DAYTONA BEACH - As the dim light of day casts a long shadow along Daytona’s golden beach, guests at legendary The Shores Resort & Spa gather in front of the open fire pits on a terrace overlooking the Atlantic surf.
Excitement fills the air as the youngest guests anticipate the lighting of the pits so the “S’mores” party can begin.
In what has become a well-anticipated tradition at the Shores, each guest at check-in gets a S’mores “kit” containing the yummy ingredients — marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers — that make up the ooey-gooey good treat that was first perfected by Girl Scouts over their camp fires.
Then each night, guests are invited to bring the kits to The Shores’ lovely swimming pool area where the fire pits are lit and the S’mores sandwiches are toasted over open flames. The S’mores tradition is especially celebrated at The Shores on National S’mores Day, which is held every August 11.
Enjoying “S’mores at The Shores” is just one of the many sweet surprises awaiting guests at Daytona Beach’s most elegant seaside property, which opened in 1971 and remains the only resort along the world-famous beach strip to boast a 4-Diamond rating from AAA.
The Shores, which was built by the Root family (they designed the original Coca-Cola bottles) offers guests many other sweet surprises, too, like a world-class spa which features a S’mores pedicure, a fine-dining restaurant called Azure, which wouldn’t look out of place in New York, plus oversized rooms that offer breathtaking ocean views, attentive staff that cater to your every need and a pristine beach that stretches as far as the horizon in both directions.
Walking into The Shores is like arriving at a grand southern mansion. Guests are greeted by an entrance dripping in rich dark wood. Plantation-style furnishings dominate the welcoming lobby and huge chandeliers bathe the sitting areas in bright light.
The public space drifts off to The Shores’ trendy bar and Azure and then leads to the outdoor dining and pool area where guests are treated to sweet views of the Atlantic coastline.
Located in what’s known as the Shores area of Daytona Beach, this resort offers guests a sophisticated option, which young families appreciate.
By day, guests lounge around the pool, play in the Atlantic surf, build sand castles and take long strolls along a beach that is easy to walk thanks to its compacted sand, which also allows cars and bikes to share space with bathers.
Left: The beach outside the Shores is Daytona. Right: The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is a local icon.
Then, at night, the S’mores party begins.
In recent years, the resort has had to tame the fire pit flames for fear the light will disorient nesting sea turtles, which crawl ashore using the light of the moon as their guide to lay their precious eggs. Staff at The Shores are very respectful of the turtles’ routine and are only too happy to sit down and educate guests on the slow crawling species’ importance to the local ecosystem.
After opening in 1971 and enjoying instant success, tragedy visited The Shores in 2004 when three consecutive hurricanes battered Daytona Beach that year and caused major damage at The Shores and other area properties. However, under new management, the legendary resort was restored and reopened looking better than ever in 2005.
One of the “new” features of the renovated Shores is the “old” plantation look in the lobby area — a setting where newlyweds like to gather to have their wedding photos taken and where you can see sports stars relaxing when they visit.
The Shores brings out the romantic in many guests — lovers can be seen walking hand-in-hand along the shore, cuddling in front of the S’mores fire or falling asleep in one of the luxury poolside cabanas. That, naturally, results in lots of marriage proposals taking place here.
And because of big sporting events like the Daytona 500, LPGA tournaments (courses that make up the LPGA International are just a short drive from The Shores) and motorcycle racing at the famed raceway, some major athletic stars can be seen hanging around the resort’s lobby or waiting to have a massage in the spa.
One of them is basketball legend Michael Jordan, whose passion for motorcycles means he visits The Shores during Daytona’s annual “Bike Week.”
“It’s not unusual to see Michael sitting in the lobby talking bikes with guests — and he really knows his bikes,” says the resort’s Director of Marketing Susan Keaveney.
Chef Mike Bartscher works his culinary magic in the kitchen at Azure and his fine dining presentations — the fish dishes are especially creative and exciting — are South Beach worthy in every way.
The Shores’ full service spa is staffed by knowledgeable therapists whose expertise in stone and deep-tissue treatments gets you ready for the active lifestyle that this resort encourages.
Because it’s a mature property, each of the 212 rooms at The Shores tends to be on the larger size — perfect for families who bring lots of baggage along with them. Guests in rooms on the property’s Atlantic side awake to awesome sunrises, and a walk or run in the early morning along the shoreline invigorates you for the entire day.
The resort is one of the best-valued luxury properties in Florida, with rates starting around $109 U.S. a night for a river view room..
During the Daytona 500 and Bike Week, however, those room rates skyrocket with the cheapest coming in around $600 a night.
The Shores’ repeat guest rate ranks among the best in the industry and there are many reasons for that — the property’s amenities, excellent staff, spacious accommodation, family-friendly attitude and beachfront brilliance among them.
But the S’mores party each night certainly leaves people with a great taste for this wonderful resort.
There’s lots to see and do in the Daytona area close to The Shores. Just a short drive away, for instance, you’ll find historic Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, right, which has been guiding boats into harbour for decades. There’s a gift shop at the lighthouse and if you climb to the top, you’ll get a great view of the area. / If you’re out exploring the Daytona Beach strip, may we suggest Hull’s seafood restaurant in Ormand Beach for lunch. The legendary eatery serves up some wonderful fish dishes and even offers a retail shop where you can take dishes back to your hotel. Hull’s is located on Hwy 40, across the bridge from the Daytona strip. / There are no direct flights to Daytona Beach from Toronto so it’s best to get their via Orlando, which is a 1 1/2 hour drive away. / If you are planning to visit Daytona Beach during the Daytona 500 or other major racing events, you’d better book early because hotels fill up fast. / If you want more information on room rates at The Shores or are looking to dine at Azure, go to www.shoresresort.com