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Exploring the Past at Fort Matanzas

Like many locals and tourists, on the weekends I usually head to A1A and the beaches for my entertainment. This last weekend wasn’t about getting a tan or watching my husband surf. My destination was Fort Matanzas, the fort that held the southern end of St. Augustine safe from the British. It’s just north of the Matanzas Inlet, so after a 20-minute ride from downtown you’re there. I feel like almost anyone who visits St. Augustine knows about the Castillo de San Marcos, the big fort on the bayfront. Few visitors realize that there is a second historic Spanish fort in town—and Fort Matanzas is open for tours, too.

When I arrived at the park I was surprised to discover it really is a park, and there was more to see than just the fort. There are nature trails, picnic areas, and a lot of beautiful Florida native plants and birds. It is located on the Intracoastal side of A1A, so you get the cool breezes off of the water and the whole area is shaded by live oaks. There is a little strip of beach along the Intracoastal with fish and mangroves. I saw a bunch of fiddler crabs by the beach that all scurried away when I got too close.

There is a visitor center that offers information and a boarding pass for the boat which will take you to Fort Matanzas. You will be delighted to learn the tour is free! The ferry can only take 36 guests at a time and the boat fills up quickly on a nice day. I wanted to get there early to be sure there would be room on the next boat ride across the water – I recommend you do the same.

The ferry ride over to Fort Matanzas.

The boat driver is also a knowledgeable tour guide. I have lived in St. Augustine for almost 10 years and still learned new things. The little ride across the water only took about 10 minutes before we moored at the island Fort Matanzas was built on.

A visit to Fort Matanzas is a great experience for anyone who really likes to explore history. One minute you’re admiring the coquina construction, and the next you are climbing up a ladder that gives you the same view the Spanish soldiers once had when they were defending the inlet. It’s a 360-degree view that allows you to take in the dunes, tidal creeks, marsh areas, and Matanzas Inlet. Soldiers from the observation deck would have seen an English ship coming from quite a distance away. Fort Matanzas would not have been immediately obvious to an invader until they were within cannon range due to its size and position, and with how narrow the inlet is there would have been no turning back. It morbidly makes sense that “Matanzas” means “to kill.”

Coming up the ladder to the observation deck.

The guide told us that Fort Matanzas was white with a small red tower, or sentry box, during its 80 years of use in the 18th century. Similar to Castillo de San Marcos, the National Park Service has restored most aspects of the fort except for the white plaster. By allowing the old coquina to be in plain view it enables visitors to fully realize the building’s age. I am also very aware, even on a spring day, of how hot of a building this must have been in the humid Florida weather.

Fort Matanzas Sentry Box and one of the cannons.

There is one very big difference between the Castillo and Fort Matanzas – size. With living space for about 10 people, there were normally only seven soldiers on duty at Fort Matanzas at a time. Their bare living quarters and the five cannons that protected St. Augustine remind me how glad I am to be alive in this century. I loved this experience and I can only imagine how much fun children must have here. This fort is smaller and easier to imagine yourself being a part of than the larger Castillo. A child could easily picture being a Spanish defender or an invading pirate.

Altogether, with a picnic lunch and a walk through some of the nature trails, the Fort Matanzas experience will take you about two hours. I’m still thrilled that it was free, and that the area was so shady and comfortable even in 85-degree temperatures. I felt like I was miles and centuries away from the hot beach or the bustle of a weekday. I think history buffs, families, and photographers will all be happy with a trip to Fort Matanzas. Children will enjoy peeking out the loopholes and climbing the ladder to the top, supervised of course. If you are looking for something free and fun to do any day of the year (except Christmas), venture out to Fort Matanzas. They don’t fire the cannons there though, so be sure to visit the Castillo while you are in St. Augustine for cannon firings.

St. Augustine has more forts, be sure to check them out too:

  • Castillo de San Marcos: Tour the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S.
  • Fort Mose: Explore the site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in the U.S.
  • Fort Menendez: Although not historic, this is still a fun one to get the kids involved in to learn more about St. Augustine.

Local St. Augustine blogger Meaghan Alvarado is a Flagler College graduate who writes on many topics ranging from fashion and food to crafts and local St. Augustine happenings. Check out her personal blog at http://justmeaghan.com/.

Saltwater & Freshwater Fishing

Whether you’re seeking the challenge of game fishing or the more peaceful river or lake fishing, you’ll find it in St. Augustine along with everything in between. You can fish from piers and bridges, from skiffs and kayaks, from deep-sea charter boats, or surf fish right from the beach … the range of fishing opportunities along the northeast Florida coast attracts anglers from all over the world.

More than 8,000 miles of shoreline are just part of what makes Florida the “Fishing Capital of the World.” Year-round warm weather and the diversity of recreational species, both freshwater and saltwater, found in the state are huge factors as well. Consistently ranked “No. 1” in number of in-state anglers, angler expenditures, economic impact, and international fishing record catches, Florida’s claim to fishing fame is unrivaled.

The quirky little city of St. Augustine has its own claim to fame: its long history as a desirable place to settle, which has a lot to do with the abundance of native wildlife in the area. The city was founded on September 8, 1565, by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés of Spain.

Spain wanted a military outpost on the northeast Florida coast that could protect its treasure ships as they sailed home along the Gulf Stream. Menéndez chose this particular spot because of its secluded and defensible harbor and the rich resources provided by the ocean and inlets that could sustain his people during the early settlement’s difficult times.

Even before the Europeans came to the area, the Timucuan Indians lived on the land, fishing and hunting manatee and alligators in the many rivers and bays.

Native American tribes, Spanish conquistadors, Minorcan settlers, pirates, soldiers, Gilded-Age tycoons, and now streams of tourists and history students … the actors on the human stage may change, but the wildlife remains pretty much the same. Redfish, drum, and snook still run in the inshore waterways, bass still jump in the lakes and rivers, and amberjack, dolphin, and tarpon still ply the ocean waters. If you want to experience the very best of Florida fishing, you’ve come to the right place.

Freshwater Fishing

Central Florida is famous for bass fishing, and that reputation extends all the way to the freshwater areas of its eastern counties as well. In fact, one of the most prestigious bass fishing tournaments takes place in Palatka about 26 miles west of St. Augustine.

Fisherman pulling in large mouth bass.
Fisherman pulling in large mouth bass.

Largemouth bass, black crappie, and bluegill are the St. Johns River’s major attractions for freshwater fishermen. But several species of saltwater fish can also be found in the upper regions of this north-flowing river, due to the tides which bring brackish water back into the river, creating an estuarine ecosystem that extends south for quite a distance.

The reason the tidal surges travel so far upriver is the St. Johns River’s low flow rate (only .3 mph), which is due to the very small drop in elevation from the river’s origin (just 30 feet above sea level) and its mouth at sea level in Jacksonville. As a result, the St. Johns River’s upper region is a prime area for fish such as sea trout, redfish, and flounder.

There are three fishing piers on the historic Bartram Trail (County Road 13) along the river in St. Johns County—the Alpine Groves Pier in Fruit Cove, the Riverfront Park Pier, and Shands Pier in St. Johns (see the map of fishing piers below).

Pier on the St. Johns River (photo courtesy of floridashistoriccoast.com)
Pier on the St. Johns River (photo courtesy of Florida’s Historic Coast)

Pier and Bridge Fishing

Fishing piers and bridges can be found throughout the area, from its beaches, inlets, and Intracoastal waterways on the east to the St. Johns River at the western edge. Proper fishing licenses are required at all of them. Fishing licenses can be purchased online here, or by calling 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356).

A great spot for visitors to enjoy fishing without a big time or money commitment is the St. Johns County Ocean Pier on St. Augustine Beach. Because the pier maintains a fishing license with the state, it isn’t necessary to purchase a separate license when fishing here — the license is included in the fishing fees. Fishermen can bring their equipment or rent a pole at the bait and tackle shop. Fishing fees for non-residents are $6.00/adult and free for children under six. Call (904) 209-0326 for more information.

Vilano Beach pier

The Vilano Beach Pier (pictured above) is located on the Intracoastal Waterway, facing historic downtown. Vilano Beach feels like it got stuck in time in the 1950s, with a retro design and laid-back attitude that extends to the pier’s atmosphere. It would be hard to find a more relaxed or informal spot to do some fishing, soak up the sun, and enjoy the views.

Other fishing piers in the area include Lighthouse Park on Salt Run, the Rose of Sharon Pier just north of the Bridge of Lions on the mainland side, and the Usina Boat Ramp Fishing Pier on the Intracoastal just north of Vilano Beach in North Beach. Some county and state parks also feature fishing piers: Treaty Park‘s pier is on the lake in the center of the park, Vaill Point Park has a pier along Moultrie Creek, and Faver-Dykes State Park offers a pier for fishing on Pellicer Creek.

A couple of St. Johns County bridges are known as great fishing spots. The May Street Bridge, located on the south side of May St. (A1A) on the eastbound approach to the Vilano Bridge, is an ideal location for inshore fishing.

South of St. Augustine, the Matanzas Inlet Bridge is a productive and popular spot, with lots of fish to be found in the Matanzas Inlet’s fast-moving waters.

Inshore Fishing

Matanzas Bay and the Guana and Tolomato Rivers are among the most fertile estuarine waters in the state, which is saying a lot. The oyster beds that can be seen peeking up out of the water at low tide are a big part of that, as they are a key species for the ecosystem. By providing structure for young fish to shelter in and serving as water filtering agents to keep the habitat clean, oysters are the main reason an estuary system is called “the nursery of the sea.”

But if you’re out on the flats on the Matanzas, Tolomato, or Guana River, watch out for the oysters. Their razor-sharp shells can cut right through a flimsy shoe. Only very sturdy shoes can protect your feet, and when fishing with a canine companion, it’s important to keep him or her in the boat while poling through the shallow waters of this area.

Fishing the flats can be quite exciting, whether you’re fishing for trout with light tackle or sight fishing for redfish during a flood tide when the fish go right up into the grass.

There’s a surprising variety of fly fishing in St. Augustine as well, including blind casting for trout and casting for schools of jacks or ladyfish. One of the most popular spots for inshore and fly fishing is Salt Run, which cuts into the northern part of Anastasia Island. This protected inlet is an ideal spot to fly fish for redfish. The adjacent Anastasia State Park provides tons of recreational resources as well, including canoe and kayak rentals.

Man with big fish catch (photo courtesy of Drum Man Charters)
(Photo courtesy of Drum Man Charters)

Easily accessible inshore fishing can also be found at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Estuarine Research Reserve, which is located eight miles north of Vilano Beach. The Guana River Dam Use Area is open daily for fishing. Choose the north side of the dam for freshwater fishing or the tidal waters on the south side to fish for saltwater species. Watch the tides on the tidal side to prevent getting stranded in low-tide conditions.

St. Augustine boasts a large tarpon fishery, especially from June through September. One of the most spectacular fighting fish around, tarpon can be found just outside area inlets and in nearshore waters along the beaches. Live bait is normally used, but in the right conditions, some fishermen can catch tarpon on a lure and even on a fly.

Inshore Charters

Several charter guides are specialists in fishing the flats and creeks off the Intracoastal. They know the hot spots for trout, redfish, snook, and black drum, and they also know when they’re biting and what to catch them on. Here are just a few of the many fishing services in the area:

Fishardy Charters

Fishardy Charters offers private inshore and nearshore fishing charters on a 24-foot Canyon Bay boat. Captain Jacob Hardy is licensed and insured for a variety of different charters including chasing after redfish, trout, flounder, tarpon, sheepshead, or kingfish.

Phone: (904) 315-4758

Drum Man Charters

One of the most well-respected fishing guides in Northeast Florida, Captain James Dumas of Drum Man Charters excels at light tackle fishing on the flats. Depending on the season and the weather, he may also suggest sight fishing or fly fishing, for those who wish to take that challenge!

Phone: (904) 687-9498

Inshore Adventures

Inshore Adventures offers charter fishing tours from St. Augustine to Palm Coast. Captain Tommy Derringer is a staff writer for Coastal Angler, a redfish tour professional, and an all-round expert in inshore and nearshore fishing. Visit his website and blog here for some great information on fishing in general as well as the daily fishing report.

Phone: (904) 377-3734

Canoe and Kayak Fishing

The wealth of shallow-water fishing opportunities has made St. Augustine a popular destination for kayak fishing. This wonderfully peaceful and noise-free activity offers a genuine experience in the natural world. Fishing from a kayak can open up new opportunities as well since the kayak can go into the nooks and crannies that other boats can’t reach.

Kayak fishing in St. Augustine, Florida ... Photo courtesy of Action Kayak Adventures
Kayak fishing in St. Augustine. (photo courtesy of Action Kayak Adventures)

Canoes and kayaks are available for rent from several outfitters around the city (see list of rentals below). Artificial lures and a spinning rod are all a vacationing fisherman needs to hunt redfish like a pro.

