Covering just 4.5 square miles, Holly Hill is a quiet, mostly residential city between Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach.
Holly Hill sits on the Halifax River, and there’s a picturesque waterfront park where you can catch the sunrise, take a picnic or launch a boat.
The majority of Holly Hill’s businesses can be found on Ridgewood Avenue (US 1). Here you’ll come across a line of antique stores, motels, and other lodgings.
As far as I’m concerned, the joy of Holly Hill is its excellent location. Within ten minutes you can get to the Atlantic shore and a galaxy of attractions, from the Daytona International Raceway to Gilded Age mansions.
1. Holly Hill History Museum
This local history museum is located across from City Hall on Ridgewood Avenue. Though it’s small, it’s the got-to for those interested in learning about the area’s past.
The museum is staffed by knowledgeable and enthusiastic local volunteers and is full of unique exhibits. You can pore over photographs, historical memorabilia, and first-hand accounts of pioneers and settlers.
There were details about the Holly Hill-based rum-runner, Bill McCoy (1877-1948), and a display about the Merci Boxcar, which I will talk about below.
On my visit, the museum had also just opened a temporary exhibit space, devoted to archive photography.
2. Sunrise Park
Bill McCoy used this nub of land on the Halifax River as a landing during his rum-running days in Prohibition. My favorite picnic spot in Holly Hill, Sunrise Park is a lovely space, with a long fishing pier.
True to its name, this is an excellent place for early-risers to see the sun come up. There’s a wooded area on the north side, with a short boardwalk. This is edged to the south by an open grassy space, with picnic shelters, and a children’s playground.
Then at the southernmost end is the park’s boat ramp, with another set of shelters, all with unbroken views of Daytona Beach’s skyline.
3. Copper Bottom Craft Distillery
The Holly Hill area has an interesting connection to spirit production. From the mid-18th century this was the site of the Three Chimneys plantation, sugar mill, and rum distillery.
Later, I’ve already mentioned Bill McCoy who defied prohibition from these shores. Upholding that heritage is the award-winning Copper Bottom Craft Distillery
Wednesday through Saturday you can come for a free tour of the facility. Of course, you can also enjoy some generous samples. The standout for me was the vodka, which was as clean as any I’ve tasted.
4. Seabreeze Boulevard
With most of the local commerce on US 1, Holly Hill doesn’t have a traditional downtown area. Still, there’s a great one just across the Mason Avenue Bridge.
Now a neighborhood within Daytona Beach, Seabreeze was an independent city in the first decades of the 20th century.
When I wrote this article, the five-block strip along Seabreeze Boulevard was booming as the Seabreeze Entertainment District. Filled with independent businesses, this is an awesome place to come for food.
There’s vegan food, Mexican, classic breakfast options, Italian, burgers, Mediterranean, Japanese, pizza, and a lineup of hopping bars, all on one walkable, palm-lined drag.
5. Daytona International Speedway
For diehard race fans, Daytona International Speedway is one of the country’s racing meccas. Now, I probably don’t need to tell you that tickets to its namesake 200-lap event can be hard to come by.
At any other time, there are plenty of options for those who’d like to get an up-close-and-personal look at the iconic speedway.
Tours of the facility last anywhere from half an hour to three hours. Some of the more VIP-experiences even offer a lap or two around the track at relatively high speeds.
The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is a delight, paying tribute to the history of high-speed competition, from stock cars to land-speed record breakers.
6. Andy Romano Beachfront Park
Five minutes away in Ormond Beach there’s a public beach park surrounded by all the amenities of a bustling seaside town.
If you value choice and convenience above seclusion, this is my pick for local beachtime. It’s no exaggeration to say that Andy Romano Beachfront Park has a world of lodging, dining, retail and family attractions nearby.
It’s also a ceremonious way to visit the beach. A pair of towers meet you at the parking lot entrance, and there’s a beautiful pavilion and plaza at the top of the stairs and ramps to the beach.
The park includes restrooms and covered seating areas that are great for picnics or relaxing with a good book. Best of all for younger families, there’s a playground and a seasonal splash pad onsite as well.
7. The Casements
Facing the Halifax River in Ormond Beach there’s compelling local history to uncover. I was amazed to discover that the richest person in modern history, John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), wintered just five minutes from Holly Hill.
His base was The Casements (1913), a stately Shingle-style residence close to where his pal Henry Flagler ran the Ormond Hotel.
After a period of decay The Casements is now restored and owned by the City of Ormond Beach, and used as a kind of community center.
Six days a week you can visit for a tour of the building, and hear accounts of Rockefeller’s time in the area, as well as his many guests, which included Henry Ford and Edward VIII.
