At the corner of Mission and Old Mission Roads in New Smryna Beach, a narrow dirt road leads west under ancient live oaks to an archaeological site that was long mistaken for an early Spanish mission. But the coquina walls belong to the Cruger-dePeyster Sugar Mill, established in 1830 and abandoned in 1835 after a Seminole raid, and this park tells its story.
Location: New Smyrna Beach
Length: 0.25 mile
Lat-Lon: 29.009093, -80.940358
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate to high, especially on the nature trail
Restroom: at the west end of the park
Open daily sunrise to sunset. Leashed pets welcome. Picnic tables available. Removal of artifacts is punishable by law.
From SR 44, take Mission Road south for 0.3 mile to its intersection with Old Mission Road. Turn right into a one-lane dirt road with a “No Trespassing” sign posted so close to it you’d assume that you weren’t supposed to drive back here. The dirt road leads back to the park.
An interpretive trail loops around the impressive coquina ruins, with detailed interpretive signs that explain everything from the history of the speculative sugar plantation and its downfall at the hands of the Seminole to the actual process of making sugar. One of the more intriguing panels shows a reproduction of a painting from 1843 of the ruins by a soldier and artist who visited the site.
As you loop around the structure, note how well the walls have withstood the ages, the weather, the heat and humidity. Coquina is a stone found along the Atlantic Coast Ridge, a sedimentary deposit made of tightly crushed seashells cemented together over time. Used to build the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, it can be cut into blocks thick enough to repel cannonballs.
Behind the mill, a nature trail snakes through a dense hardwood hammock with a high canopy of ancient live oaks. The deep shade invites both mosquitoes and lush growth, with shoelace fern and goldfoot fern dangling from the cabbage palms that make up the lower canopy, and a riot of palm fronds to tunnel through. Sword ferns edge portions of the partly-graveled path, which stays mostly dry even when the surrounding terrain is soggy. Hickory trees appear on the higher ground. After this short trail zigzags through the forest, it emerges behind the mill only a few feet from where it began.
Continue your walk around the mill. On its west side are several large kettles in which the sugar cane juice would be boiled down to crystallized sugar. There is also a well that once sat behind the engine house. Follow the pathway around to the front of the building to complete the loop.