Ripple Effects Eco Tours

At the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR), canoe and kayaks can be rented through Ripple Effects Eco Tours, who also provide guided fishing tours in the Ponte Vedra location as well as the south portion of the reserve in Marineland.

Phone: (904) 347-1565

Kayak St. Augustine

Kayak rentals, lessons, and eco and fishing tours of all kinds are available at Kayak St. Augustine located on Salt Run.

Phone: (904) 315-8442

Action Kayak Adventures

Native Floridian and Master Naturalist, Bart Swab, leads his Action Kayak Adventures charters throughout the Intracoastal waters. All the essentials are included on these tours, which can be tailor-made to suit individual skills or whatever adventure level desired.

Phone: (904) 325-0344

Bring Your Own Boat …

Serious anglers who bring their boats can find a complete list of all St. Johns County boat ramps. Some of the more popular ramps are listed on the map below.

… Or Rent One

If you’d rather rent a boat while you’re here, you have many choices throughout the area. Powerboats both large and small, skiffs, canoes, and kayaks are available for rent at local outfitters and marinas. Here’s a sampling of some of the best:

Genung’s Fish Camp

A variety of rentals—boats, canoes, single and double kayaks, and fishing tackle—are available at Genung’s Fish Camp in Crescent Beach. They also offer boat storage and a bait shop on site. The camp is located about 15 miles south of downtown St. Augustine on the Matanzas River.

Phone: (904) 471-4144

Devil’s Elbow Fishing Resort

A favorite place to stay for visiting fishermen, Devil’s Elbow Fishing Resort also offers charters and boat rentals, and has a bait shop on the property as well. Vacationers can rent skiffs for nosing around in the shallows, pontoon boats for larger groups, and kayaks for nature lovers and kayak fishermen.

Phone: (904) 471-0398

Bay Ray Rentals

Located at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, Bay Ray Rentals has the largest selection of pontoon boats, deck boats, and fishing boats in the area. They also offer fishing charters, both inshore and offshore.

Phone: (904) 826-0010

Surf Fishing

Surf fishing requires different equipment and a strong arm to get the cast out beyond the breakers. But with a little knowledge of what’s running at that time of year and what bait and rigs to use to catch it, surf fishing can be extremely productive and a whole lot of fun.

A popular spot for knowledgeable surfcasters is around the inlet at Vilano Beach, especially in the area from the jetty on the Atlantic side west to Porpoise Point. (It’s best to avoid fishing from the jetty itself — the footing is dangerous and the rocks can be unstable.)

Surf fishing in St. Augustine

From the pristine beaches of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve in Ponte Vedra to Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine Beach and south to Crescent Beach, surfcasters will find rich opportunities to catch drum, whiting, pompano, and more.

Local bait shops can help visitors decide if it’s a good time to try something new, and some offer surf fishing equipment rentals as well.

St. Augustine Bait and Tackle Shops

In addition to the bait shops located at Devil’s Elbow Resort and Genung’s Fish Camp listed above, many marinas offer bait and tackle, and there are a couple of retail locations that specialize in fishing services as well.

The Bait Shack

The Bait Shack at the Vilano Boat Ramp is well stocked with a wide range of live and frozen bait, tackle, and great advice. The Shack is run by Elaine Mussallem, who is very active in the local fishing community.

Phone: (904) 217-3486

Avid Angler

The Avid Angler, at 3101 N. Ponce Blvd. (U.S. 1) offers all tackle needs (rods, reels, hooks, lures, and line), an assortment of live bait and fresh shrimp as well as some good local information. Harry’s Curb Market at 201 State Road 16, just west of U.S. 1, usually has live crabs, frozen clams, and dead shrimp.

Phone: (904) 829-9136

Bob’s Bait and Tackle

Bob’s Bait and Tackle is also on U.S. 1, but farther south, at State Road 206. Close to the Matanzas Inlet, this shop offers fresh and live shrimp and other baits as well.

Phone: (904) 794-7501

Offshore Fishing

Nearshore and offshore fishing are done in waters between 20 and 100 feet deep, usually 10 to 30 miles offshore in the Atlantic. The nearshore reefs and ledges (including shipwrecks!) nurture a variety of snapper and grouper species year-round, with cobia, amberjack, and black sea bass plentiful depending on the season.

Man with snapper (photo courtesy of Rob Miller)
(Photo courtesy of Rob Miller)

Farther out, fishermen will find more trolling action, especially in the spring, as pelagic species such as blackfin tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi, kingfish, and sailfish come through this area when they migrate.

Game fish such as king mackerel and tarpon are plentiful in the Atlantic waters along the northeast Florida coast, especially in the summer. A couple of significant billfish and game fish tournaments take place in St. Augustine every year, with two big ones in the summer — the Annual Bluewater Tournament at Camachee Cove in late April or early May and the Ancient City Game Fish Challenge in July, also based in Camachee Cove. (For a complete list of both saltwater and freshwater fishing tournaments in Northeast Florida, visit here.)

For visitors who’d like to try offshore fishing, a professional guide is a must. Charter fishing captains provide everything, from the boat to all the fishing equipment, including bait, and, most importantly, the expertise. It’s all in the details—at what speed to troll, whether to use live or artificial bait, what weights to use to keep the lure at the desired depth, and much more—only experience can provide that knowledge.

Offshore Fishing Charters

Here are just a few of the many offshore fishing charters in St. Augustine. For a complete list of charters and all things fishing, visit here.

Sea Love Charters

Sea Love Charters offers full and half-day charters, departing daily from the Cat’s Paw Marina. Of their three vessels, the largest can accommodate up to 67 passengers. They specialize in Gulf Stream trolling, where guests can catch anything from snapper to wahoo, cobia, amberjack or billfish.

Phone: (904) 824-3328

Jodie Lynn Sport Fishing Charters

Jodie Lynn Sport Fishing Charters‘ Captain Robert Johnson has more than 30 years of experience in offshore and deep-sea fishing. He and his wife, Jodie Lynn, have been in the fishing charter business since 1990, offering charters for family fishing as well as several options for groups, including overnight trips, all departing from the Conch House Marina.

Phone: (904) 794-2628

Channel Master Sport Fishing Charters

Based at the Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, Channel Master Sport Fishing Charters specialize in sport fish such as sailfish, king mackerel, and marlin.

Phone: (904) 825-1968

Endless Summer Charters

With three large vessels departing from the Conch House Marina in St. Augustine Beach and expert fishing guides at the helm, Endless Summer Charters offers tours geared toward everyone from beginners to experienced anglers.

Phone: (904) 814-4138

Fishing Tournaments

St. Augustine is a paradise for competitive anglers. The city is host to a wide range of contests for all experience levels. Some competitions take place far out in the ocean (offshore) while others are closer to the beach (inshore). Each contest offers challenges and exciting prizes. 

Types of Fishing Tournaments in St. Augustine:

  • Offshore Tournaments: These events target large pelagic species such as kingfish and dolphin fish.
  • Inshore Tournaments: Focused on the calmer coastal and Intracoastal waters, these tournaments are accessible to a wider range of participants, including junior anglers.
  • Surf Fishing Tournaments: Offering a unique experience, these tournaments take place from the shore—no boat needed.
  • Open & Closed Tournaments: Open tournaments allow anglers to choose their fishing days within a specified time frame, while closed tournaments have set dates and times, ensuring a variety of competitive opportunities throughout the year.

These fishing tournaments target various fish species, including wahoo, redfish, sailfish, and marlin — to name a few.

Take a detailed look at all of St. Augustine’s fishing tournaments, for dates, locations, target fish, and registration information.

Cooking Your Catch

Once you’ve caught them, here are a couple of great ways to cook them:

Broiled Fish with Herb Sauce

  • 4 fish filets
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon each of marjoram, savory, basil, thyme, and rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • ½ cup water

Melt butter with 2 tablespoons water and lemon juice. Place fish fillets flesh side up on rack of broiling pan so they will be four inches from heat and baste them with butter lemon sauce. Cook 15 minutes, basting every 5 minutes.

Remove fish from broiler, cover to keep hot. Scrape particles clinging to rack into liquid in pan below. Place pan on medium heat on top of the stove and add ½ cup water and herbs. Simmer at low heat for 2 minutes. If desired, thicken sauce with ¼ teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little water. Serve sauce on top of fish fillets.

Red Snapper Floridian

  • 2 pounds of red snapper filets cut into serving-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of nutmeg

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Place red snapper pieces skin-side down in a single layer in a well-greased baking dish. Melt the butter or oil and mix with orange juice, orange rind, and seasonings. Pour over fish.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Garnish with watercress and orange slices.

Cover photo courtesy of Florida’s Historic Coast.

This article has been updated in July 2024.

Runs and Races in St. Augustine

St. Augustine is a great place for all kinds of runners, whether you run marathons or like to jog on weekends. We’ve put together a list of upcoming running events. Plus, we’ve added monthly tips and info to help you hit the ground running.

See what races are happening. Each month offers its own running experience with a variety of racing events. 

January February March April
May June July August
September October November December

January

Eliud "Heldy" Ngetich was the male winner of the Matanzas 5K in 2015.

St. Augustine has cool, nice weather for runners in January. It’s ideal for evening jogs and off-season training. These mild temperatures are perfect for long-distance training and off-season races. January is a great month to get out of the crowded gyms and see St. Augustine from a new perspective.

February

The boardwalk on-site as part of the nature walk

February continues with mild weather, allowing runners to explore various terrains without discomfort. You can take a peaceful run on Anastasia State Park’s sandy trails. Or, you can jog at sunset alongside the Matanzas Inlet. February conditions are excellent for new and experienced athletes gearing up for races later in the year.

March

Runners will let their colors shine in the First Coast Color Run May 8, 2021.

As spring approaches, the days are warmer and ideal for intense training sessions. March is a great time to see Florida’s natural scenery with runs at the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park or early morning runs along the St. Johns County Ocean Pier

April

Runners posing with finisher medals for Hastings' Spud Run

April brings warmer weather and spring’s full bloom. It’s perfect for runs through nature trails or along the city’s scenic waterfront. Running later in the evening is especially nice because it’s cooler.

May

Runner grabbing a bottle of water during a race checkpoint

May gets hotter and more humid, making it a good idea for runners to go out early in the morning. Running near the beaches can be cooler because of the sea breeze, but hydration is still key. Trail running and hiking in places such as the Nocatee Preserve will keep you in the shade and out of the hot sun.

June

The summer season begins with high temperatures and humidity, so runners need to drink plenty of water and protect themselves from the sun. Running early in the morning is a good idea, and the routes along the coast are cooler and offer beautiful views of the sunrise. June is also a great month for active rest and cross-training such as evening walks, morning hikes, and cycling. 

July

Purple running shoes sitting in front of the ocean

July is also hot and humid, but oceanfront runs on a breezy morning can feel refreshing. A breezy morning run on one of St. Augustine’s beaches provides the best setting for those looking to maintain their running regimen. Shorter runs are ideal and runners should plan to beat the heat with hydration, hats, and sunscreen.

August

A boardwalk is part of the nature trail

August is still very hot, so it’s important to run on shaded paths when possible and drink plenty of water to stay cool in August. Swimming is also a good exercise to mix with running to help you stay fit.

September

Sunset casts warm hues over the calm waters of the bayfront

September is still warm, but it starts to cool down a bit, making it nice for running. The Ancient City streets and bayfront are not as crowded, so you can enjoy a peaceful run.

October

Runners dress up in costume for the Jail Break 5K in St. Augustine on Halloween weekend.

October is one of the best times to run in St. Augustine because it’s cooler and not too humid. The weather feels nice, and the crisp air makes exploring longer trails more enjoyable. October is a great time for fun runs, long-distance paces, and exploring St. Augustine’s parks

November

St. Augustine is a great place to go running in November. The weather is cooler and a run along waterfront trails provides a beautiful backdrop. November is peak running season in St. Augustine with several running events filling the calendar. These events are popular so registering early is suggested.

December

A person dressed as the Grinch celebrates with two girls showing their medals at the Santa Suits on the Loose 5K event in St. Augustine

December in St. Augustine means mild winter weather and enjoyable runs, and December also means Nights of Lights. The dazzling display increases visitor visits, making established run events the best way to see the city in running shoes. For personal runs, it’s best to stick to trails away from Historic Downtown. December’s cool weather is perfect for holiday-themed runs or peaceful jogs.

Whether you’re a local or just visiting, running is a great way to see the Oldest City from a different perspective while keeping fit. 

Looking for other ways to stay fit during your visit to St. Augustine? Check out our tips on 3 Ways to Enjoy a Healthy Vacation

2024 Fishing Tournaments

St. Augustine’s exceptional fishing opportunities lure anglers from around the world. With a variety of thrilling tournaments, the Oldest City caters to seasoned professionals and amateurs alike. These popular events allow anglers to enjoy saltwater and freshwater fishing and compete for various prizes. Whether you’re enticed by the adrenaline of offshore fishing or prefer the calmer inshore waters, St. Augustine offers tournaments tailored to your fishing style.

