The beach is such a big part of my life that packing to spend time on the sand is second nature. Whether boating to a deserted island, or driving onto the beaches here in New Smyrna, necessary take-alongs are nearly the same.
For vacationers from out of state, and especially those unfamiliar with Florida beaches, I will share some advice. First, if you are traveling to the beach in a car, find out if it will be high tide. Sometimes the drive-on roads are closed if the tide is high!
What You Need To Bring For a Day at the Beach
Money to pay for entrance to drive on the beach. Even if you park and walk on, there is a fee to park these days.
A big bag, preferably waterproof with a zipper. It can be very windy. Maybe more than one bag depending on the number of people in your family. Fill it with towels, sunscreen, shirts, hats, beach toys, money, sunscreen, snacks, and whatever else you need for a fun day on the sand.
Cooler filled with drinks (alcohol is not allowed, neither is glass) and food and lots of ice. Drink a lot while out in the Florida sun. Trash cans are provided by the dunes.
Clothing and Hats with UPF / sunscreen built in. This is an especially good idea for little kids. I prefer to wear beach shoes as well.
Extra Towels for the car on the ride home. My advice is to NOT use towels to sit / lie on in the sand. The sand is so fine that it is difficult to remove it from towels. Sit in lightweight chairs meant for the beach.
I bring a container of water for rinsing (empty milk cartons, empty ice-tea cartons and cat litter containers work well) to rinse my feet, chairs, boogie-boards, etc., before heading home. It helps with the car mess and makes the ride more comfortable. This is in addition to lots of bottled water for drinking.
SUNSCREEN: Sunscreen has an expiration date. DO NOT BUY IT ONLINE. Go to a local store to buy your sunscreen and check the expiration date. Apply before you leave the house and preferably before you dress in a swim suit. That way you will cover all areas easily. Bring it with you to re-apply when needed. My favorite brand is Coppertone. I use an SPF 8 when we go out for hours on the boat, but I bring a shirt and wear a hat. A 15 or 30 SPF should work fine unless you are super pale skinned or plan to stay on the beach the entire day. Once you look “a little red” you need to cover up. That red will get brighter as time goes on!
While at the beach, don’t feed the birds, do watch for traffic, drive slowly, don’t litter, stay off the dunes, and away from any turtle nesting sites (they will be marked), and follow the rules. Go to a spot near a lifeguard and be careful if there are rip current warnings, or you see jellyfish on the sand. Most often the jellyfish are not the kind that will hurt you but I’ve seen man-of-war on the beach too!
No glass is allowed on beaches, and music must be contained to your area. You will have to get out of the water if there is thunder / lightning. It can strike from very far away even if the sun is out…! Check out the Beach Safety page for Daytona and New Smyrna Beach area for more useful information before you head to the beach.
There is no car access at Ponce Inlet to the north of the jetty. You must drive onto the beach further south at one of the ramps and slowly make your way to the south side of the jetty. Parking at the jetty is usually busy in summer months because the surfers and people fishing from the rocks will take up the spaces. This is where the waves are good, and it’s also where most shark bites happen!
I took the photo above while walking the boardwalk at Smyrna Dunes Park.
In summer, and big vacation times like Spring Break, expect the beach to look like the photo below. Busy. Crowded. Crazy.