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Florida's Little Known Surf Mecca: Ponce Inlet

  •   (Photo by Michael Kurtgis Jr)
  •   (Photo by Michael Kurtgis Jr)

With the early morning sun warming my face, off-shore winds to my back and a clean 3- to 4-foot swell under my feet, it's difficult not to be happy. So where am I?

I am surfing on the east coast of Central Florida. Ponce Inlet to be exact. While some may not think of Florida as a surf destination, there are a few spots along its 1,000-plus miles of coastline that have enough consistency to spawn some of the greatest surfers ever, and Ponce Inlet is one of them. 

As most inlets go, there are two sides: north and south. The south side of Ponce Inlet is known as New Smyrna Beach, which steals the show as being the most consistent surf spot in Florida boasting 300 days of surf a year. Not too shabby if you don’t mind most days having less than 3-foot waves, which I don’t. Any excuse to get in the water with a board is my motto, even if the board is 10-feet long. As one can imagine with such a surefire spot comes guaranteed crowds. So when the surf isn’t crazy good, and I’m looking for a little more of a getaway with someone special, I tend to trek over to the north side of the inlet known as Ponce Inlet Beach. The surf is respectable, especially during a southeast swell, and it provides for a few more laid back options in walking distance from the beach.

Just like the south side of the inlet, driving on the sand is the way to go and while 4- wheel drive is ideal, it is not necessary. Never fear, on the rare occasion you do get stuck, there is always a friendly hand to help out.

Once you’ve chosen your spot it is quite convenient as there is no lugging of coolers, boards, bags, kids, etcetera. Everything is nearby and accessible.

Now, let’s see, where was I? Ah, yes, surfing. Sun on face, wind on back, 3 to 4 under foot. Pure happiness.

And an excellent way to work up healthy appetite. With that said, my girlfriend and I decide to explore the inlet's eatery options. All we can think about is a fresh fish sandwich. We quickly ask around and pinpoint a few places to choose from -- all with the fresh catch of the day brought in straight off the local fishing vessels. The quest is on.

Unlike New Smyrna’s quaint shops and eateries strewn along its busy little thoroughfare, Ponce takes a bit more exploring to find its seafaring restaurants. Most everything is tucked away among low, shady oak scrub, which blanket the area. This makes for interesting viewing as we trot by the quaint homes and historic lighthouse.

We continue to traipse along the area's scenic streets in search of the "catch of the day". But first we stumble upon the local Marine Science Center and Bird Sanctuary. To our surprise it was quite entertaining. For a small donation we were able to interact with marine life and learn how the center rehabilitates the many injured turtles and birds that are brought in each and every day.

After further exploration of the area we find a narrow dirt trail which leads through the oak canopies running along the clear blue intercostal waterway. As we scurry through, imagining where we would end up next, there it was, rising out of its weather-worn wood docks in all its glory: Down the Hatch Seafood restaurant. With a live band jammin' and a water-front view, my fish sandwich never tasted so good. In my happy place again.

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Michael Kurtgis Jr icon

Michael Kurtgis Jr

Roaming the world is what I do. Along the way I document what I see through writing and stunning imagery. Some of my favorite adventures include carving up waves in Costa Rica, exploring the Mayan ruins in Mexico and photographing Chicago’s astounding architecture.



Located: Orlando United States
Likes: surfing, diving, mountain climbing, skiing, hiking, architecture

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