Daytona Beach vs. 30A Beaches

On this installment of Battle of the Beaches, we’re comparing the Emerald (Gulf) Coast of Florida beaches with the iconic Daytona Beach. There’s a huge difference between these two areas. Perhaps the only thing they have in common is the fact they’re both in Florida. Which FL beach is the best? We’re going to explore the differences and help you choose which one is your perfect fit for your next Florida beach vacation.

Not sure which is the best beach for a FL beach vacation? Learn the differences between 30A beaches like Rosemary Beach, Seaside and more vs. Daytona Beach.

July 28, 2021

On this installment of Battle of the Beaches, we’re comparing the Emerald (Gulf) Coast of Florida beaches with the iconic Daytona Beach. There’s a huge difference between these two areas. Perhaps the only thing they have in common is the fact they’re both in Florida. Which FL beach is the best? We’re going to explore the differences and help you choose which one is your perfect fit for your next Florida beach vacation.

The Basics

If you’re unfamiliar with these two areas, we’re going to tackle the basics first. Where are they? 30A beaches on the Emerald Coast include Rosemary Beach, Grayton Beach, Seaside, Watercolor, Inlet Beach and more. Nestled along Florida’s scenic highway 30A, these charming Gulf-side towns boast stunning emerald waters and soft, white, powdery sand. On the other hand, Daytona Beach is on the East coast of Florida. It’s on the Atlantic but much further North along the coast than Miami or Ft. Lauderdale.

Places to Stay

Daytona is urban, with rows of high rise hotels, condos and resorts. 30A towns are far less developed. There aren’t any towering high rises or gigantic beach parking structures. The hotels in the area are mostly small, boutique hotels on the beach. But the most popular places to stay on 30A are the vacation rental homes. There are loads of charming cottages in luxurious beachside communities. During the summer, many areas run a free tram service which will take you right up to the beach.

The Beaches

30A beaches are some of the most stunning in Florida. The Emerald Coast lives up to its name with stunning, clear emerald waters. The beaches are long with powdery white sand. Not only is the sand soft, it also doesn’t absorb heat as much as Daytona and other Florida beaches on the East coast. The water is almost always calm which is great if you have small children. Daytona Beach has dark, parchment-colored sand and the beach is 26 miles long. It’s hard-packed and they even allow cars to drive on portions of the beach during the day. The Atlantic Ocean is a dull grayish-green but; the waves can get quite high so it’s an excellent place for boogie boarding, body boarding and even light surfing. It’s a much more traditional beach town setting with a long pier for fishing and lots of little snack bars, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops along the way.


30A is a “drive to” destination – most people come from other places in Florida, Georgia and other nearby states. However, 30A is not far from an airport – around 30 minutes. Read our article on where to fly into if you’re planning to travel by plane. Daytona Beach, on the other hand, has a major international airport right there so it’s even easier to fly into. The Daytona Beach International Airport is served by Delta, American Silver Airways, and Jet Blue with non-stop flights from Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, and New York City. If distance and driving is a big factor, this is definitely something to consider.

And, on the subject of transportation, we have to mention the best ways to get around town once you’re there. 30A is ideal for biking and it’s the preferred mode of transportation for many visitors and locals. Daytona Beach is much more car dependent. If you’re flying in, you might consider staying at a hotel with free transportation. If you stay on the beach, you won’t need to rent or use a car at all. No battle for good beach parking! That’s a win.

Things to Do

30A is all about the great outdoors: beach, biking, paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing and boating. Of course, there are many amazing local restaurants and bars. You’ll also find wonderful boutiques and retail areas like the Village of Baytowne Wharf. Daytona Beach is famous – but not necessarily for the beach. Daytona is famous for race cars. The Daytona International Speedway attracts huge crowds of NASCAR fans from across the country. There’re loads of things to do in and around Daytona: arcades, amusement parks, shopping, dining – and less than an hour from Kennedy Space Center either!

Picking the right location for your next Florida vacation is fun but it can also be a little challenging. We hope that this article helps clear up some of the differences between these two Florida beach areas. Different beaches, different vibes and different things to do make the choice between these two places a little easier. If you’re looking for laid-back beach vibes with kids, 30A is the way to go. If you want to have a rip-roaring good time with big waves and a boardwalk, Daytona is great. Whatever you decide, we hope you have an amazing vacation!

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