Daytona Beach International Airport with Daytona International Speedway to the upper left
Daytona Beach International Airport Daytona International Speedway to the upper left
Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences

Part of what made Daytona Beach what it is today is the hard-packed beach sand that allows folks to easily drive almost down to the water in many areas. For more than 50 years, the beach played host to the automotive and motorcycle races, then Dayona International Speedway was built (1959) and the beach racing almost completely stopped (there are still a few small events that recapture those days using antique vehicles and restricted areas of beach). Daytona is still the home city of NASCAR and the Grand American Road Racing Association. Daytona Beach is also known as "The Spring Break Capital of the World."

Historically speaking, Daytona Beach has a checkered past. When the Spanish first arrived, the area was was inhabited by the Timucua, a tribe that was essentially exterminated by the contact with Europeans and their diseases. By about 1800, the Timucua were completely gone and the area had been taken over by the Seminoles. Samuel Williams received a grant of 3,000 acres (including the area that would become Daytona Beach) from the Spanish Crown in 1804. He built a plantation on the land to grow cotton, rice and sugar cane. His labor force was composed of slaves and when the Second Seminole War came along, the Seminoles burned the place to the ground and freed those slaves. At that time, Samuel Williams Jr. was in charge and he never tried to rebuild the business.

In 1871, Mathias Day, Jr., a developer from Mansfiled, Ohio, came into possession of about 2,000 of those same acres and built a resort hotel on the west bank of the Halifax River. The town that grew up around that first hotel is now part of the Daytona Beach Historic District. However, Day lost title to his property during the general financial troubles of 1872. The townsfolk then named the settlement "Daytona" in his honor. The town was incorporated as a municipal entity in 1876.

The St. Johns & Halifax River Railway arrived ten years later, then Henry Flagler bought that rail line and incorporated it into his Florida East Coast Railway in 1889. In 1926, the separate towns of Daytona, Kingston, Seabreeze and Daytona Beach merged into Daytona Beach.

1902 is when the automobile and motorcycle races on the beach began. That quickly evolved into the world's first "land speed record" course with the final record being set at 276.816 miles per hour by Malcolm Campbell in 1935. In 1936, stock car races began on the "Daytona Beach Road Course" in what is now the Town of Ponce Inlet. In 1958, William France Sr. and NASCAR incorporated the Daytona International Speedway and that history began with the inaugural Daytona 500 being run in February 1959.

Today, Daytona Beach plays host to some 8,000,000 visitors per year, a large percentage of them in the Spring Break season...

The resident population of Daytona Beach is down almost 5% since 2000.

Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway