With more than 2,000 miles of shoreline, it’s no wonder that America’s East Coast is home to quaint beach towns. Dreaming of white sandy beaches, blue skies, sounds of ocean waves and crystal blue warm waters? Florida’s Historic Coast delivers on all fronts. It’s not too late for a last minute summer getaway!
While most people think of flashy beach destinations such as South Beach and Ft. Lauderdale, small town St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra have established themselves as quality sun destinations that any beach lover can appreciate. Whether you’re a surfer, foodie, history buff, fisherman, or just a plain beach bum; the following beach destinations are worth discovering!
Named to TripAdvisor’s Top Beach in the U.S. list 2-years in a row, and rated #4 on Travel + Leisure’s Annual list of America’s Favorite Towns, is St. Augustine Beach. Everything is here for the ideal beach vacation – sunny accommodations, tropical seaside restaurants, and a beachfront park with an impressive fishing pier, pavilion, splash park and sand volleyball court.
Spend a day at Anastasia State Park, one of Florida’s most popular state parks, with its white quartz sand perfect for a day at the beach. This 4-mile stretch is for beach walkers only; the farther you walk the fewer people you encounter. Aside from the scenic beach, St. Augustine is America’s oldest city. Founded by the Spanish in 1565, the city is teeming with historic landmarks and beautiful architecture.
— Where to eat: Wake-up and grab an amazing breakfast at local favorite Hot Shot Bakery and Café. Enjoy authentic Cuban and Spanish cuisine at the Columbia Restaurant for lunch. End the day with a seafood dinner and views of the beach at the Salt Life Food Shack.
— What to do: Start with a tour of the city aboard the Old Town Trolley with 23 hop on-hop off stops. Paddle a kayak alongside dolphins on an eco-tour, and journey through the golden age of piracy at the Pirate and Treasure museum.
Located just across the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge from the city is Vilano Beach, a popular beach destination since Henry Flagler’s millionaire friends of the late 1800s enjoyed it. Tucked away in this charming little beach town you’ll find fun eateries with outdoor music and entertainment. Coquina sands along with a near shore break make it popular with surfers and kite boarders.
— Where to stay: Just steps from the beach is the Oceanview Lodge. And bring your four-legged friend along to this pet-friendly hotel.
— Where to eat: The Reef fine dining establishment serves up a romantic ocean view alongside creative culinary cuisine. Watch the sunset from Beaches at Vilano a fun and funky casual seafood restaurant.
— What to do: Watch a picture perfect sunrise from this quiet stretch of beach. Rent beach umbrellas, surfboards and boogie boards.
Ponte Vedra Beach is known for its elegant resorts along with world-famous golf courses. Get a view from the perspective of Ponce de Leon. A beach walkover marks the spot where the Spanish explorer sighted land on his historic journey of discovery to claim Florida 500 years ago.
— Where to stay: For more than 80 years, the AAA Five Diamond Ponte Vedra Inn & Club has impressed visitors with superior seaside service, quality dining, a world class spa and tennis facilities. The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa is set amongst a backdrop of 65 beautiful acres of Audubon rated grounds. This full-service resort provides the best of all worlds, combining contemporary accommodations, an amazing selection of dining options, world-class spa and 99 holes of privileged access to championship golf, courtesy of the adjacent TPC® Sawgrass.
— Where to eat: Cap’s on the Water is known for its breathtaking sunset views and fresh seafood. Choose a seat on the popular deck or cozy up to the Sunset Oyster Bar, which serves up raw, steamed or baked oysters.
— What to do: Ponte Vedra is home to the famous THE PLAYERS Championship Stadium course and its 17th island green – a bucket list experience for golf aficionados. The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall hosts music and performers of a variety of genres.
Crescent Beach, located on Anastasia Island, is so named because the shoreline has a natural crescent moon shape. Miles of broad, white sand have an irresistible appeal among beach-goers. This particular stretch of beach is one of the most scenic and unspoiled in the area, perfect for eco-tourists and beachcombers.
— Where to stay: The Pearl of the Sea Bed & Breakfast’s internationally themed rooms are the very definition of romance–from exotic India and Japan to the grandeur of Spain, Italy, and Greece. All rooms have balconies with stunning views of the San Sebastian River.
— Where to eat: South Beach Grill offers oceanfront dining serving up their award-winning chowder and plenty of fresh seafood.
— What to do: See dolphins, sea turtles and other ocean life at the Marineland Dolphin Adventure. Swim with the dolphins and learn more about oceanic conservation efforts.
Unique events not to be missed during your beach vacation on Florida’s Historic Coast!
Happy Birthday National Park Service! – August 25: Celebrate the 100th Birthday of the National Park Service with a visit to the Castillo de San Marcos. Admission is free to the Castillo de San Marcos in recognition of the National Park Service Centennial. www.nps.gov/casa .
Fourth Saturday: Free Historic Walking Tour – August 27: History comes alive as you saunter through the narrow brick streets of our nation’s oldest city for an up close and personal view of the city. Our licensed, professional guide will relate more than 400 years of St. Augustine’s past during this all-encompassing 1.5-hour history lesson. www.staugcitywalks.com
St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival – September 8-11: The St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival is a four-day event that offers something for everyone who loves Spanish wine. The festival kicks off on Thursday at noon with a luncheon at First Coast Technical College. Friday evening features Vino Veritas at The Treasury on the Plaza with passed hors d’oeuvres, entertainment, premium wines and Spanish wine experts. Saturday is the Batalla de Vinos, or wine fight, and Cochinillo Asado, suckling pig roast, at the Mission Nombre de Dios. Finally, the Grand Tasting is Sunday afternoon at The Treasury on the Plaza and includes 100+ Spanish wines. www.spanishwinefestival.com.
Founding Day – September 10: This year, Florida Living History’s annual Founding Day heritage event will commemorate the 451st anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida’s colonial capitol and the oldest continuously occupied European city, port and parish in the continental United States. www.floridalivinghistory.org.
Contributed: Hispanicize Wire – Quintessential Beach Towns and Unique Events Waiting to be Discovered in Florida’s Historic Coast