Want to fish during your St. Augustine vacation but don’t want to participate in a tournament? Take a look at the fishing charters and fishing locations in and around town.

Types of Fishing Tournaments

St. Augustine hosts a variety of fishing tournaments, each catering to different fishing styles and skill levels. 

Offshore

Offshore tournaments are popular among anglers who enjoy the thrill of deep-sea fishing, targeting large pelagic species. These events often span multiple days or months, allowing participants to choose their fishing dates.

Inshore

Inshore tournaments focus on the calmer, coastal and Intracoastal waters. Inshore tournaments often have categories for both adult and junior anglers, making them accessible to a wider range of participants.

Surf

Surf fishing tournaments are another option, where anglers fish from the shore. They offer a unique fishing tournament experience that doesn’t require a boat.

Open & Closed Tournaments

Additionally, there are open tournaments, which allow anglers to choose their fishing days within a specified time frame, and closed tournaments, which have set dates and times for competition. These formats provide flexibility for participants and ensure a variety of competitive opportunities throughout the year. 

Common Target Fish

St. Augustine’s fishing tournaments target various fish species. Offshore fishing tournaments in the area often focus on large, powerful species, such as wahoo, known for their speed and agility, and mahi mahi, known for their vibrant colors and acrobatic leaps. Other common target species include the blue marlin and king mackerel; these fish are known for their intense battles, providing a true test of an angler’s skill and endurance.

Inshore fishing tournaments, on the other hand, focus on species that inhabit the calmer waters closer to shore. Redfish, with their distinctive copper-bronze color, are a primary target in St. Augustine’s tournaments. Anglers in these tournaments often compete for the biggest flounder and trout catches as well. 

Fishing Tournaments 2024

Note: We encourage anglers to carefully review the rules and details of each tournament before registering. We update fishing tournament information for upcoming dates and times as they become available. 

Northeast Florida Marlin Association's Tournament Series Championship logo

NEFMA Tournament Series Championship

The Northeast Florida Marlin Association’s (NEFMA) Tournament Series Championship is an exclusive, year-long competition for NEFMA members, offering a grand prize of $50,000.00. Members compete in NEFMA series tournaments such as Salt Life Bluewater, Don Combs Wahoo Roundup, Mahi Mania, and El Pescado, accumulating points throughout the series. To qualify for the championship, each boat must participate in four out of the five qualifying tournaments. Beyond the competition, NEFMA members enjoy benefits including discounts on fuel and dining, and access to all club events and social gatherings.

  • Date: The tournament is a year-long members tournament.
  • Location: Location changes for each leg of the series.
  • Target Fish: Billfish, Gamefish, Wahoo, Mahi
  • Tournament Type: Open Tournament Series
  • Organizer: Northeast Florida Marlin Association
  • Registration Deadline: Current membership required. A registration/kick-off event takes place on Thursday, March 28, 2024, at 5:00 p.m.
Registration Fees
General Membership $450.00
Associate Membership $125.00
Designated Captain Membership $250.00

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Logo for Northeast Florida Wahoo Shootout fishing tournament

Northeast Florida Wahoo Shootout

The Northeast Florida Wahoo Shootout is the world’s largest wahoo fishing tournament. It’s open tournament format enables this event to run for two months, so participants can choose their fishing dates within that window. Previous prizes include $1,000-$10,000 cash prizes, trophies, and a grand prize boat package.

  • Date: February 9, 2024 – March 30, 2024
  • Location: Open Tournament
  • Target Fish: Wahoo
  • Tournament Type: Offshore
  • Organizer: Yellowfin and Dream Finders Homes 
  • Registration Deadline: Early entry – December 31, 2024; General entry – February 1, 2024; Late entry – February 8, 2024.
Registration Fees
Early Entry  $550.00
General Entry  $450.00
Late Entry  $750.00

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Shoreline Showdown Surf Fishing Series Kick-off St. Augustine Fishing Tournament logo

Kick-Off St. Augustine Fishing Tournament

The Kick-Off St. Augustine Fishing Tournament is a surf fishing event and the first leg of the Shoreline Showdown Surf Fishing Series. Other legs of this series take place across Florida’s coastline: the Panhandle, Melbourne, and Jensen Beach. Top performers in these events are then invited to compete in the Shoreline Showdown Championship Invitational, held in St. Augustine, in December.

  • Date: April 27, 2024
  • Location: Fishbites Trading Post
  • Target Fish: Pompano and Whiting
  • Tournament Type: Surf Fishing
  • Organizer: Fishbites Trading Post
  • Registration Deadline: April 26, 2024
Registration Fees
Adult Entry $50.00
Junior Entry  $25.00

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Northeast Florida Marlin Association Mahi Mania fishing tournament logo

Mahi Mania

The Northeast Florida Marlin Association’s Mahi Mania tournament in St. Augustine is a months-long offshore fishing competition targeting mahi-mahi (also known as dolphin fish). This open tournament enables anglers to choose their fishing days as they compete for the heaviest combined weight of three mahi-mahi (aggregate) and the single heaviest mahi, with cash prizes ranging from $100-$500 awarded to the winners. Additional categories recognize the largest lady angler mahi, the biggest yellowfin tuna, the most marlin releases, and the most sailfish releases. This tournament is open to the public but also part of the NEFMA Tournament Series Championship, which is exclusive to NEFMA members.

  • Date: April 5, 2024 – June 9, 2024
  • Location: Open Tournament
  • Target Fish: Mahi Mahi
  • Tournament Type: Offshore
  • Organizer: Northeast Florida Marlin Association
  • Registration Deadline: April 5, 2024
Registration Fees
*TWT (Tournament within tournament)
General Entry $300.00
TWT Largest 3-Fish Aggregate (Mahi Only)   $300.00
Largest Single Fish (Mahi Only)  $200.00
Largest Lady Angler Fish (Mahi Only)  $100.00
Largest Yellowfin Tuna  $500.00
Most Blue Marlin Releases $500.00
Most Sailfish Releases  $500.00

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Ancient City Gamefish Association's Redfish Bash logo

Redfish Bash

The Redfish Bash is an annual inshore fishing tournament at Camachee Cove, held by the Ancient City Game Fish Association. This popular event for anglers sees them compete for the biggest redfish catch, as well as the biggest trout and flounder catch. This tournament coincides with the Junior Redfish Bash tournament.

  • Date: April 19-20, 2024
  • Location: St. Augustine Marina
  • Target Fish: Redfish, flounder, and trout.
  • Tournament Type: Inshore
  • Organizer: Ancient City Game Fish Association
  • Registration Deadline: April 19, 2024
Registration Fees
General Entry  $30.00

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Ancient City Gamefish Association's Junior Redfish Bash logo

Junior Redfish Bash

The Ancient City Game Fish Association hosts an annual Junior Redfish Bash in St. Augustine that coincides with the annual Redfish Bash tournament. This fun fishing tournament is open to anglers 15 and under, offering them a chance to compete for the biggest redfish catch alongside other young enthusiasts. Registration is discounted compared to the adult tournament, making it an accessible introduction to competitive fishing. 

  • Date: April 19-20, 2024
  • Location: St. Augustine Marina
  • Target Fish: Redfish
  • Tournament Type: Inshore
  • Organizer: Ancient City Game Fish Association
  • Registration Deadline: April 19, 2024
Registration Fees
Junior Entry $25.00

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Saltlife Bluewater Fishing  Tournament logo

Salt Life Bluewater Tournament

The Salt Life Bluewater Tournament is a prestigious fishing competition held annually in St. Augustine. This offshore tournament attracts anglers from around the world to compete for the biggest catches of pelagic species like marlin, tuna, and dolphin fish. The tournament promotes conservation through a captain’s choice format, enabling anglers to decide which fish to target. With a $50,000 cash and prize purse, a fish fry with live music, and an awards dinner, this tournament is a highlight of the local fishing scene. This tournament is open to the public but also part of the NEFMA Tournament Series Championship, which is exclusive to NEFMA members.

  • Date: May 8-11, 2024
  • Location: Camachee Cove
  • Target Fish: Blue Marlin
  • Tournament Type: Offshore
  • Organizer: Northeast Florida Marlin Association
  • Registration Deadline: May 8, 2024
Registration Fees
Billfish Tournament Entry $1,200.00
Gamefish Tournament Entry $500.00
Billfish Overall High Roller $3,500.00
Billfish Overall Points Optional $1,500.00
Billfish Daily Optional  $1,000.00
Billfish Outboard / Under 40 $1,000.00
Gamefish High Roller Optional $2,500.00
Gamefish Overall Points $1,000.00
Largest Wahoo $500.00
Largest Tuna $500.00
Largest Dolphin $500.00

Register Now


St. Augustine Kingfish Mayhem logo

Kingfish Mayhem

The Kingfish Mayhem tournament is a saltwater fishing tournament targeting the prized king mackerel. Held annually over three days, it features both a pro series for experienced anglers and an open series for anyone to participate. Competitors fish offshore, aiming to catch and weigh the biggest kingfish. The powerful kingfish runs and fights, making this tournament a challenging but rewarding catch for anglers.

  • Date: May 30 – June 1, 2024
  • Location: St. Augustine Fish House & Oyster Company
  • Target Fish: Kingfish
  • Tournament Type: Offshore
  • Organizer: Meat Mayhem 
  • Registration Deadline: Early entry – May 24, 2024; General entry – May 29, 2024. 
Registration Fees
Early Entry  $500.00
General Entry  $600.00

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Logo for Daily's Old School Kingfish Shootout in St. Augustine

Daily’s Old School Kingfish Shootout

The Daily’s Old School Kingfish Shootout is a single-day king mackerel fishing tournament held annually in St. Augustine. It embraces catch-and-release fishing, with restrictions on bait and fishing techniques. This nostalgia-driven competition offers a large cash payout and a coveted Yellowfin boat as the grand prize, attracting a significant number of participants.

  • Date: June 8, 2024
  • Location: Vilano Beach Pier
  • Target Fish: Kingfish
  • Tournament Type: Offshore
  • Organizer: Yellowfin
  • Registration Deadline: Early entry – May 31, 2024; General entry – June 6, 2024; Late entry – June 7, 2024.
Registration Fees
Early Entry  $250.00
General Entry  $350.00
Late Entry  $400.00

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St. Augustine Youth Service's Wildwood Inshore Fishing Tournament logo

Wildwood Inshore Fishing Tournament

The Wildwood Inshore Fishing Tournament is an annual event held in St. Augustine to benefit St. Augustine Youth Services. It’s a saltwater fishing competition targeting inshore species: redfish, trout, and flounder. The tournament features cash prizes and has winner categories for men, women, and youth.

  • Date: June 14 – June 15, 2024
  • Location: St. Augustine Boating Club
  • Target Fish: Inshore species
  • Tournament Type: Inshore
  • Organizer: St. Augustine Youth Services (SAYS)
  • Registration Deadline: June 13, 2024
Registration Fees
Early Entry  $30.00

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Ancient City Gamefish Association's Kingfish Challenge logo

Kingfish Challenge

The Kingfish Challenge, run by the Ancient City Game Fish Association in St. Augustine, is an offshore fishing tournament targeting the king mackerel. Participants vie for cash prizes ranging from $600 to $20,000. The event also features food, a cash bar, a raffle, and a variety of vendors.

  • Date: June 27 – June 29, 2024
  • Location: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor
  • Target Fish: Kingfish
  • Tournament Type: Offshore
  • Organizer: Ancient City Game Fish Association
  • Registration Deadline: General entry – June 15, 2024; Late entry – June 28, 2024
Registration Fees
General Entry  $350.00
Late Entry  $450.00

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Ancient City Gamefish Association's Junior Kingfish Challenge logo

Junior Kingfish Challenge 

The Junior Kingfish Challenge is a fishing tournament for young anglers in St. Augustine and coincides with the Kingfish Challenge tournament. Competitors fish for the biggest king mackerel and enjoy a discounted entry fee. The Junior Kingfish Challenge is a great opportunity for kids to learn about saltwater fishing and compete for prizes.

  • Date: June 27 – June 29, 2024
  • Location: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor
  • Target Fish: Kingfish
  • Tournament Type: Offshore
  • Organizer: Ancient City Game Fish Association
  • Registration Deadline: June 27, 2024
Registration Fees
Junior Entry  $25.00

Register Now


Old City Elite Kingfish Tournament logo

Old City Elite Kingfish Tournament

The Old City Elite Kingfish Tournament is a closed, offshore fishing tournament organized by the Northeast Florida Marlin Club. The tournament features multiple fishing days, weigh-ins, and a grand awards celebration. With a significant prize structure and various TWT (tournament within tournament) options. This tournament is open to the public but also part of the NEFMA Tournament Series Championship, which is exclusive to NEFMA members.

