Remarkable tidbits about DeBary and why you should visit.
There is a lot to see and to know about DeBary. Let’s start with five interesting facts about The River City:
- The prominent settler who loved DeBary is also the man who introduced Champagne to the United States. Well, when you’ve got good taste …
- DeBary is a hot spot for disc golf and boasts one of the top-rated courses in Florida.
- DeBary Hall was the first place in Florida to have an in-ground swimming pool.
- DeBary is a designated bird sanctuary.
- The city of DeBary is barely old enough to drink — it didn’t incorporate until 1993.
DeBary Hall — “Downton Abbey,” á la tropical
Cost: $5 for a 1-hour tour (tours given when requested)
DeBary was named after Samuel Frederick von DeBary, a wealthy New Yorker who came to winter there and who invested heavily in steamboats and citrus in the area.
Well, that sounds familiar (reference: just about every other town in Florida) and not all that remarkable.
But … the story doesn’t end there.
Next time you indulge in a little bubbly, raise your glass to Samuel. He was the German noble-man who first introduced it to the U.S. by selling it to New York’s elite for G.H. Mumm’s Champagne back in the late 1800s.
Who needs the hassle of New York winters? As if.
The luxury goods business went well for Samuel, and if you were a millionaire during this time (which he was), Florida was the place to be during the winter months.
That hasn’t changed much, has it?
So, in 1871 Samuel built a mansion in Central Florida near Lake Monroe and the St. Johns River to host his wealthy family and friends. They held grand parties, hunted, cruised along the river and drank lots of champagne. That mansion is known today as DeBary Hall. Over the decades it has served the community in various ways, even being used as the “clubhouse” for the surrounding neighborhood — and you thought your tennis court and community pool were nice.
It’s still standing, opulent as ever, and you can spend an hour touring all of it for $5 (its grounds are now a state park and the mansion a historical site).
Every season offers something new, and I’m looking forward to another trip in the fall. As one passenger said, “you never know what will be around the next corner.”
After a 2-hour tour, I stepped off the boat with one word floating around my mind: genuine. This is a true Floridian experience.
The water, the breeze, the wildlife, the amazing greenery … I felt like I was connected to people who traveled along the St. Johns River decades ago because we shared the same path along the water. The staff aboard the boat were immensely knowledgeable about wildlife, native flora & fauna and conservation efforts. They also have plenty of river tales to share. A highlight of the tour for me was learning about how Native Americans used many of the plants along the river and how we still use many of those plants today in modern medicine. It was fascinating.
Practical things to know before you go:
- Reservations should be made.
- Parking is free at the High Banks Marina.
- There is a bathroom on the boat and a canopy, so the sun isn’t beating down on you.
- Complimentary, cold bottled water is available for all passengers.
- Mosquitoes were not a problem (ask your guide why, it’s interesting).
- You can bring your own food and drinks, including adult beverages. There is also a country store at the marina.
- Dogs are allowed to cruise too, if they weigh less than 40lbs, are leashed and well behaved.
Foodie Stuff in DeBary
I’ve got to mention the good eats.
For dinner we went to Genuine Bistro & Lounge, I describe it as a gastro-pub. It was developed by the same restaurateur that brought Yab Yums and Kit Kat Club to Orlando. There are southern staples like shrimp & grits, fried chicken and blue crab woven into the menu. The patio seating offers live music and is decorated like a lush garden.
Central 28 Beer Company — craft brewery with a tasting room.
All in all, my day in DeBary was great. In general, the West Volusia area has a lot to offer whether you are just visiting or a local. VisitWestVolusia.com has many resources to help you plan a trip to the area.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of this part of Florida, while taking pictures, making memories and stopping for coffee, of course.
Find your DeBary dream home on State27Homes.com – click right here.