Welcome to Spruce Creek, where you can park your plane in your driveway
But now, it's a private gated community, and in this neighborhood a few miles south of Daytona Beach airplanes are a common mode of transportation: A majority of the homes in this “fly-in community” come with their very own built-in hangars.
Travel + Leisure visited this fascinating community — the world’s largest residential airpark — to find out just what life is like in the pilot’s paradise, where airplanes have the right of way and weddings take place in the sky.
Welcome to the land of planes
Close to half of the residents of Spruce Creek have planes, and there are about 650 aircraft in the neighborhood.
Planes are stored in hangars or even parked right outside, and include everything from private jets to historic aircraft that date back to the 1940s.
How to world's biggest residential airpark all started
Carlos Bravo, a longtime resident and the owner of Kaurlhaus Realty, told T+L that at the start of WWII, the U.S. Army and Navy were given separate jurisdictions in Florida where they could build training bases.
The navy built Spruce Creek, and added an airport in late 1943. Used as a training facility, it was no longer needed at the end of the war.
Sold to the city of Daytona Beach in 1957, the location was relatively unused until Navy Ensign McKinley Conway came into the picture.
Conway came up with the idea of a residential neighborhood where you could taxi your plane right from your door. The City of Daytona Beach told Conway he could purchase the property, which is when Conway assembled a group of investors for the project. In July 1970, the site was approved.
When investor Jay Thompson acquired the Spruce Creek Airport in the late 1970s, he focused on turning the space into a country club-like space, with a club house, tennis courts, a restaurant, and an 18-hole golf course.
A private community with its own airport
One of the original runways from the original military base remains today, while others were turned into taxiways.
The runway would be impossible to duplicate today, according to Bravo, as costs would be prohibitive.
According to Bravo, who has lived here for 20 years, there’s no fly-in community with the size and appeal of Spruce Creek.
He has been a pilot since the age of 16, and spent six months searching for the right fly-in community that would make it easier to use his personal plane to frequently fly to Chicago.
“When I got here, it was like arriving at Disneyland for the first time,” Bravo said. “It looks like a real neighborhood, while most of the fly-in communities are just a little strip of grass in the center with houses that range from a mix of trailers to frame houses and brick houses, but this one is truly luxurious.”
A favorite for pilots and celebrities alike
While not all of the residents in the community are pilots, it’s not uncommon to walk into a hangar home and see the walls covered in flight memorabilia and antique plane parts.
The area has been popular with celebrities, like John Travolta who once called Spruce Creek home.
“It’s one of the last truly remaining private cities in the world,” Bravo said.
Thanks to its close proximity to destinations like the Bahamas, Spruce Creek is also a popular spot for holidays. About half the homes are used as vacation homes, according to Bravo.
Residents like Fred Silverio, who was lived here for six years, can grab lunch at the tropical getaway for a few hours.
“There's no one from Spruce Creek,” Silverio told T+L. “It's just people from all over the world who eventually find a route here and it's like nowhere else in the world.”
“You know what the weather is before you walk outside, because if you hear the planes, you know it's a good day,” he added.
Spruce Creek is home to about 1,300 homes and 700 hangars. The hangar homes come with direct access to the taxiways.
Some of the homes here also have observation towers where you can watch planes fly by.
Every amenity pilots need
Spruce Creek also has aircraft repair and fueling stations, of course. And there's a commercial sector where you can rent a hangar if you need it.
A pilot's paradise
Seasonal festivities incorporate Spruce Creek’s flying community: Santa flies in every year (in a plane, not a sleigh) with Rudolph riding behind him. And the Christmas parade includes planes, as well as antique cars, boats, motorcycles, and even farm tractors.
“They call this a cradle-to-grave community,” Bravo said. “Because once you move here there’s always a place for you.”