WHAT AND WHERE IS PONCE INLET 


In the early 1500s, Ponce de Leon came here in search of a boat that had been separated from his fleet by strong currents. He named the area Bay of the Cross and set forth exploring. By 1569, thanks to what is now our state insect, the colloquial name became Mosquito Bay, which stuck for the next 300 years. Still, the area wasn't settled until the 1700s, when British plantation owners planted crops of oranges, rice, cotton and indigo nearby. Not wanting to lose any valuables being carried out to sea, the plantation owners started petitioning the British government for a guiding light. In 1774, a beacon – basically a large bonfire that constantly burned on a high sand dune – was raised.

One hundred years later, Mosquito Inlet Lighthouse, now known as Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse (www.ponceinlet.org) was erected. The area had no road and was little more than scrub brush and fishing camps but over time would garner its own history, including a host of unsavory characters who used Mosquito inlet as a way station for smuggling rum during prohibition. Today, Ponce Inlet is an interesting corner of Florida that mostly goes unnoticed.

From Orlando, take Interstate 4 to Daytona Beach. Get off at Interstate 95 South and follow to the first exit, Port Orange. Go left after exiting at Dunlawton Avenue and drive until you cross over a big bridge. If you want to go to the restaurants "Down Under," follow the signs as soon as you cross the bridge and it'll take you underneath. For the restaurants at Ponce Inlet, go right when the road dead-ends into the beach at A1A (aka Atlantic Avenue). Racing's North Turn will be a few miles down on the left. All the others are at the end of the peninsula. Follow the signs for the various restaurants.

dining@orlandoweekly.com

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