Registration Fees
*TWT (Tournament within tournament)
Regular Entry $5,000.00 
Day 1 TWT: Heaviest Fish $1,000.00 
Day 2 TWT Heaviest Fish $1,000.00 
Overall 2-Fish Aggregate TWT 50/30/20 $1,000.00
Overall 4-Fish Aggregate TWT 50/30/20 $1,000.00
Elite 15 4-Fish Aggregate TWT 70/30 $2,000.00

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El Pescado Billfish Tournament logo

El Pescado Billfish Tournament 

The El Pescado Billfish Tournament is a premier fishing event hosted by the Northeast Florida Marlin Club. This tournament offers anglers the chance to compete for significant prizes across multiple categories, including big game fish. Captains choose two out of four dates for fishing. This tournament offers optional entry categories for tournaments within the tournament. This tournament is open to the public but also part of the NEFMA Tournament Series Championship, which is exclusive to NEFMA members.

  • Date: November 28 – December 2, 2024
  • Location: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor
  • Target Fish: Marlin, Wahoo, Dolphin, Tuna
  • Tournament Type: Offshore
  • Organizer: Northeast Florida Marlin Club
  • Registration Deadline: October 31, 2024, is the deadline for early registration. November 28, 2024, is the deadline for final registration.
Registration Fees
*TWT (Tournament within tournament)
Early Entry $1500.00
Late Entry $1750.00
Daily TWT*    $5000.00
Meat Fish: Wahoo     $500.00
Meat Fish: Dolphin       $500.00
Meat Fish: Tuna       $500.00
Under 40’ / Outboard TWT*      $1000.00
Overall TWT*    $3000.00

Register Now


Shoreline Showdown Surf Fishing Series Championship Invitational logo

Championship Invitational – St. Augustine

The St. Augustine Shoreline Showdown Championship Invitational is the culmination of the year-long Shoreline Showdown Surf Fishing Series. Top anglers from the various qualifying tournaments throughout Florida battle for a share of a $15,000 cash prize pool.

  • Date: December 7, 2024
  • Location: Fishbites Trading Post
  • Tournament Type: Surf Fishing
  • Organizer: Fishbites Trading Post
  • Registration Deadline: Invitation Only
Registration Fees
General Entry  $50.00

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Don Combs Wahoo Roundup Logo

Don Combs Wahoo Roundup

The Don Combs Wahoo Roundup offers an open-tournament, competitive fishing experience for anglers in Northeast Florida. This offshore tournament draws fishing enthusiasts eager to reel in the prized Wahoo and typically features a raffle, complimentary food, and a cash bar. The Don Combs Wahoo Roundup offers various prize categories. This tournament is open to the public but also part of the NEFMA Tournament Series Championship, which is exclusive to NEFMA members.

  • Date: December 9, 2023 – January 23, 2024
  • Location: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor
  • Target Fish: Wahoo
  • Tournament Type: Open, Offshore
  • Organizer: Northeast Florida Marlin Club
  • Registration Deadline: December 8, 2023, is the deadline for early entry. The final registration deadline is at the Captains’ Meeting on December 9, 2023.
Registration Fees
*TWT (Tournament within tournament)
Regular Entry $400.00
Late Entry $500.00
TWT: High Roller $1000.00
TWT: Elite 15 $1500.00
TWT: Biggest Fish  $300.00
TWT: Aggregate (2 Fish) $300.00
Lady Angler $100.00

Register Now

Camping in St. Augustine

St. Augustine is a unique destination for camping because it combines Old World charm with the natural beauty of the Sunshine State. Florida is known for its beaches and parks, and St. Augustine is no exception. Residents and tourists alike can attest that the best way to maximize the enjoyment of St. Augustine’s ins and outs, with an emphasis on the outs (the outdoors, anyway) is by camping.

Whether you’re a grizzled outdoorsman, an open-minded traveler on a budget, or a pampered B&Ber looking for a little more fresh air, you’re going to love the St. Augustine camping experience.

Are you familiar with the Boy Scouts’ motto, “Be prepared?” If you are, take that to heart and consider this your ultimate guide for camping in St. Augustine. For the more scholarly among us, perhaps it will help if you view this as something of a 101 class in St. Augustine camping. No, it’s not cross-registered with math. You’ll still have to take that college algebra course if you want to graduate on time.

Anyway, you should be like the Boy Scouts, and be prepared for your outdoor adventure. When all is said and done, if you had a good time (you will), you should be like the Girl Scouts and give the writer some cookies.

There are two primary forms of accommodations when it comes to camping in St. Augustine, and accordingly two categories of campers: those with recreational vehicles, and those without. We’ll discuss the differences between the two. We’ll also make sure you get to know your local options for campgrounds, and take a look what they have to offer. However, there are some basic facts with regards to camping in St. Augustine that bear repetition for the newbies and the seasoned campers among us.

RV vs Tent

The two most commonly offered forms of camping accommodation are RV spaces (RV stands for ‘recreational vehicle’) and tent spaces. An RV is a great way to see the outside world without leaving too much of home behind. When using an RV, you must consider the cost of fuel, the size of campsites, electrical hookup (to keep all those cell phones buzzing and other machines purring), and ideally you should have a driver who can handle maneuvering a larger-than-average vehicle. Pull-thru sites are generally easier to maneuver, but a good RV driver should be able to back it up as well.

Tents, on the other hand, are lightweight and generally very easy to pack and set up. You can easily pack a tent, along with your other belongings, in the smallest of two-door vehicles. You’re going to want that extra room for souvenirs, otherwise, how else will everyone know you had a great time in St. Augustine? Pictures? No, not good enough. Shower your friends and family with gifts that you purchase from stores in our lovely coastal town. Pack them next to your tent. After all, in addition to more space, you’ll have extra cash. A good tent that can endure the elements will usually be the most cost-effective means of camping accommodation. Tents give you privacy and a roof over your head, two bare necessities that even the most rugged among us recognize.

Where to Camp

Campgrounds are not necessarily concentrated in any one particular area within St. Augustine, so there is some variety that you may want to consider when planning your camping and non-camping activities alike. The main areas I will focus on include Anastasia Island, Interstate 95, south of downtown, and Vilano Beach.

Anastasia Island

Locals refer to Anastasia Island simply as “The Island,” because that’s exactly what it is. Situated between the Matanzas and the Atlantic, Anastasia Island is the destination for beachgoers. A1A and A1A Beach Boulevard run parallel through the island and serve as the main thoroughfares to St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach’s offerings. In addition to the campgrounds located on the island, the St. Augustine Amphitheater stages concerts with nationally renowned musical talent on a regular basis.

Bars and restaurants galore serve seafood and comfort food alike. You will find no shortage of drinks with tiny umbrellas at Sunset Grille or Salt Life Food Shack. Mango Mango’s has some mighty good burgers and a large selection of Caribbean dishes, while the A1A Burrito Works Taco Shop will hook you up with your Mexican fix.

St. Augustine Beach KOA (RV, cabins, and tents)

The local KOA “Kampground” (don’t be put off by the excessive usage of the letter ‘K,’ it implies this is more than just a campground) offers a total “kamping” experience in the heart of Anastasia Island, one mile from the beach. This facility is nationally recognized for the quality of its offerings and amenities. KOA is a staple of North American travel, and deservedly so. This franchise is right at home in St. Augustine Beach, and will make you feel as at home as you wish to feel, offering cabins (sorry, “kabins”), tent spaces, and RV sites.

The KOA site offers its own activities, and no one would judge you if you decided to spend your entire day on the water in a paddleboat. Although it might be wiser for you to divvy that activity time with some quality banana biking. If you prefer more traditional camping activities, go fish. No, for real, you can fish. Finish your day of boating, biking, and fishing with a relaxing dip in the pool. KOA also provides a shuttle for access to other St. Augustine attractions

Bryn Mawr Ocean Resort (RV, tents)

This one is for the beach bums! Located on A1A South near Butler Beach, Bryn Mawr Ocean Resort offers oceanfront RV and tent sites with rental options as well. If you should choose a rental option, housekeeping is provided. How is your tennis game? If you don’t know, you’re bound to find out on the resort’s tennis courts. Sound like too much of a racket to you? Enjoy games of horseshoes and shuffleboard instead. You can cool off in the ocean, but if the ocean is too cool for you, Bryn Mawr has a huge swimming pool.

If all that were not enough, the resort is minutes away from St. Augustine’s attractions and is an easy drive up A1A from Marineland. The dolphins at Marineland might not make you cry, but you should sing as much Hootie & the Blowfish as you can en route. Do not underestimate the importance of nostalgia and music when you camp.

Anastasia State Park (RV, tents)

Anastasia State Park offers something for everyone (except for people who hate going outside, or people who just generally deplore doing fun things, but they’re probably not reading this). Do you like trees? Of course, you like trees. What’s better than trees? Lazing and swinging between them on a hammock, that’s what. Nothing says “beachside getaway” quite like a hammock. Well, the Anastasia State Park’s 139 plus campsites are located underneath enough trees for optimal hammock inaction.

Out from underneath the trees you’ll find four miles of the most beautiful beach on the Atlantic. You can relax in the sands, take a dive in the deep, or journey further after renting a canoe, sailboard, paddleboard, or kayak from Anastasia Watersports. The area teems with wildlife and is also brimming with the same kind of historical intrigue that makes St. Augustine famous.

As you explore the park’s many trails, you can visit 18th-century coquina quarries toward the park’s entrance. Grab a bite to eat at Island Joe’s, and catch the sunset (though the sunrise would probably look even better if you’re a morning person – I am not) at the inlet where the Atlantic meets the Matanzas.

Peppertree RV Resort (RV, cottages)

Peppertree provides a twist on the traditional campground setup by offering rental cottages in addition to RV sites. A privately stocked lake means that the fishing could very well never end, but if it must, shuffleboard and basketball courts can more than adequately fit the bill for means of enjoyment and passing time. Should the weather turn sour, or perhaps you just need shelter from an afternoon shower, a large air-conditioned clubhouse provides a library and a big-screen TV.

I-95

If you’re driving to St. Augustine, there’s a good chance you’re going to be exiting off of Interstate 95. While this side of town offers plenty of dining and shopping options, it’s also vast and optimal for quiet, private camping. Have a shopping day at the outlets, followed by a sweet barbecued meal at Florida favorite Sonny’s BBQ, and sleep soundly without any of the anxiety of the downtown hustle and bustle. Restock on camping supplies, or pick up some items you may have forgotten, at nearby Gander Mountain.

StageCoach (RV)

Located just off Interstate 95 and SR 16 is family-owned StageCoach RV Park. This particular park is located roughly six miles from downtown, and is a stone’s throw away from the outlet shopping plazas. Please avoid throwing stones, though, this is a peaceful place.  As it is an RV Park, it caters exclusively to campers with recreational vehicles, and offers affordable lodging accommodations with all the comforts of home.

With comfort, convenience, and relaxation being a priority, StageCoach offers free wifi to guests and accommodates satellite usage. Sixty spacious campsites at 45’x60′ include plenty of world class amenities.

South of Downtown

If you head south from downtown on US-1, you’ll only be doing deeper into the wild, weird, and wonderful Florida. You won’t be far from the Ancient City, and the stretch of US-1 that connects you is loaded with shopping and dining options. Ned’s Southside Kitchen is a local favorite, and I recommend getting there early to beat the dinner rush. If you’ve got cash in your wallet (as it is a cash-only establishment) and a craving for old school southern BBQ, hit up Smokin’ D’s at the corner of US-1 and S.R. 206.

You’ll definitely want some reading material for your quiet and relaxing vacation, and you’ll no doubt want to brag about it to your family and friends on the back of a postcard. For all your literary and postal needs, Buy the Book is a full-service book store just off US-1.

Pellicer Creek (RV)

Located off of US-1 and 206, Pellicer Creek Campground is a peaceful RV park with an emphasis on privacy. There are 30 campsites, most of which are back-ins, averaging at 45’x45′. As you can probably guess based on the name, fishing and boating are popular activities at this campground. Saltwater and freshwater fishing are both available, and the boat ramp makes it possible to simply float away from all your troubles.

Faver Dykes (RV, tents) 

Faver Dykes State Park is located further south between US-1 and Marineland. A popular pastime at this particular park is bird watching, which makes sense considering more than 100 species regularly travel through the area as part of their migratory patterns (and who is to say they don’t also enjoy camping). Canoes can also be rented in advance, and provide ample opportunities for experiencing more wildlife. As it borders Pellicer Creek, this is another place for fishing. 

The Northern Beaches

Vilano Beach

If you like to skimboard or surf, Vilano Beach offers an alternative to St. Augustine Beach. The beach itself tends to be narrower and more sloped, which is perfect for skimming. The south end of Vilano features a gorgeous view of the inlet and of downtown, offering an entirely new perspective on the Ancient City. On the north end, Cap’s on the Water has every kind of seafood you can imagine along with the best sunset views, and The Reef has one of the most spectacular oceanfront settings in Northeast Florida (and the food is good too).

