New Smyrna Beach is a city in Volusia County, Florida, United States, located on the central east coast of the state, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Its population was estimated to be 22,900 in 2012 by the United States Census Bureau. The downtown section of the city is located on the west side of the Indian River and the Indian River Lagoon system. The Coronado Beach Bridge crosses the Intracoastal Waterway just south of the Ponce de Leon Inlet, connecting the mainland with the beach on the coastal barrier island.
The surrounding area offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation: these include fishing, sailing, motorboating, golfing and hiking. Visitors participate in water sports of all kinds, including swimming, scuba diving, kitesurfing, and surfing. In July 2009, New Smyrna Beach was ranked number nine on the list of "best surf towns" in Surfer Magazine. It was recognized as "one of the world's top 20 surf towns" by National Geographic Magazine. in 2012.
The area was settled in 1768, when Scottish physician Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a friend of James Grant, the governor of East Florida, established the colony of New Smyrna. No one had previously attempted to settle so many people at one time in a town in North America.
Turnbull recruited around 1400 settlers as indentured servants or laborers, most of them from Minorca, Greece, or Italy. He intended for them to grow hemp, sugarcane, and indigo, as well as to produce rum. Possibly as many as 1,000 of the settlers came from the island of Minorca in the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain; they were of Catalan culture and language.
The colony suffered major losses due to insect-borne diseases and Native American raids, and tensions grew because of mistreatment by Turnbull and his overseers. In 1776 and early 1777, some of the remaining colonists traveled north to St. Augustine on the Old King's Highway to state their grievances and request sanctuary. Although at first rebuffed by Patrick Tonyn, Grant's successor as governor, a decision by the British courts released the colonists from their servitude and allowed them to settle in St. Augustine. In the summer of 1777 they walked the seventy-five miles to that city, where their descendants live to this day. In 1783, East and West Florida were returned to the Spanish, and Turnbull abandoned his colony to retire in Charleston, South Carolina.
The St. Photios National Shrine on St. George Street in St. Augustine honors the Greeks among the settlers of New Smyrna; they were the first Greek Orthodox followers in North America. The historical exhibit adjoining the chapel tells the story of their plight, with accompanying exhibits, and of their contributions to the city.
Central Florida was then sparsely populated by Europeans, as it was frequently raided by Seminole Indians trying to protect their territory. United States troops fought against them in the Seminole Wars but they were never completely dislodged. During the Civil War in the 1860s, the "Stone Wharf" of New Smyrna was shelled by Union gunboats.
In 1887, when New Smyrna was incorporated, it had a population of 150. In 1892, Henry Flagler provided service to the town via his Florida East Coast Railway. This led to a rapid increase in the area's population. Its economy grew as tourism was added to its citrus and commercial fishing industries.
During Prohibition in the 1920s, the city and its river islands were popular sites for moonshine stills and hideouts for rum-runners, who came from the Bahamas through Mosquito Inlet, now Ponce de León Inlet. "New Smyrna" became "New Smyrna Beach" in 1947, when the city annexed the seaside community of Coronado Beach. Today, it is a resort town of over 20,000 permanent residents.
Like St. Augustine, established by the Spanish, New Smyrna has been ruled by four "flags": the British, Spanish, United States (from 1821, with ratification of the Adams–Onís Treaty) and the Confederate Jack. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, it returned with Florida to the United States.
See also: New Smyrna Beach Historic District