Many tourists flock to the crowded portion of Flagler Ave at Beachfront Park, New Smyrna Beach, and pay to park. They don’t realize if they were to drive about three miles further South awaiting them would be a picturesque, traffic free beach. Bethune Beach is a spot many locals know to go to escape the crowds. In the picture above, this couple was having a romantic moment waiting for the sun to rise over the Atlantic Ocean and enjoying the peaceful, solitude of nature while social distancing!
Sadly, Bethune Beach was the only place in the early 20th Century that African Americans were permitted to use freely to enjoy swimming and other beach activities. The beach was named after Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and founder of Bethune Cookman College, located in Daytona Beach. Her dream was for this portion of the beach to remain free for all to enjoy. Today, there are still many free amenities like bathrooms, children’s playground, picnic area, free partially paved parking, boardwalk, barbecue grills, basketball court, and a beautiful beach. This portion of the beach still remains a traffic free beach and safe haven for children to play too!
If you decide to venture on foot further South, about a mile down the beach after the homes/condos, you will experience the beach as it was many years before tourism and commercial developments took over. You can walk down there from Bethune to Canaveral National Seashore without paying. Luckily, the Canaveral National Seashore preserved many acres of land and beach for all to enjoy for a nominal fee.
So, next time you decide to visit New Smyrna Beach, Florida, you have to decide if you want to view the natural wildlife, or the “wildlife” throngs of people off Flagler Ave. Personally, I would choose to escape the noise of humans and replace it with the sound of seagulls soaring, and waves hitting the shoreline at Bethune Beach.
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