North Beach Camp Resort (RV, cabins, tents)

North Beach Camp Resort is a 30-acre campground and RV park located in Vilano Beach, nestled between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic, north of downtown St. Augustine. The resort contains 134 campsites, so on a busy weekend you’ll never be short for pickup games of basketball, or perhaps some epic shuffleboard and horseshoe tournaments. RV sites are pull-thrus, making access easier than an ocean breeze. 

General Tips

1) Bug spray. Seriously.

First and foremost, wherever you wind up setting up camp, know that you will be eaten alive by bugs. Just when you think you could never possibly see a larger, more frightening mosquito, you’ll scream “OUCH!” and swat an even larger-er one off your calf (and shoulder, and toe, and neck). And then something even bigger, and possibly previously thought to have been extinct, will swoop in and circle your head just to mock you. “You’re out of your element, unprepared human!” it will practically shout. So bring bug spray is all I’m trying to say.

If you’re hearing bugs talk to you (whether or not they’re mocking you isn’t really the point) ask yourself “Did I use bug spray?” If the answer is “yes, I used bug spray” then consider maybe not inhaling so much bug spray. If the answer is “no, I did not use bug spray,” consider seeking immediate medical treatment. Flagler Hospital is located across the 312 Bridge near US-1.

2) Prepare for the weather.

Having been a tour guide in St. Augustine, I’m always surprised by how many tourists seem ill-prepared for some of the more obvious conditions of Florida’s climate. Most people do not travel to Florida to be eaten by bugs, so it may not be of paramount concern (which is why I wanted to get that out of the way first). One of the more appealing aspects of Florida’s climate is that it’s hot and sunny. Northeast Florida, and St. Augustine in particular, has the same humid subtropical appeal of the rest of the state without getting too crazy hot. As a Flagler College freshman, I met native South Floridians who said that they loved the idea of going to college in a town with “seasons,” and that’s in part why they chose Flagler. This notion is laughable to anyone from literally anywhere else in the country. I chose a school in Florida for palm trees (and a stellar English education, of course). So, yeah, it can get cool at night year-round, and cold at night in the winter. Bring blankets and sweatshirts, but also pack yourself a fan. 

For those of you who are more used to a dry heat, understand that genuine temperatures can be somewhat misleading. Everyone should keep an eye on the weather, but make sure to take into account humidity percentage and heat index (meaning it will usually feel hotter than the temperature alone will indicate). The humidity makes the driest, least sweaty travelers among us drip with sweat. Remember that you’re a warm-blooded mammal, and hydration is essential. This is doubly so if you intend on imbibing in any alcohol, and subsequently butchering a cliché Violent Femmes cover with an acoustic guitar around a campfire. Keep those vocal cords lubricated, lest your throat resemble something of a blister in the sun. 

Speaking of water, know that it’s going to rain. In the summer, afternoon showers are a daily occurrence but never last very long. Thunderstorms in Florida can be a beautiful sight to behold, provided you’re not easily frightened by thunder and lightning and…well, you know, storms. Regardless, do not forget a tarp cover for your tent. Nothing can ruin a chill camping vibe quicker than a soaking wet sleeping bag.

3) The sun gets its own section.

I hinted at the amazing power of the sun when I mentioned how hot it can get. Make no mistake, the heat is not to be taken lightly, but the sun’s other effects are often doubly overlooked. Again, it might seem obvious, but that blazing ball of fire in the sky is really bright. This means a couple of things. First, you want to see all the beautiful sights that nature has to offer, right? Bring sunglasses. Otherwise, too much of a good thing (light) is definitely a bad thing (for your retinas). Second, bring sunscreen. Vitamin D is good for you and will make you happy. However, sunburn can be nasty and will make you feel nasty as well.

4) Cooking around the campfire.

You can roast more than just marshmellows over a campfire. Hot dogs are a camping favorite, as are baked beans. Generally anything you can put on a stick or in a pan is good for cooking while camping. Also important is that you pack your food properly, so as to avoid food-borne illnesses and unwanted campsite visitors. A sturdy cooler is a must. You should make sure you keep raw, uncooked meats completely separate from everything else (like beverages and precooked packaged food). Everything ought to be sealed as tightly as possible so as to prevent leakages. Clean your cooler thoroughly before packing to minimize the risk of bacterial growth. Lastly, while bears are a rarity in St. Johns County, other animals are not. All animals love human food. We’re pretty awesome at the whole food thing, us humans, what with being on top of the food chain and all. It’s best to keep your well-packed food as far from your sleeping area as possible, and downwind.

Your Ultimate Weather Guide

Planning a St. Augustine vacation is super fun, but now it’s time to start figuring out what to pack and filling up that suitcase. If you’re wondering if the Sunshine State’s weather is as temperate as its name suggests, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” The Sunshine State gets an average of 2,900 hours annually of beautiful sunny weather and is considered by many northerners to be a paradise escape from the frozen hellfire that is winter.

On the one hand, Florida can have some beautiful clear days year-round that are great for lounging by the pool and cooling off in the ocean water. But on the other hand, it’s good to know what specifics you should be packing — rain boots, sunscreen, or heck, even a coat (crazy, right?)! Regardless, St. Augustine’s coastal climate is always beautiful, but before you pack and start planning your itinerary, read on to find out all about St. Augustine’s weather so you know exactly what clothes and accessories to bring.

Climate

Yes, when it comes to climate, Florida is certainly a tropical paradise for most of the year. St. Augustine in particular is in a humid subtropical region, which means that most of the year it is warm and dewy. In this historic town and along the beaches, we experience plenty of precipitation throughout the year (although not rainforest level) as well as plenty of warm, sunny weather (although not desert level weather), making St. Augustine pretty perfect. St. Augustine is also a coastal city, which means we get a lovely dose of breezes through all four seasons. This is nice for the weather, but nicer because you can pull one of these on the seawall.

The average high temperature for St. Augustine over the year is 79°F (26°C), while the average low temperature is 61°F (16°C). Generally, the summers get fairly hot, with temperatures generally peaking in July. People cool off and enjoy the sunny weather by hitting beaches and pools. In the winter, the weather gets very cool by Florida standards, getting only as high as the 60s during the day, and hovering in the upper 30s at night. Yes, when it comes to climate, Florida (even in winter) is a tropical, snowless paradise for many.

Precipitation

As we’ve mentioned, St. Augustine is a humid subtropical climate zone, and as a result, it enjoys all the wondrous forms of precipitation that aren’t hail or snow: rain, fog, mist, a hanging humidity in the air, etc. We call it liquid sunshine because water brings life, and that’s never truer than in St. Augustine.

The rainy or wet season in St. Augustine runs from May to October, while the dry season runs from November to April. While even famously rainy places such as Seattle get 39 inches of rainfall a year, St. Augustine gets around 50 inches. The reason we’re still called the Sunshine State in spite of this is that our rains are short-lived. When it rains, it’ll be like a torrential downpour for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours. And the downpours are often preceded and followed by more sunshine. You can check out the MinuteCast at Accuweather which has proven to be a useful resource for me personally in determining down to the second when it’s going to rain and when it’s going to stop.

It’s always a good idea for visitors to bring a rain jacket, umbrella, and waterproof sandals if visiting in the summertime; not necessarily because it’s guaranteed to rain throughout your entire vacation, but afternoon showers are common, and it’s better to be prepared when out walking around town than not.

Luckily, there are plenty of attractions to be enjoyed indoors, allowing visitors to enter an attraction while a storm rages outside, and exit just in time for the sun to come out.

What about Hurricanes?

If you don’t know already, hurricanes or tropical cyclones are characterized by a low-pressure center and usually build up in areas like the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the Southeast United States can become a major pathway that hurricanes pass through. Historically, relatively fewer hurricanes have impacted St. Augustine than other parts of the state, but that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear. (Darn it!) While Hurricane Season officially begins on June 1 and lasts until November 30, our peak time is from late August through early October. Three hurricanes impacted St. Augustine in this century, Charlie in August of 2004, Matthew in October of 2016, and Irma in September of 2017. That’s relatively few and none landed in St. Augustine at their full force.

We suggest you plan accordingly because, in late summer and early fall, there’s a slight chance of having your plans spoiled by a hurricane. On the other hand, September is one of the best months for deals on places to stay, dining, things to do, and more. Still, who wants to experience a hurricane on vacation? (Put your hand down. No, you don’t.) I suggest you make your plans and then keep an eye on the weather. The odds are that you’ll have an excellent vacation. Just don’t leave home before checking the tropical forecast with a reliable source. (I like Weather Underground because they don’t clutter our minds with maybe storms.) And please, if you’re on your way to St. Augustine and a hurricane is destined to meet you here, give us a day or two to deal with the storm clean up. We’re getting good at it.

UV Index

If you’re from the north, you may be somewhat unfamiliar with a UV Index, and you in fact may be unfamiliar with it even as a Florida native. The UV index measures the intensity of the sun’s radiation, and Florida is referred to as a “Very High Risk Area,” in big bold red letters. While the average UV index will usually be a “Moderate” (in yellow regular typeface letters) three to four in the winter months, the UV index will go up to 12 in June and July (keep in mind that anything above an 11 is considered “Extreme” in big bold purple letters). Why purple? I don’t know, what am I? A color expert?

The UV Index isn’t meant to scare you, and if you read the descriptions on the UV Index Report, you’ll see that this measurement is designed to inform you of when to wear sunscreen and sunglasses. That’s it. Check the UV index for St. Augustine here.

People walking along the Bayfront and enjoying the view on a beautiful day in St. Augustine.

 

Wear Sunscreen: SPF 30+ suits most people, especially a waterproof sunscreen that won’t wipe off from the rain, sweat, or from taking a dip in the ocean.
Wear a Hat: Why not? I wear hats. Hats are cool, and they keep your face cool. 
Wear Sunglasses: The sun is bright and if you stare at it, or at the beautiful coastal waters that reflect its magnificence, it won’t be a sensation you enjoy. Sunglasses will make it enjoyable, but I still don’t advocate ever staring at the sun for any reason. I do, however, advocate facing the sun with your eyes closed for a few minutes to just enjoy the heat because if you’re weird like me, there’s nothing better than direct sunlight, except maybe getting into a hot car on a summer day in Florida.
Reapply Sunscreen: Every two hours, to every part of your body where you applied it before. Otherwise you will burn. One coat is never enough. Not even if it’s SPF 95.

Spring

Spring is a beautiful time in Florida, and a historic time. After all, Florida was discovered on Easter and named La Florida for its “flowery” beauty. The spring months are made up of March, April, and May. The average highs tend to be in the 70s and mid-80s, with low levels of precipitation. In the spring, visitors can see beautiful blooms and flowers, even around downtown, and if it gets hot, the Atlantic Ocean and pools are still cool from winter.

Packing List

T-Shirts—While people will spring for the sleeveless shirts in summer, spring is great for tees.
Flip Flops—The official footwear of Florida, giving your feet some fresh air keeps you cool.
Bathing Suit—The weather may be warm, but the water is still cool from winter.

Summer

Summer may be hot, but it’s a great time of year to enjoy the beach, pool, and all forms of water recreation. Summer months include June, July, and August. The average highs in summer tend to be the warmest of the year, in the upper 80s and low 90s. Summer also has more rainfall than the spring months, but storms are usually isolated for a short period of time, often in the afternoon. The sun sets later in summer, sometimes not until after 8:00 p.m., giving vacationers and locals extended evenings to plan lots of fun things to do. You can check sunset/sunrise times to plan for your daily activities.

Packing List

Hat—Prevents ugly sunglasses tans, and keeps the sensitive skin on your face from burning.
Rain Boots—For afternoon thunderstorms and the resulting puddles.
Bathing Suit—Cool off from the hot sunny heat, the water is great!

Fall

If you thought summer was rainy, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. On average, St. Augustine’s wettest month has been September, with an average of 7.5 inches of rain. While many may not want to travel during a wet season, it’s also a great time to score deals on hotels. The fall months include September, October, and November. Since many families are returning to school, September tends to be a great month for retirees, young couples, and non-families to vacation. The average high temperatures are in the 80s and down to the mid-70s, as we get later in the year. Evenings can be in the upper 50s in late fall.

Packing List

Rain Boots—St. Augustine turns into Seattle in the fall, with more rainbows after the storms.
Mixture of Lengths—(shorts with long sleeve tops, t-shirts with jeans)
Bathing Suit—On clear days, the water is still warm from summer and the temps are perfect.

