Family-Friendly Resort Overlooking Scenic Drive-Up Beach
In the middle of the 20th century, Daytona was like a Beach Boys song come to life: drag-race cars drove directly atop the shore, leaving behind tread marks on the densely packed sand of the Daytona Beach Road Course. It's still possible to drive up and park your rig directly on the 23-mile-long oceanfront, one of the few beaches in the world where this is still permissible. Rising just above this shore is the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel, a sunshine-yellow high-rise that overlooks the sea and the cars as they putter along the sand.
In the hotel's guest rooms, sliding glass doors open onto private balconies lined with deck chairs; they’re comfy spots to admire the sunrise or wave to passing krakens. Inside, buff walls and blond-wood furnishings echo the sandy hues of the shoreline. All rooms have small refrigerators, microwaves, and coffeemakers. Ocean-view rooms have partial views of the Atlantic from the side of the hotel, and you can opt for one with a kitchenette that's equipped with a sink and countertop.
Outside, there's an expansive deck made of pattern brick around a heated pool and kids' pool; the deck is lined with lounge chairs, patio umbrellas, and palm trees. The lobby exudes a tropical feel, too, with slatted wooden panels and planters overflowing with greenery. Come morning, the onsite restaurant, Atlantic Jack’s, serves breakfast in a casual setting.
Daytona Beach, Florida: Racing Legacy and a Famed Lighthouse
At the turn of the 20th century, motorists began racing on the packed sand of Daytona Beach out of practicality: the beach had a wide, unobstructed stretch and a smooth surface ideal for high-speed sprinting. Today, stock-car racing has moved to nearby Daytona International Speedway, but it’s still possible to park your car along the oceanfront here—one of the few beaches in the world where you can do so.
Hundreds of thousands of racing fans visit Daytona International Speedway each year to watch world-class champions such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Stock-car, sports-car, and motorcycle events round out the calendar all year, highlighted by the Daytona 500 in February—the first race of the Sprint Cup Series and typically regarded as the most prestigious. On various behind-the-scenes tours, you can explore the speedway's elevated press boxes, banked infield turns, and decadent hot tubs filled with motor oil.
At Daytona Beach itself, cars toting beach gear roll across the hard-packed sand through oceanfront driving zones; there are also traffic-free areas. South of town, you can see the Ponce de León Inlet Lighthouse. There, a spiral staircase winds up to the top of a 175-foot tower, where you can overlook a 52-acre park filled with armadillos, shore birds, and native wildflowers.