Ormond Beach was originally inhabited by Timucua Indians. English settlers arrived and, by the late 18th century, sugar mills and plantations were common along the Halifax and Tomoka Rivers. By the late 19th century, a group from New Britain, Connecticut, started a retirement community along the Halifax River for former employees of the Corbin Lock Company. Members of this group named the city Ormond in 1880 and built a hotel which opened in 1888. The first race on the sands of Ormond Beach was in 1902. The next year the American Automobile Association brought timing equipment to Ormond Beach, and the "Birthplace of Speed" was born.
Ormond Beach is central to everything in Central Florida and the I-95 can take travelers as far north as Maine and as far south as Miami. The Halifax River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway, connects boat traffic in Ormond Beach to other cities. Tourism is a main industry in the area, and the beaches are dotted with hotels, attractions, and points of interest. The first hotel, the Palmetto House, was built in 1874 by one of the area’s founding fathers, Mathias Day.
Bicentennial Park, a state park, with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Halifax River, features a boardwalk, fishing dock, nature trail, pavilion, picnic area, playground, and courts and fields for various sports. Sun Splash Park features an interactive water fountain, decorative walkways, a shaded playground, volleyball courts, picnic areas, two beach access ramps and a "cool zone" sponsored by Coca-Cola. Tomoka State Park is nearby. A large fleet of private charter boats offer deep sea fishing excursions for Marlin in the Gulf Stream; Sailfish, King Mackerel, Tuna and Wahoo can be caught closer to shore; and Grouper and Red Snapper are often hooked in the numerous reefs. Surf and pier fishing locations are numerous. The main catches are Pompano, Whiting, Bluefish, Redfish, Flounder and Jack Crevalle.
Motor sports in the Daytona Beach area draw thousands of tourists every year. Daytona Beach International Speedway offers many types of car racing throughout the season. For those wanting to test their nerves, Daytona USA, the official attraction of NASCAR, features activities such as motion simulator rides, Acceleration Alley, Daytona Dream Laps, The Daytona 500 Movie and the 16-second Pit-Stop Challenge. The winning Daytona 500 car is on display here and a 30-minute tour takes visitors behind the scenes at the Speedway. Richard Petty Driving Experience allows visitors on the Daytona International Speedway's 2.5-mile track at speeds of up to 150 mph. There are ride-along and learn-to-drive opportunities. Bike Week, billed as the "World’s Largest Motorcycle Event" is held annually in Daytona Beach in March. Activities include motorcycle shows and exhibits, concerts, festivities, and racing at Daytona International Speedway. On the tamer side, there are several go-kart facilities with single and double go-karts. Klassix Auto Attraction features classic car collections set in period scenery to chronicle the role of the automobile in America.
Sightseeing excursions abound. See Ormond Beach from above with Air Florida Helicopters. A number of boat tours visit the various rivers, shorelines, coves and inlets. Rental canoes are available for those who want to get up close and personal with nature. Horseback riding on the many trails in the area offers a different view of Ormond Beach and its environs. Museums and galleries display works by local artists and exhibits on early Ormond Beach and the surrounding areas. The lighthouse tour at Ponce Inlet provides a historical look at lighthouses and local maritime lore. Other points of interest include the Marine Science Center, the Planetarium, a tour at Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, and the Bulow Plantation Ruins State Historic Site.