Winter

Winter time is the driest time of the year, and often the nicest; especially for northerners looking to escape the arctic tundra. Snowbirds (or northern visitors) often migrate to St. Augustine for months at a time in order to escape the cold up north. The winter months are December, January, and February. Skies are clear and cloudless, the temperature in the middle of the day is in the low 70s or high 60s. Yes, it’s utterly gorgeous. In fact, winter is my favorite time to just lay out at the beach or by the pool for hours, reading a book or flipping through a magazine.

Packing List

Jacket—If you think Florida doesn’t get cold, you’re wrong. Bring a jacket for after the sun sets.
Layers—It can be 30 degrees F in the morning and 74 degrees by midday.
Bathing Suit—The water may be cold, but winter is the time for clear skies and laying out.

Other Weather Resources

Places to dine outside when the weather is gorgeous

  • Harry’s Seafood: Their outdoor patio is nestled under the shade of trees with a cool, relaxed atmosphere to dine on Cajun food.
  • Sunset Grille: Guests can enjoy ocean breezes and beautiful sunsets with their meal at this St. Augustine Beach restaurant.
  • O.C. White’s: The outside dining area at O.C.’s lies right near the bayfront with picturesque views of the Matanzas River.

A How-To Guide for Being a PLAYERS Spectator

So you’ve been dragged into going to The PLAYERS Championship even though you don’t know a single thing about golf and you’ve never been to a golf event in your entire life. Being on a stadium course can be a mind-boggling maze of ropes and hand signals and people in polos either yelling at you or pouring you a drink.

For someone who’s never found themselves at a PGA Tour event, it’s very different from other sports. There are no cheerleaders, no chants, no large posters and painted faces (although, actually, why not?). In fact, it makes spectating at other sports seem incredibly simple, considering that most times you just go sit your butt down, stay there, and everything comes to you (including foul balls).

That’s why I’m here. I don’t know anything about golf even though I’ve grown up in a land of greenways. I’ve gone to experience The PLAYERS Championship as a beginner and lived to tell the tale–everything is going to be okay, and the PLAYERS is actually a very fun event. So fun in fact that you could easily spend an enjoyable day on the grounds chilling at the various dining areas and walking through the pro shop, and leave still not understanding anything that’s happening.

The PLAYERS is happy to welcome people who are new to golf, but there are some important rules around the sport to follow. These rules help to respect the golfers who are competing, the volunteers who are trying to facilitate the crowds, and the other attendees.

So grab a pen and paper and take notes for this important golf etiquette lesson — there will be a quiz.

Shut Up and Stop Moving

One of the first things I noticed as I was loudly chatting away and walking around the course, is that suddenly mine was the only voice I could hear. That’s because this was happening: 

When the volunteers stand like this with their hands up, it means “Shut up and stop moving,” or more accurately “Stop and be quiet.” It’s just for a few seconds, and it helps allow the competitors to concentrate on their swing. Sounds crazy, but hitting a tiny white ball with a slim rod requires a great deal of focus (I’m being sarcastic, it’s not crazy at all that this is difficult, and it’s why I barely make par at the putt putt range let alone the actual TPC Stadium course.)

Cameras Click 

The “Be quiet and stand still” doesn’t just mean to stop talking. It means “don’t make sounds,” including the very loud click sound that a camera makes when the shutter slams down (or the pretend shutter sound your phone makes when it’s not on silent mode). The PLAYERS is happy to let you take photos and snap your time at the TPC, but make sure you wait for the all clear or turn your phone on silent.

Remember, photos must be for your own personal use. If you’re using it for business or giving a play-by-play of everything that’s happening, you must apply for a media credential and follow the rules for capturing tournament content.

Don’t Drink and Drink…and Drink

Enjoy your drinks, and don’t let your drinks enjoy you.

There are an incredible number of bars and drinking spots at Sawgrass. The selection of drinks you can find is exceptional. Doesn’t matter if you’re a wine connoisseur, a whiskey snob, or a beer kinda dude or dudette. Whatever your poison, don’t get so drunk that you disturb the people around you or end up needing medical attention. Also, remember to have a ride if you decide to drink.

A special area of the tournament allows Uber drivers to come pick you up while another area serves for carpooling should you need a ride home after downing all those Arnie Palmers (JK, there’s no alcohol in those, but they are very delicious).

Listen to the Volunteers

In general, listen to the directions the volunteers give you — especially when it comes to navigating the course. A series of ropes are set up, and in order to allow the competitors and their caddies to move from one hole to another, the volunteers will temporarily move the ropes to open up a new path. When this happens, wait behind the line until they’ve said it’s okay to pass again.

If you have a question, before you go to the course volunteers, consider hitting up one of the information kiosks. They’ve got maps and tee times along with answers to any questions you may have. The main job of the rope people is to move the ropes so they might not always be in a position to help you.

No Autographs Means No Autographs

I don’t care if Rickie Fowler is right in front of you being amazing and oh my goodness, he’s literally feet away from you and it’d be so easy to just yell for him. NO AUTOGRAPHS ON THE COURSE.

If you do want autographs, these areas will be clearly marked with signs that basically say “It’s okay to get an autograph here.” So if the sign says “No Autographs,” be respectful and let the golfers get on with it.

PGA Owns Everything

In case you aren’t aware, most sports organizations work hard to protect their product. The PGA Tour works very hard and there are many guidelines and rules about how to record and report on the TPC if you are media personnel.

First off, in order to do anything of this nature, whether you’re a social media influencer or a tourism industry professional like me or a freelance photographer, you must apply for proper media credentials. Even with media credentials, it’s important to know that at the end of the day, the PGA Tour owns the rights to the media taken on their property. “What about the photos in this article?” Yes! Everything. 

Smoke Away

While most stadiums don’t allow smoking, Sawgrass is a huge open space which means smoking a cigar with your buddies isn’t (terribly) annoying at all. Just make sure you’re not blowing huge smoke clouds in the face of strangers. If you have some nice smokes, this is the place to bring them.

With a green light like that, consider stopping by some of St. Augustine’s tobacco shops. They’re stocked with all the accessories and variety of cigar brands for a celebratory smoke.

Don’t Walk the “Carts Only” Tracks

There are these signs, and they say “Carts Only.” What it essentially means is that if you aren’t battery operated and equipped to carry multiple passengers, then don’t take this path. There’s a completely separate path for vehicles like yourself.

Throw Away Your Crud

Food glorious food is available from a variety of stands. Options include Mexican, barbecue, and deli sandwiches. The best part is that a lot of these restaurants are local which further adds to the tournament atmosphere at Sawgrass.

So grab a plate and chow down, but please please please place your disposable food byproducts into the appropriate garbage receptacles, and recycle that which is recyclable. 

You Must Have a Parking Pass Before You Come

This can’t be said enough. You must have a paid parking pass on the dashboard of your car before you come rolling up to the PLAYERS on Thursday through Sunday. Parking is plentiful, but PGA Tour loves providing alternate options including coming by Uber, golf cart, bicycle, or carpooling. In fact, you can get a free parking voucher if you bring four or more passengers in one car. But again, YOU MUST HAVE THE PRINTED PARKING PASS VOUCHER TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS, and you’re going to have to print one out for each day.

PGA? More like TSA

Okay, that’s a drastic comparison, but The PLAYERS does have a very clear bag policy and list of prohibited items. Make sure you don’t show up at the gate with things that shouldn’t be on your person or you’ll be sent back to your car to leave it behind (trust me, after a day at the TPC, you won’t need those extra steps).

Some items are obvious no-nos such as fireworks, laser pointers, and guns. Others are more obscure items such as point-and-shoot, film, or DSLR cameras during competition rounds, lawn chairs, and seat cushions in a carrying case. Bags 6″ x 6″ x 6″ or smaller are allowed, but any larger than that isn’t permitted.

Remember that a lot of items are allowed as long as you don’t have them in a bag, so if it’s an umbrella or collapsible chair, just remember that you’re going to have to lug it in by itself.

Okay, Quiz Time!

Did you think I was kidding?

 

Take the Stress out of Fishing with a Charter

Even though I was born and raised in Florida, I’ve never gone fishing here. In fact, the one time I went fishing was in a trout farm in North Carolina. But I’m not blind to the culture. I see all the profile pictures of people holding fish. How I longed to be one of those people. But how do you get a memorable fishing experience in Florida when you’re not familiar with fishing?

I’ll tell you how! Book a fishing charter! A fishing charter is essentially like a private one-on-one fishing trip that takes care of all the extra complicated stuff so you don’t have to. For my first fishing charter ever, I partnered with Fishardy Charters who showed my Visit St Augustine colleague and I just how stress-free a charter can be. It was as easy as showing up to a boat ramp at 7:00 a.m. (which I realize is still a difficult task for some people). Fishardy Charters took care of everything from beginning to end.

So If you’re wanting to top your Florida vacation with some local fishing, here are some of the amazing ways a fishing charter works to serve your needs.

1. The boat’s already in the water.

I know people with boats and I’ve seen the amount of work that goes into it. Not just storing and regular maintenance, but transporting the boat to the ramp, getting it in the water, paying dock fees, filling it with gas. The wonderful thing about going with a charter is that you show up and 99% of the time, that boat is already in the water ready to go.  

Remember when you’re paying that final bill for the fishing charter, this is the kind of convenience you’re paying for.

Just for record, the boat you’re seeing here being backed into the water isn’t even the boat we went on. That one is at the dock to the left—already waiting for its passengers to board.

2. Your fishing licenses are taken care of.

Fishing licenses can be pretty simple, but they vary from county to county and certain licenses are required for certain kinds of fishing, like freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing. Not only that, but there are certain rules about what you’re allowed to catch and how much of it you can catch (of course, all things that I did not know before going on a fishing charter). 

A fishing charter captain will typically take care of your fishing licenses for you, and are well-read on the local fish quotas and measurements allowed. Captains will know which prize fish you can take home and which you’ll just want to take a snapshot with.

I don’t want to set false expectations, but this was my first catch in Florida, and it happened about one minute after my first cast at 7:30 a.m. Captain Jacob helped me net this redfish, telling me when to let it take some of the line and when to begin reeling again. Obviously this fish was way too large to keep, but something I found comforting was that Captain Jacob at Fishardy Charters even knew how to gently release the fish in order to help it recuperate and keep on swimming–another thing I’d never considered. A captain familiar with fishing will show you how to hold the fish and will even release it for you just like Captain Jacob did for me.

3. They’ll play Captain, so you don’t have to.

There’s a lot of responsibility when it comes to being a captain. Not only bringing the boat into water and filling the tank with gas, but also being responsible in case of an emergency. Allowing someone else to be captain means you’ve got someone who’s CPR certified and equipped to respond when things get choppy.

Also, because they’re avid boaters, you don’t have to worry about another license (which is completely separate from a fishing license). So if you don’t like extensive paperwork and research, or you’re wanting someone to guide you through the experience, a fishing charter is definitely the way to go.

4. All your fishing supplies are provided.

Rod, reel, bait, net, cooler, bottled water, first aid kit — a fishing charter takes care of all the supplies you’ll need for a fishing trip. Which means that I don’t have to walk aimlessly around the fishing aisle stretching glittery plastic worms and mumbling to myself about different rod sizes.

But don’t be mistaken in thinking the charter will have ‘everything.’ There are a few charter essentials that captains will expect you to bring–but they’ll let you know ahead of time. Typically this includes sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, food to snack on, cameras, and any drinks you might want to enjoy out on the water.

5. Fishing with a professional who knows the waters.

The most wonderful thing about local charters is that many of them are St. Augustine natives. They’ve grown up on the water, they know the water, and they can take you to all the prime fishing spots right away so that you don’t have to waste your time trying to locate them. They know which fish can be found in which place, and what time of year they’re around, and they’ll navigate to those places effortlessly, so that you get the most out of your time.

6. They are there to help.

Whether you’re learning how to cast or have kids trying out fishing for the first time, a fishing charter captain is there to help. They can teach you how to cast, throw out a line for you, or give you tips. They can be as involved as you want them to be in your fishing experience.

7. It’s a fishing trip and scenic tour combined.

Going on a charter also gives you an opportunity to explore some beautiful scenery, especially those sunrise charters that leave early in the morning. And the waters around St. Augustine provide a spectacular view. There’s the landmark Bridge of Lions, the Castillo de San Marcos, the Lighthouse, and even a fishing spot right near the Great Cross at the Mission Nombre de Dios. You may even see some other local wildlife such as birds, dolphins, and manatees.

8. They’ll clean and fillet your fish for you.

And if they don’t or they add an extra charge, then find another fisherman. A good charter will be happy to prepare your fish for you—it’s all part of the package. That way you don’t have to turn your stomach trying to cut apart the beautiful fish you’ve caught and turn it into delicious seafood. Just make sure you have a cooler and some ice to put them on until you get home.

