. This location is now securely on our must return list and we will plan a future visit that allows for several days of exploration.
Every good road trip must end, so we turned the car for home. Until next time…