At Smyrna Dunes Park in New Smyrna Beach there is a display of sea life specimens under glass. At the pavilion by the parking area this case of seashells, sea urchins, sand dollars and sea stars (starfish) can be found near the public bathrooms.
The photos aren’t very good because of glare, but I thought it would be fun to share the variety of sea life here on my blog. Many shells in this collection are very familiar to me, and others I have never found.
I’ve printed the names of most items on the photo below so they can be read easier. At the top to the far left are the olive shells, and on the far right are oysters.
On my travels to beaches at the ocean and along the river I have never found the following: Scotch bonnet, paper fig, nutmeg shell and murex.
This collection is probably meant to represent the entire state and not only what is found near this park. They also have a Paper Nautilus which I’ve never even heard of. (See it in the center below, just beneath the Baby’s Ear.)
Most often I find arks / clams, shark’s eye (moonsnail), crown conch, horse conch, lightning whelk, pear whelk (I forgot to print it, but they are next to the Paper Fig), slipper shells (above the lightning whelks) and jingle shells. See my gallery slide show below.
I’m less likely to see olives and tulips. I’ve only found pieces of sand dollars, but a nice lady once gave me a whole sand dollar while I was walking the beach. I have never found a starfish or sea urchin.
My Seashell Photos
Shells (and live snails) I’ve photographed on my beach-combing travels. Only empty shells are collected and most gastropods I find are either alive, with the snail inside, or have a hermit crab residing.
I have a round, flat bowl full of my favorite shell finds, so these days I rarely take shells home unless they really stand out as unusual. Recently I picked up two yellow pricklycockles to add to the collection.
Often I will write about Smyrna Dunes Park and Ponce Inlet because it’s such a wonderful place to beach-comb, swim, fish, and walk. The park had built a new stairway, to replace the old one, which emptied onto the beach near the jetty. The stairway was replaced when the rest of the boardwalk was replaced, only a short time ago. I’m talking like less than two years. Now this stairway is gone. The boardwalk now ends up high on the dunes as a “lookout” only with no beach access.
Here is a link to an article, written in May, 2019, about New Smyrna Beach on the “Travel Pulse” website where you can see this stairway from the side. It was a beautiful, and probably expensive, set of stairs. Suddenly, they were taken out and I’m wondering why.
The New Stairway Which is Now Missing
Here is my photo of that staircase which was built over the dunes. The old boards were replaced with something like Trex boards to hold up to the elements better. The whole boardwalk was re-done like this. Now, these stairs no longer exist. There is no way to get onto the beach at the end of this part of the boardwalk.
The only sensible explanation for the missing stairs is that they didn’t want anyone gaining access from the beach up to the park. But because there are about 4 or 5 other access points on the ocean side, and about three on the river side of this peninsula, that really doesn’t make sense. This does not keep people from doing that, it just makes it more difficult. Maybe that was the point?
Below is my first time trying the “compare images” block with a center slider. It shows the top of the stairway compared to the nothing that is left.
(A reader left a comment that the sand was washed away and the stairs no longer touched the beach so the stairs were removed. If this is the reason, it’s pretty stupid that the builders did not realize that this happens. I’ve taken lots of “after a storm” photos that show the eroding of the beach. Maybe there have been too many hurricanes and they decided not to deal with this problem. But they left the other access points over on the ocean side which certainly must also be affected by hurricanes.)
Erosion of Beach at Ponce Inlet Jetty
Stairway, and Stairway Removed
I’d love to know the reasoning behind this move. My favorite thing to do at the park was to walk 1/2 of the oval and then go down at this point to the beach. The jetty is to the right and I would begin my beach walk there and travel around the inlet over to the river and return to the boardwalk by using the dog access trails.
It’s a longer walk, through the soft beach sand, to get onto the beach and do the same thing.
Since you can’t get down to the beach, I suppose standing there in the shade and reading a sign about local wildlife will have to do.
The Smyrna Dunes Park boardwalk is an oval shaped boardwalk with beach access ramps along the ocean side. Because the stairway at the end of this path (photo below) is no longer an access to the jetty, a new sign points walkers on down the oval where access leads to the ocean side.
See a map of the park at the Volusia County site. The info in this brochure is old because a one day pass is now $10.00. That doesn’t keep visitors away, in fact often it’s usually difficult to find parking. I used to buy a year long resident’s pass for $20, but with the crowds and now this new change, I won’t be doing that.
At this point I’d rather drive onto the beach and park near the jetty. My son and I did this the other day and he fished while I did some beachcombing.
The old wooden boardwalk – before the “fake wood” replacement
The Very Old Boardwalk
The photo below was taken when the old boardwalk was still showing. Hurricanes and extremely high tides easily destroy anything that is built near the ocean, so it’s understandable that the boardwalk would need replacing. This bit of the wooden walk is no longer there and I don’t recall when this photo was taken.
There are many, many more people coming to this area and using the boardwalks. Florida no longer has that “Old Florida” feel. Everything caters to the newer, wealthier crowds. The boardwalks cannot be rustic, they must be pristine. And now I suspect the city of New Smyrna has the tax money to upgrade.
With lots of condos nearby and the fact that everyone has a dog these days, this is a popular park. Dogs can be seen all around the beach from the jetty to the river side. Although they are supposed to be on a leash, many people ignore that, and let their dogs run.
I don’t understand, or much like, the way things are being done these days in this area. Daytona Beach to the north used to be very popular and the place to visit. Now it is known locally as a place to avoid. That brings everyone south to New Smyrna, which has been written about endlessly as the place to visit on Florida’s east coast.
The high rises are going up and the restaurants are doing valet parking. Florida caters to the visitors who like the idea of living the laid-back life in paradise and live in big expensive condos which are ruining the landscape.
The laid back Florida feel has been gone a long time for me.
I was lucky to have my youngest son come for a visit recently. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t good, with cloudy skies and rain much of the time. We did manage a day at the beach lodging in our chairs and walking in the tide pools, but it was not swimming weather.
Visiting the Park
My son had not been to Smyrna Dunes Park since the boardwalk had been updated. All the old boards have been replaced – rebuilt with long lasting boards and metal sides. He mentioned how nice it looked.
I bought my resident year-long pass which now goes year to year and not just to the end of the year.
We went up to the top of the first lookout area, and the only one on the west side of the walkway, to get some photos. My son dislikes heights and even being this high gave him the willies!
The photo below is looking back toward the parking area with the condos near the beach.
These two photos show the view of the ICW, inland waterway. The dirt trail that runs alongside the walkway is where the dogs go for their walks. Dogs are only allowed on the boardwalk early in the morning. Farther up the path dogs and owners can get onto the beach.
I’ll share more photos of our trek out on the beach in a post to come. I found some pretty good shells.
New Smyrna Beach Walk
The first day my son arrived we took a drive onto New Smyrna Beach. I live close and it’s the thing to do. It was cool and windy but we did wear our suits although there was no one swimming. A lone lifeguard looked bored out of her mind.
We found this tiny blue jellyfish, which looks like a man-of-war, just sitting on the sand near the road.
My son and I scanned the sand for good shells. He has collected them often enough to know I like certain ones. He found this awesome Dosinia – which I don’t think I have ever encountered on this beach – and little scallop, which is also a fairly rare find for this beach.
In between our beach visits we went out on the boat and had an adventure trying to cook hotdogs over oyster shells. Don’t ask – and don’t try it!
The following day my boys went fishing and caught three keepers – two drum and one trout. Fresh fish for supper! Yum.
He had a nice visit and was glad to have some warm weather to enjoy, then he went back to the New Hampshire winter.