The right captain isn’t just a lackey at your beck and call–they’re a part of the experience with you, journeying to help you accomplish something new, and celebrating in your successes. Even though I was completely new to fishing, Captain Jacob never made me feel stupid or out of touch because of my lack of experience. On the contrary, he was excited to share something he’s passionate about with me, and he effectively played his part in helping me catch my first fish. Fishing charters love introducing their lifestyle to people who are unfamiliar with it as much as they enjoy accompanying seasoned fishers.

If all this doesn’t convince you to take the leap and book a fishing charter, then I don’t know what will! It’s one of the most Florida things you can experience while on vacation in the Sunshine State. Having made it through, I can tell you that it’s a deeply satisfying feeling to eat something that you’ve caught with your own hands. The fish always tastes a whole lot better when you worked for it. Just make sure you have a vacation rental or kitchen-equipped room so you can actually enjoy it. And remember to thank your Captain!

Other Water Resources

* St. Augustine Water Tours

* Fishing in St. Augustine

* Boating Rentals and Charters

* St. Augustine Marinas

* Water Fun

* Waterfront Places to Stay

* Local Seafood Restaurants

* Seafood Festival

10 Ways to Get Outdoors in the Fall

Hey you! Yes, you!

What are you doing inside? There’s light and life to experience outdoors.

As someone who lives to be outdoors as much as humanly possible, when deciding whether or not to relocate to St. Augustine, outdoor-friendliness was a key deciding factor, and ultimately a selling point.

Lucky for me, and all of my fellow outdoor enthusiasts planning a visit to St. Augustine, not only is the city the historic foundation of our nation and a tourism destination for those throughout the states and beyond, it’s outdoor-friendly. Whether you are in the market for some serious legwork or prefer a more leisurely time of exploration, the nation’s oldest city has it all.

Did I mention fall is just about the perfect time to make a visit to Florida? While many parts of the country are already being coaxed indoors thanks to biting wind and piles of snow, not here, not us! As an added draw, November just so happens to be the driest month on record in St. Augustine. Thanks to virtually rain-free skies and mild temperatures, during the daytime hours, you can pull off wearing what I like to refer to as the Five S’s on a regular basis: sunglasses, shorts, a sweater, sandals (or sneakers), and a scarf.

  • Sunglasses: Florida is the Sunshine State, after all.
  • Shorts: When the temperatures are in the 60s, it feels nice to let your legs run free while soaking up some Vitamin D.
  • Sweater: The lightweight kind of sweater that other parts of the country might scoff at is oh-so-fitting for Florida.
  • Sandals (or sneakers): I once hated flip-flops, but was told when I moved to St. Augustine, I must own a pair. Needless to say I caved, and now I wear them every single day. Depending on how much activity I’m doing, I regularly alternate my flip-flops with street shoes, like sneakers.
  • Scarf: I know a scarf might seem slightly silly when paired with shorts and sandals, but trust me when I say, you’ll want to have a scarf with you since you can always count on it to be breezy by the bayfront and the Atlantic Ocean.

Now that you’re dressed and ready for some outdoor fall fun in St. Augustine, here are 10 ways to get outdoors (and stay there) this season.

1. Downtown Wandering

Whether you are flying solo or traveling in a pack, the streets of Historic Downtown St. Augustine are filled with enough sights and sounds to keep you entertained all day long and well into the evening hours. From coffee shops to art galleries, downtown has countless stops for you to take advantage of while you wander. As an added wandering bonus, if you decide to venture down the acclaimed St. George Street, the only traffic you’ll have to watch out for are other sight-seeing pedestrians. If you arrive at St. George around 11:00 a.m. just as the shops are opening their doors, you’ll be able to wander at ease without being forced to dodge an abundance of fellow tourists. 

Sidenote: While downtown, you owe it to yourself to step inside Flagler College at least long enough to tilt your head back and look up at the magnificent dome ceiling.

2. Two-Wheel Cruising

If you own a bike that you don’t mind towing with you on your trip, cycling offers an inviting way to experience downtown St. Augustine, and get some aerobic exercise in the process. If you don’t have your own set of two wheels you feel like carting along, you can easily rent a bicycle during your stay. Situated in the heart of downtown at 125 King Street, Fun Rentals offers a large selection of wheels, including bicycles. These wheels are available for rent by the hour, day, week, or month, with drop off/pick up options available.

3. Lighthouse Climbing

A short drive or bike ride from downtown St. Augustine over the Bridge of Lions will lead you straight to the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Climbing the 219 stairs to the top of this landmark will give your legs some work and grant you panoramic views of the area’s landscape. If you’d rather have more of a thrill, you can always wait until nightfall for a Lighthouse visit and opt to partake in a ghost tour.

4. Park Exploring

Happen to be a hiking or camping fan? Situated on Anastasia Island in walking distance of the Lighthouse is Anastasia State Park. This state park includes more than 1,600 acres for you to explore. Such exploration opportunities include camping, kayaking, canoeing, paddle-boarding, swimming, picnicking, fishing, boating, windsurfing, hiking, and more. For those seeking to stay overnight, the park’s full-facility campground provides you a serene wooded area to rest your head.

And that’s just one of the state and county parks and conservation districts. There are numerous parks with trails or paved paths all over St. Augustine. From the Dr. Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park in Lincolnville (an easy walk from Historic Downtown) to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Marine Estuary Research Reserve (known by locals as the GTM Reserve) just a few miles north of Vilano Beach on A1A.

5. City Running

Participants race quickly over asphalt.

While the beach is a prime spot to kick back and relax while listening to the waves of the Atlantic Ocean roll in, thanks to its wide shorelines and hard-packed sand, the beach is also an ideal place for a run, especially when the tide is out. Of course, you don’t have to stick to the sand. Downtown St. Augustine’s small radius and high number of pedestrians make it a safe and readily navigable terrain. Plus running is always a great way to learn your way around a city. If you time it right, you can make it to the top of the Bridge of Lions just before the drawbridge opens and take a timeout to enjoy picturesque views of the bayfront. If you are looking to make your trip a true “runcation” (vacation centered around a race), almost every Saturday during the fall season there is a 5K race to participate in.

Here are a few late autumn races of various distances taking place in St. Augustine:

  • Shut Up and Run 5K: This Thanksgiving Day run benefits the St. Francis House, a local shelter that provides food, a roof, and resources to homeless men, women, and families in St. Augustine.
  • Santa Suits on the Loose 5K: This holiday family run benefiting St. Augustine Youth Services features runners dressed in Santa suits and other Christmas-time costumes.

6. Market Shopping

Every Saturday morning the St. Augustine Amphitheatre Farmers Market sets up shop just outside the front gates of the The Amp from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Here you will find local farmers with fresh produce, as well as vendors offering natural juices, hot (or iced) coffee, homemade pastas, vegan muffins, local honey, baked bread, decadent jams, and more. The market also includes a variety of area artisans showcasing their crafts. If you are having an extended stay in St. Augustine and plan on doing some cooking during your time here, the market makes a great one-stop shop for your food needs. If you aren’t here on a Saturday, don’t fret, the market also sets up at the pier on Wednesday mornings, meaning you have two chances each week to take advantage of the great many goodies the local farmers brings to the table.

7. Authentic Brunching

Before embarking on a day filled with outdoor wonder, why not start things off with the most important meal of the day? Yep. You guessed it—breakfast! Downtown St. Augustine has several well-kept breakfast secrets that allow you to brunch like a local while starting your day outside thanks to patio seating.

Try Nero’s Waterfront Cafe located on St. Augustine’s bayfront. Nero’s Cafe offers breakfast and lunch with a view of the water and all who pass along the sidewalk of Avenida Menendez.  Nero’s is particularly known for their variations of Eggs Benedict, including one served between two pancakes. (The photos is of Nero’s Hash and Eggs.) 

Or, pick up a coffee to go at one of the cafes in Historic Downtown and start wandering, so you can let your nose pick your breakfast spot.

8. Fort Touring

Both Historic Downtown St. Augustine and Anastasia Island provide you the opportunity to tour a historic fort and enjoy your natural surroundings while receiving a taste of history. If you time it right, you might even get to experience some historical reenacting, including a canon firing.

  • Castillo De San Marcos (Downtown): While walking around Castillo De San Marcos is an experience in itself, you can also explore the interior of this mighty fortress for a detailed look at its history and coquina composition. For a more relaxed and less crowded visit, it is recommended to visit the fort early, or on a weekday. That said, there are perks to stopping by on a weekend, specifically if you plan your visit around a cannon firing. General admission tickets to enter the fort are $7.00 and valid for seven days. 
  • Fort Matanzas (Island): What once guarded St. Augustine’s southernmost inlet (or “back door”) from attack, is historic Fort Matanzas. Due to its location south of St. Augustine, many visitors overlook this prized historical monument. Upon entering the fort grounds, you will be shaded by giant live oak trees that are more than 150 years old. If you care for an up-close view of Fort Matanzas, a free boat ride will take you to explore. 

9. Green Gaming

If you elect to visit Castillo De San Marcos, the fort greens make an ideal, centrally located yet scenic spot to pause for a picnic or to run around and play games if you have the entire family with you. On a sunny fall day, you are sure to see the greens packed with locals and tourists alike. Still, these aren’t the only greens in town. Just a short drive up San Marco Avenue is the Mission Nombre de Dios. Here you can walk about the grounds, and take a seat on the greens in the shadow of the Great Cross. 

10. Art Walking

All for art and art for all! Although art abounds in St. Augustine the entire month through, there are specifically designated days each month on which area galleries and other art-focused local businesses partake in an entire night dedicated to art.

First Friday: Every first Friday of the month, downtown St. Augustine is dedicated to the Art Walk—a night of art, fellowship, and festive fare. From 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. downtown galleries open their doors and invite you inside to view their showcased artwork. The best part? It’s all free. This means you can save your dollars for purchasing the artwork that you fall in love with. 

More Fall Events

‘Tis the season for festive happenings. Before you plan your visit to St. Augustine, be sure to check out our events section, for a full list of all of the upcoming excitement.

Golfing in a Winter Wonderland

Golf is one of America’s favorite past times — especially so in Florida. The state boasts more than 1,200 courses and is a popular winter destination for northern golf lovers.

Now, I know looks can be deceiving, but my knowledge of golf is actually very limited—meaning, everything I know about golf comes from Happy Gilmore and putt putt. My greatest accomplishment in golf was obtaining the Fore! Achievement in Left 4 Dead, and I probably spend more time at a country club bar (or just a regular bar) than out on the green.

I’m not an expert by any means, but luckily, I work in an office full of them. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking with St. Augustine golfers, it’s this: there is no single type of golfer and no single type of course. This is especially true in St. Augustine, where courses provide something totally different from what’s available anywhere else in the country, and every visitor will find a new challenge waiting for them. St. Augustine also has more than courses. It’s a destination for all things golf – golf vacations, golf history, and glimpses into the PGA.

Florida has Perfect Weather for Golf  

One of the biggest draws for a Florida golf vacation is the weather in the Sunshine state. During the winter months while the north is being pummeled with polar vortexes and houses are being buried in snow, the grass is always greener on the other side (in the south). In fact, winter is usually a wet season, but in Florida, it’s one of the driest times of the year. Precipitation averages are 2.4 mm in December and 2.7 mm in January. Along with it being seasonably dry, it’s also much cooler by Florida standards—a.k.a. perfect weather by everyone else’s standards. During the months of December and January, daytime highs average 65 to 70°F (18 to 21°C), making it comfortably temperate for someone to spend the whole day outside swinging a golf club around.

Scenery on St. Augustine’s Greens 

Along with having delightfully pleasant weather in the winter months, Florida’s golf courses are characterized by beautiful landscape and wildlife. Florida is not particularly mountainous or hilly, giving the land an ideal amount of leveling to keep a round of golf both challenging and fun. Greens have marshlands and ponds where it’s not uncommon to see some of the same wildlife you’d find in a nature reserve or on a trail. Florida golfers spot cranes, turtles, deer, armadillos, and even alligators while golfing (I do not recommend chasing your ball if it goes into water). Vegetation and plants consists of palm trees and sea oats that border sand traps and greens, as well as towering pines and hearty Southern Oak trees. Arguably, golfing on Florida’s greens gives visitors a greater glimpse of the land and wildlife than anywhere else. For those used to gray skies and dead foliage in the winter, it’s enough to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Courses

The St. Augustine region is home to some phenomenal courses, from the elite to the on-budget vacationer. Here are a few public courses worth checking out.

World Golf Village

The World Golf Village is situated just north of St. Augustine. It boasts two championship courses: the King & Bear and Slammer & Squire. Along with having two professionally designed greens, World Golf Village has a ton of on-site amenities, and golf resort packages. Both courses have made the list of the most women-friendly courses in the country, along with being top golf resort courses.

King & Bear

King & Bear is a collaboration project between the techniques of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Both are renowned golfers who each call Florida “home.” Every hole on King & Bear is characteristic of the players, and the course is essentially a “driver’s” course. 

