During low tide every day without fail an island appears as the water recedes at the inlet where Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna almost meet. When it does, boaters from all around come to play on the pure sandy island. It is as if it were made for recreational boating. The island is easily accessible from various boat ramps in the area. Buit it is only accessible by boat. For several hours it provides sunbathing, fishing, swimming and a party atmosphere. Once the tide comes in it disappears until the next low tide.
One of my all time favorite things to do on Saturday or Sunday when I am over at Ponce Inlet is go to Joe’s Crab Shack for a made to order omelet and mimosa. Sitting in the open air tables on the pier, I can watch the waves roll in while sipping on the bubbly and eating my breakfast creation. The location is close enough that I can ride my beach bike up A1A to Joe’s and then work off my brunch before heading to the beach. Go earlier (before 9am) if you want to beat the crowds.
I eat at this restaurant all the time. Over the years I have learned more and more about the history of this site and beginnings of today’s NASCAR racing.
Before race cars negotiated the banks and bends of Daytona International Speedway, the need for speed was met on a mix of sand and asphalt along the Atlantic Coast. The roar of engines has been heard around this part of Volusia County since 1936. The Daytona Beach road course once stretched to Ponce Inlet.
Racing’s North Turn Beach Bar & Grille in Ponce Inlet is located at one of local racing history’s pivotal points. In 2007, the Ponce Inlet Historic & Archaeological Preservation Board recognized the site of the casual ocean-side restaurant as a historic landmark. From the north turn on the pavement of Atlantic Avenue, the path went south two miles on U.S. Highway A1A to the end of the road. There, drivers hit the beach to speed two miles north and catch another lap at the north turn, according to RacingsNorthTurn.com. These wild and woolly car races ran until 1958, according to local historians, when they were relocated to one of the world’s most famous tracks, Daytona International Speedway. Today, the aroma of sunscreen has replaced the smell of gas, oil and burning rubber. But Racing’s North is still making history.
Inside the restaurant, guests are greeted with cases of race-car memorabilia, including event photos and a gallery of drivers. The menu has a checkered flag theme with some sandwiches named for racing legends such as Russ Truelove, Vicki Wood and Ray Fox. There is an inside dining room– but really, you came to the beach to eat inside? … Take a table outside or eat at the bar. Service is time-trials quick, but you will want to linger with the ocean view. A wall of glass doors lines one side as wind protection, I suppose. But on most days they are open to a long deck set with Adirondack chairs.
We started our first lap with the fish dip ($8.99). It’s a very cream cheesy blend with minced vegetables and garlic and served with buttery crackers. It’s extremely light on the smoked flavor promised on the menu but it’s a nice spread nonetheless. The clam chowder is a favorite anytime of the year.
We also shared the fried coconut shrimp ($8.99). It’s large enough for a light entree, if that’s the route you are seeking.
The Cup Series Cuban ($9.25) landed at our pit stop barely fitting in the basket. Generously piled with meat, it’s not an authentic Cuban but it’s a darn good sandwich created in the Cuban style. All the fish sandwiches are loaded up with a huge filet spilling over the side. The snow crab legs are one of my favorite.
With no caution flags in sight, we barreled into lap three with the Crew Chief Chicken Sandwich ($9.25 plus 75 cents for bacon) and fries ($1.75). The pounded tender breast meat was nicely grilled and the salty bacon added a BLT punch. Also, we ordered the prime rib sandwich ($9.75) with a side car of slaw ($1.75). The beef was medium-rare as requested, and the horseradish kicked it into overdrive.
On the weekends they do breakfast and Bloody Mary’s in case you didn’t get your fill the night before. Drinks are reasonably priced and they offer several varieties of beer (available in ice filled buckets) for large parties. Racing’s North Turn has long been a local favorite for its sense of place, but it clearly stands on its own as a fun beach-side eatery as well. Walk across the parking lot to enjoy a piece of history, you won’t regret it.
In 1870, Congress appropriated $60,000 to buy a site and build a lighthouse near Mosquito Inlet in Volusia County. Within a few years the site was secured and an engineer was appointed for the construction. After naming the lighthouse Ponce Park, the engineer DROWNED in the inlet, but the lighthouse was completed in 1887. Within a few years a hotel was built nearby called the Ponce Park subdivision and President Theodore Roosevelt designated Mosquito Inlet a bird sanctuary. In 1928, the name was changed to Ponce de Leon Inlet and the town of Ponce Inlet was incorporated in 1963. The first town council was sworn in at the lighthouse office, which became the first Town Hall after the municipality leased the lighthouse property from the U.S. Government for $1 per year. Ponce Inlet has long since constructed a Town Hall and today the city is popular for its deep sea fishing charters, beaches and seafood restaurants. The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the second tallest in the U.S. and is still a prominent feature. The restored lighthouse and grounds are now a museum and park.