Every Jeep enthusiast on the planet has heard of Moab and the Easter Jeep Safari, which is the largest trail ride event in the country. There is a good chance those same folks also have heard of the Rubicon — and every Jeeper worth their low-range has these destinations on their bucket list.
A third destination that is rapidly gaining notoriety in the Jeep community, and luckily for East Coast Jeep enthusiasts, takes place well East of the Mississippi. While Moab and the Rubicon offer great scenery and challenging terrain, this Jeep event offers some things the other destinations can’t: namely topless cruising down a pristine beach, and the opportunity to go four-wheeling on the infield of a major speedway.
For the last 10 years, Jeep Beach has been drawing thousands of Jeep nuts from all over the country and beyond to Daytona Beach, Florida to experience four unique days of sun, surf, and fun. We saw license plates from nearly every state throughout the weekend, and even a few from outside the lower 48 such as Canada and Puerto Rico. The event has grown leaps and bounds beyond a simple club meet, and once we heard about it, we had to see for ourselves what the fuss was all about.
Jeep Beach is unlike any other event in the country. Part car show, part trail ride, and part vendor show, Jeep Beach caters to Jeep enthusiasts of from all walks of life. In fact, there are so many things to do, both official and unofficial, that it would be difficult to check them all out.
In many ways, Jeep Beach is the perfect way to kick off the summer. Many people from colder climates use the event as an opportunity to shake off the dreary winter months and join fellow enthusiasts for a few days of sun, surf, and adventure. The weather is typically very mild in Daytona during April, so it’s warm and sunny, but the full summer heat has not yet arrived.
Though the event has been plagued with some rain in years past, this year it stayed away for the majority of the festivities, and this year was no exception, leaving organizers to shut down on Friday night. The weather improved by Saturday morning, with the brief showers helping to keep dust down and bringing relief from the humidity Florida is known for. In short, it was a picture-perfect weekend.
This year, things kicked off with a scavenger hunt that took participants all over town for a chance to win different prizes, followed by a free concert on the boardwalk hosted by a Jeep Beach sponsor. Thursday included more scavenger hunts and a day of trail rides at a nearby off-road park, followed by a block party on Main Street in the evening — complete with fireworks and ample opportunities to wash down the dust after a long day on the trail.
Friday and Saturday were the main events. Mid Florida Jeep Club takes over the infield of the famous Daytona International Speedway. You read that right: you can go four-wheeling in the same venue that hosts NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Constructed by club volunteers, the obstacle course had stock, modified, and extreme courses for participants to try out, and there were plenty of spotters on hand to assist people that got stuck or otherwise out of shape on the course berms, logs, and concrete blocks.
There aren’t many four-wheeling spots in Florida and most of the legal places to go involve mostly mud, so it’s rare for Floridians to be able to flex out their Jeeps on trail obstacles. There was no limit to the number of times participants could try out the course, so once they completed one lap, many simply got back in line at the beginning to try out another one. In years past there have been broken driveshafts, axles, and even the rare flop on a side, but this year the carnage was kept to a minimum thanks to the many spotters on hand.
It wasn’t uncommon to see the same Jeep on the obstacle course a dozen or more times. Many participants simply couldn’t get enough of having their Jeep in 4-Lo and challenging their equipment and themselves over the varied terrain.
Throughout both days, participants could watch Jeeps tackling the obstacle course, then turn around and watch cars from the Richard Petty Driving Experience periodically roar around the 2-mile oval. We heard a few participants even snuck away from the event for a little while to take a ride around in a stockcar at 160 mph. It’s a gearhead’s dream with a four-wheeling twist.
When participants weren’t testing out their Jeep on the various courses, they could cruise through the enormous vendor area, where well over 100 companies were displaying and selling every kind of Jeep-related accessory imaginable. Most of the major suspension, bumper, and body armor manufacturers were on hand to answer questions, and most of the major retailers were also present to promote deals on everything from lighting to tires. Make no mistake, Jeep Beach is a great place to pick up some killer deals, especially towards the end of the weekend when vendors would rather lower prices than pack stuff back up at the end of the show.
This year the national anthem was accompanied by a flyover each day, and there was even an internet radio station that devoted all of its programming to the event for the week. There was a parade around the actual racetrack on Saturday afternoon that doubled as an attempt to break the world record for the largest Jeep parade. Unfortunately, the attempt fell a little short of the record with 2008 Jeeps (the record is 2,420), but we have no doubt there were more than enough Jeeps in town to easily smash the existing record as the town and the beach were packed while the parade was in progress. With a little better organization, there’s no reason to think that the Mid Florida Jeep Club won’t lay claim to the record in 2017.
To top is all off there was the raffle with tens of thousands of dollars in Jeep accessories up for grabs to lucky participants. And best of all, the proceeds from the event all go to a variety of local and national charities.
If it’s not already, Jeep Beach needs to be added to your off-road bucket list. It may not offer challenging obstacles like the Rubicon or Moab, but it more than makes up it with camaraderie and being able to legally drive on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. For more information, visit the Jeep Beach website or visit the event’s Facebook page.