Smyrna Dunes Park | Lighthouse Views and Gopher Tortoises

Why had I never heard of this park? I stumbled upon Smyrna Dunes Park somewhat randomly after deciding to take an impromptu drive to New Smyrna Beach. To find the park you must drive north, away from the hustle and bustle of Flagler Avenue and the New Smyrna Beach accesses. Taking the 10 minute drive off the beaten path is well worth it. Maybe it’s just me, but the interesting landscape and the possibility of seeing a cute turtle made for a good time, and I would certainly go back again.

Located north of the main beach at the very tip of the Key, the park is a peninsula with epic views on all sides.  The nice man who collected my $5 entrance fee at the gate advised me to keep and eye out for gopher tortoises and to start on the boardwalk at the left of the pavilion for nicer views. I had never heard of a gopher tortoise but it sounded exciting and gave me a mission. Views! Tortoises!  I parked my car (on this sunny weekday afternoon there were only two other cars in the parking lot) and, following his instructions, walked to the left of the pavilion.

walking out onto the boardwalk

Walking out onto the boardwalk.

As I headed out on the board walk I was not expecting the scene I encountered. I may have said “Wow!” out loud to no one in particular. The boardwalk almost immediately leads to a wide open area with beautiful water views on all sides: inlet and ocean. Across the inlet I could see the red Volusia County Lighthouse in the distance. The 1.5 mile board walk leads you in a circular path through the entire park and keeps visitors off the scrub and dunes, which is where the cute gopher tortoises reside. The observation deck about a quarter of a mile down the walk allowed me to get up a bit higher and take everything in. Look at this view….

(more…)