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 23,230 in 2013 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 first settled by Europeans 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 1300 settlers, most of them from Minorca, Greece, or Italy. He intended for them to grow hemp, sugarcane, and indigo, as well as to produce rum. The majority of the colonists came from the island of Minorca in the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain; they were of Catalan culture and language.
The colony collapsed after suffering major losses due to insect-borne diseases and Indian raids, and growing tensions caused by mistreatment of the colonists on the part of Turnbull and his overseers. The survivors, about 600 in number, marched nearly 70 miles north on the King's Road and relocated to St. Augustine, 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 under the rule of 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