8. Museum of Arts and Sciences
A premier attraction for the area, Daytona Beach’s Museum of Arts and Sciences has tens of thousands of items in its collections.
These are extremely varied, with strong-points including Chinese art, Florida’s natural history, Cuban art, and works produced in Florida.
Most intriguing for me were the collections of Coca-Cola entrepreneur Chapman Root (1864-1945). There’s a vast trove of Coca-Cola memorabilia, including the original patents for the contoured bottle that he helped design.
Also once belonging to Root is an amazing assortment of Americana, as well as a pair of lavish private railcars. Before you come, I’d recommend seeing what’s on at the planetarium and making time for a show.
9. Daytona Lagoon
Halfway between the pier and Seabreeze Boulevard, this water park has been around since 2005. Daytona Lagoon is open year-round, but the ‘wet’ attractions are available March through September.
Some of my personal highlights were the Blcakbeard’s Revenge slide for up to three people, the Pelican’s Drift lazy river, and Kraken’s Revenge four-lane mat racer, more than 50-feet high.
Daytona Lagoon is essentially a giant family fun center, with a range of ‘dry’ attractions to boot. There’s miniature golf, a ropes course, bumper cars, go-karts, laser tag, a rock wall, and an arcade all waiting for you.
10. Daytona Playhouse
There are community theaters, and then there’s the Daytona Playhouse. This local institution has been around since 1946, and has an impressive purpose-built venue.
Entirely not-for-profit, the playhouse is run by an army of 200+ volunteers, and funds itself via donations and ticket sales.
The season features shows for all ages, including adults, children and teens, with an annual family musical every summer.
To me, the affordable ticket prices belie the quality of both the performances, and the venue, which has recently been remodeled. I was in town for a spirited production of the comedy, How to Steal a Picasso and had a wonderful time.
11. Pictona at Holly Hill
I think it’s fair to say that Holly Hill is at the vanguard of the fastest-growing sport in America. Completed in two phases in the early 2020s, Pictona at Holly Hill is a pickleball facility of immense proportions.
This cutting-edge campus has close to 50 courts, 13 of which are covered. The most significant is a championship court, surrounded by stadium seating for 1,200 spectators.
Each court is separated by a fence, and there’s stadium seating throughout. There are also two shops on site, as well as a clubhouse, a restaurant, and additional amenities for table tennis, horseshoes, croquet, bocce ball and more.
Pictoa has 1,100+ members, but you don’t need to be a member to visit for a day and use the facility.
12. Merci Train Boxcar
In the years after WWII, the US government sent a ‘friendship train’ to France to assist with the recovery. Now, part of that same train is back in the states, and it’s next to the city hall in Holly Hill.
As a thank you, this is one of 49 such cars sent back to the United States. They were laden with gifts, from wine to perfume, art and bicycles.
For history and military buffs, it’s one of those convenient and free things that shouldn’t be missed.
After being received by Florida the boxcar was neglected until being relocated to Holly Hill in the 1980s. When I was here it had just been given a new coat of paint, and was housed under a shelter.
13. University Blvd. Beach Park
If your priority is to get to the beach asap, then this beach access makes it onto my list for sheer convenience. University Blvd. Beach Park is five minutes from Holly Hill, and has close to 100 parking spaces by the Hard Rock Hotel.
This is also within the Driving Zone, so you can bring your vehicle onto the beach’s compacted sands here.
The panoramas at sunrise are nothing short of sublime, and should be experienced at least once at Daytona Beach. To sum up the shoreline here, you’ll find low rolling waves, plenty of shallow water, an enormous expanse of sand to relax on.
14. Our Old Stuff Antique Mall
It’s a fact that Florida’s shore towns are world-class places to do some antiques hunting. Holly Hill has a fantastic option on Ridgewood Avenue.
The mall consists of two distinct buildings, and they’re both chock-full of everything from antique furniture and crystal to vintage clothing and jewelry. In particular I thought this place really stood out for its selection of mid-century furniture and decorative pieces.
To my mind, it’s a perfect place to spend an hour or two out of the sun. And there’s always the chance of making the discovery of a lifetime.
15. Ormond Beach Environmental Discovery Center
With a tapestry of habitats, Ormond Beach’s Central Park has gradually taken shape in several phases.
One of a few reasons to visit is for this nature center is located on Division Avenue, a couple of minutes from Holly Hill.
The EDC includes interactive exhibits that focus on the wildlife and habitats. There’s an interpretive trail outside with lots of signs, while inside you can browse a range of interactive and live exhibits.
Along with the freshwater aquariums, my favorite of these was a working beehive, with a glass viewing panel.