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POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

Find quiet getaway in New Smyrna Beach

Jim Abbott on Florida Travel

Postcards from Florida

January 7, 2012

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If you don't like the weather in Florida, just wait 15 minutes: It'll change.

Winter arrived in Central Florida this past week, at least briefly, with temperatures that dared to drop into the 30s at night. Time to dust off the three cold-weather outfits and pull the blankets out of drawers.

Yet, a day before the cold front, it was sunshine and T-shirts in New Smyrna Beach — on the deck at JB's Fish Camp (jbsfishcamp.com), one of those rustic places that time forgot between the beach and the Indian River, about seven miles south of the Islander Resort, along south State Road A1A.

The JB's road trip with friends is a New Year's Day tradition, a way to flaunt Florida's temperate climate to Northern relatives grounded by some snowstorm. And, yes, even the beachy destination is capable of tossing a meteorological curve ball: One year, it was a torrential downpour, another was cold enough to chase us indoors from the riverfront deck.

I'd still highly recommend this laid-back vibe.

On New Year's Day, the aftermath of the previous night's party gives way to a morning-after quiet in the best sense of that notion. There's ample opportunity for lingering because the servers usually aren't in much hurry to turn around their tables. Yet there's already signs that this good idea is spreading: There were more folks than usual at the restaurant this year, and at one point I heard someone talking about an hour wait for an outside table.

Yikes.

But it's unhurried, right? That just offers more time to gaze at the kayaks on the river. This year, I noticed a new warning sign on the dock, urging caution for Hawaiian Monk Seals. That sounded made up to me, but there's always a very good chance of spotting dolphins frolicking in the water.

Before returning to the mainland, I took a quick spin down Flagler Avenue for a look at the ocean next to The Breakers restaurant. A renovation project has transformed the iconic boardwalk into a construction site surrounded by chain-link fence. The work began in November, timed to avoid interfering with the sea-turtle nesting season. It's scheduled to be done by May and the new area will feature improved restrooms (much needed) and improvements to the boardwalk and its pergola.