Slammer & Squire

Slammer & Squire is another top rated course at World Golf Village, opened in 1998 and designed by Bobby Weed with the help of consultants Sam “The Slammer” Snead and Gene “The Squire” Sarazen. This course plays host to the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, a Senior PGA TOUR EVENT. 

Both World Gold Village courses have rates that range from $59 – $229 per player and include green fee and cart fee.

TPC Sawgrass

The Players Championship is one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world, and many don’t realize this, but it’s played right in Ponte Vedra, just a few miles north of St. Augustine. It boasts tons of courses both public and private. Getting a tee time is competitive and expensive, but well worth the investment for golfers looking for the kind of unique and elite golf experience that only professionals can get.

The Players Stadium Course

These are the same greens that championship golfers have graced with their presence. It’s been honored with multiple accolades including 9th overall among “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses” in 2011-12. Reservations for this course are highly competitive. Golf-only reservations are available 14 days in advance, and Stay & Play packages are available one year in advance. Green fees are $450 – $600, but hey, do you expect any less to be playing on the same TPC course that professionals such as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have golfed on? #worthit

Dye’s Valley Course

Dye’s Valley Course is the other public course located at Sawgrass. It has water on every hole and a well-manicured green. It’s the sister course to the Players Stadium Course, providing all the trimmings without the price tag and the crowds. Green fees are $175 – $275.

St. Johns Golf Club

This public course is a favorite among local golfers. St. Johns Golf Club‘s December specials include holiday packages with sweet sports gear and your golf games.

St. Johns Golf and Country Club

Not to be confused with St. Johns Golf Club, the St. Johns Golf and Country Club has five tees plus a family tee, and is situated in Florida’s pine forests.

The Royal St. Augustine

An 18-hole public course with three tees to accommodate golfers of every skill level. Practice facilities are available on site to help players improve their golf game.

Golf Club at South Hampton

The course at South Hampton shows a view of all 18 holes online, so you know what you’re getting. The most challenging hole is a par 5 stretching 571 yards.

St. Augustine Shores

Multiple tees at this 18-hole course allow for beginners still learning the ins-and-outs, and professionals looking to maneuver water hazards and long drives.

Tee Times and Green Fees

The sun may shine bright and clear during the day, but since it’s winter, the amount of daylight is much shorter than in the summer months. As such, it’s important to book a tee time in advance for your golf vacation. Take advantage of the winter solstice by getting a discount on your round of golf for the twilight tee times four hours before sunset.

Locations such as World Golf Village have special packages catering to guests who plan on golfing during their vacation. It usually includes the green fees for a discount in the price of the hotel.

Green fees at courses around town can range from $18 to more than $300 depending on the club and tee time.

Golf Amenities

Packing all your clubs may be cumbersome and pricey on airlines. To avoid paying a hefty checked luggage fee, take advantage of club rentals in St. Augustine. Many golf destinations such as World Golf Village offer visitors club and golf cart rentals.

If you need some practice swings to gear up for a game, there are also practice facilities at the clubs around St. Augustine. St. Johns Golf Club has a driving range longer than 325 yards, and a small bag of 35 balls is only $4.50. World Golf Village’s practice facility at King & Bear and Slammer & Squire is complimentary with a round of golf. Their practice area has a driving range, putting green, and chipping green.

Pro Shops

If you’ve left something behind or maybe just want to check out the Florida-y inventory, golfers will find a pro shop to browse through at almost all the courses, even municipal ones. You can browse through golf balls, gear, and souvenir golf shirts to remember your round of golf on Florida’s courses. If you need a new grip on your club or your driver re-shafted, club repair is available at several clubs, including St. Johns Golf Club.

Many clubs, such as South Hampton, have an online shop as well. Gift cards for a round of golf are also available to purchase as gifts.

Food Fares on the Fairway

Remember that 19th hole bar I mentioned earlier? The one that I sit at while everyone else golfs? There are actually some pretty nice ones and they serve some impressive meals along with a full bar menu. You’ll find mint juleps and bloody marys and whatever other southern cocktail you’re intent on trying in order to really pull off a complete experience. Legends Grille at Slammer & Squire has happy hour Monday through Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. with $2.00 draft beers, $4.00 house wines, and $4.00 well drinks. The Murray Bros. Caddyshack Restaurant is co-owned among the six Murray brothers, including award-winning actor Bill Murray. It features a fun golf caddy theme and proudly displays the family’s love of good golf and appetizing food.

If you’re hungry, dining at these Florida-style golf club restaurants can be a relaxing and satisfying way to end the day. Champions Grille at WGV has a full menu for breakfast and lunch from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with dinner served from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Sunday nights. There’s also a cafe if golfers are looking to grab a coffee and a breakfast sandwich before their round.

Mini Golf

If you want to share golf with the rest of the family, another great activity is to play a round at one of St. Augustine’s many mini golf courses. During the winter, courses such as La Fiesta decorate to give the experience a “winter wonderland” feel. The putt putt course at Adventure Landing is just off the next exit south of World Golf Village.

Places to Stay for a Golf Vacation

World Golf Village Renaissance is an obvious first choice for many when it comes to golf vacation accommodations. The hotel is within walking distance of all the World Golf Village amenities.

Another option that many don’t think to consider is a vacation rental within one of the golf club communities. Something to check out when perusing Airbnb options.

Wherever you stay, there will always be golf courses nearby as well as attractions and activities for you and your family to enjoy while visiting St. Augustine.

Paul’s Picks

Paul, an avid golfer in our office, shares some of his insider golf info:

For more golf vacation packages in St. Augustine, check out World Golf Village or Florida’s First Coast of Golf.

11 Ways to Keep Cool When the Heat is On

Summer’s here, and the time is right for a Florida vacation! Sure, it’s hot, but that’s part of the Florida vacation experience. St. Augustine is right on the ocean, so it’s usually cooler than some other Florida destinations just because of the breezes off the water. But come August and September, it’s hard to find any place in the south that it isn’t a bit uncomfortable because of the heat.

However, there are ways to deal with the summer heat. After all, people have been living in Florida for hundreds and hundreds of years. (Europeans started building the town back in 1565.) As the city evolved, the streets were purposely kept narrow to funnel that ocean breeze into the interior streets. Balconies and courtyards are common, offering cool and shady respites from the heat. The founders and early settlers of this wonderful town didn’t need air conditioning! So why should we?

Well, let’s not be hasty. But it is important for our visitors to remember to pace themselves, avoid too much sun exposure, and stay hydrated when they’re exploring the nation’s oldest city. So here are some handy tips to keeping cool during your St. Augustine adventure.

Interested in learning more? Read on for details.

1. Wear a big hat.

Like a candy store for hats, the Panama Hat Company at 46 St. George Street has walls and walls of sun hats and straw hats, boaters and bowlers, fedoras and fezzes and much, much more. The hard part is choosing just one. 

2. Enjoy a FROZEN hot chocolate.

The frozen hot chocolate at Whetstone Chocolates is a summer staple in St. Augustine — a must-have for visitors and locals alike.

3. Catch a breeze.

Sailing is the ultimate way to keep cool … no steamy sidewalks, no exhaust fumes or city noise. St. Augustine Sailing offers charter and group sailing adventures on the sailboats and catamarans in their fleet, with special sailing experiences for each season. The Schooner Freedom has daily tours that can take you away from it all on the waters of Matanzas Bay. More than just a way to keep cool, a sailing excursion offers immersion in the natural world, complete with dolphins playing in your wake!

4. Seek out shade.

If you can’t find a nice stand of trees or a spreading live oak to sit under, you can always provide your own shade. A nice big sun umbrella is the only way to go when you’re on the beach. Need some extra shade? Try renting a beach tent from Drifters Beach & Bike Rentals

5. Come inside … it’s air-conditioned!

St. Augustine has several excellent indoor attractions, and a couple of outdoor attractions that offer indoor, air-conditioned experiences. Here’s a list of just a few:

Spanish Military Hospital Museum

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum

The Old Jail

The Oldest Store Museum

St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Potter’s Wax Museum

Whetstone Chocolate

The Fountain of Youth (The Planetarium and the Discovery Globe are both indoor shows that are kept nice and cool.) 

Or, enjoy some air conditioned live theatre, local music, or comedy shows at Limelight Theatre, the Waterworks, or Third Space Improv.

6. Have a pop!

If you can dream up an unusual flavor for a popsicle, they probably have it at The Hyppo. You can live dangerously and try a ginger plum, dark roast espresso, avocado coconut, or datil pepper cucumber, or play it safe with a more traditional flavor, like peachy peach or raspberry lemonade (pictured above). The Hyppo has two locations downtown: at 48 Charlotte Street and 70 St. George Street

7. Wear loose, cotton clothing.

The breezy entryway of Cottonways at 56 Hypolita Street lets you know you’ve come to the right place for cool and comfortable clothing. The shop has a wide selection of women’s clothing in all colors and styles, all 100% cotton gauze. (Sorry, guys — there’s nothing for you here. But you won’t have any problem finding your ideal souvenir t-shirt in shops throughout the downtown area.)

7. Take a nap.

You found your shade, you have a big hat. There’s nothing to stop you from taking a little afternoon nap. It doesn’t have to be a long one – just a catnap, as pictured above. 

8. Scoop up a scoop.

Tedi’s is the oldest ice cream shop in the nation’s oldest city, which means they’ve had plenty of time to perfect their product! All their ice cream is homemade with all fresh ingredients in a variety of flavors. Have it on a freshly baked waffle cone or in a cup or whipped into a milkshake. You’ll also find a couple of delicious ways to quench your thirst at Tedi’s. Try one of their famous lemonades — hand-squeezed or frozen.

10. Feel the CHILL of the night!

Whether by trolley, by train, by hearse, or by foot, St. Augustine’s got the ghost tour to make your blood run cold. The Ghosts & Gravestones tour stops at the infamously haunted Old Jail (pictured above) — a location that is guaranteed to send some shivers down your spine. Visit here for a full list of walking, riding, drinking, and investigating adventures that go out every night in the nation’s oldest city. 

11. Eat watermelon.

St. Augustine has two fantastic Farmers Markets each week — at the St. Johns County Pier on Wednesday mornings and one at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre on Saturdays. You can also find watermelons all summer long at Publix supermarkets or at any of the fruit and vegetable stands in the area. The taste of watermelon = the taste of summer. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Getting Out on the Water with Eco Tours

Like many beach-loving children, I grew up with a mild obsession for dolphins. I had dolphin books, dolphin stuffed animals, dolphin jewelry… the list goes on. I enjoyed seeing them at the aquariums and SeaWorld, however after watching The Cove & Blackfish my love for them grew even stronger. St. Augustine Eco Tours offers opportunities to non-invasively view dolphins and other marine life at a close distance. Children and adults can enjoy their presence and observe the animals in their own habitat, without intruding.

A family of dolphins that we saw swimming out into the ocean.
A family of dolphins that we saw swimming out into the ocean.

The  Dolphin & Bird tour is an hour and a half of a relaxing, yet exciting, boat ride. When my husband and I did the tour, we were riding along with an out-of-state family of four.

There are between 300 and 500 dolphins in St. Augustine, counted by dorsal fin sightings. We saw at least five different pods and were even able to listen to them over an underwater microphone. We could hear them communicating with one another and also heard the crackling of pistol shrimp.

The microphone used to listen to the dolphins.
The microphone used to listen to the dolphins.

On our surprisingly smooth ride we also saw two bald eagles in a tree. I had brought along my own pair of binoculars, so I was able to take a long look at them, but the captain had a pair to share. There are more than 1,500 bald eagles in Florida now. Still a rare sight, it’s great that the guides know where to look for them.

Looking through the binoculars at the 2 bald eagles.
Looking through the binoculars at the two bald eagles.

We were on the lookout for manatees too, but with the water a little too chilly for them in April we didn’t see any. Again the guide knew where they hung out, an area where fresh water is pumped into the Matanzas. With each oyster filtering a gallon of water an hour, cautious boaters and other eco conscious individuals say the cleanliness of the Matanzas River allows for a lot of marine life to inhabit St. Augustine’s waterways.

This box jellyfish was interesting to learn about, too. When alive, there is a little crab that lives in the jellyfish and kind of cleans up after him. If the jellyfish dies, the crab will move on and find another jelly. The kids were able to touch this jellyfish because he wasn’t alive and wasn’t able to sting anyone.

St. Augustine Eco Tour Guide holding the box jelly fish.
St. Augustine Eco Tour Guide holding the box jelly fish.

The boat ride went from the downtown marina out to the inlet then south down the Intracoastal. From riding our own boat and fishing up and down the Intracoastal I thought I knew a lot about marine life in St. Augustine. I was really surprised by how much more I learned on this trip. Take your kids on this tour for a different view of St Augustine. Being on the water will allow for some awesome snapshots of the historic town from a different angle, so don’t forget your camera. The bigger your camera’s lens, the better to catch dolphin and bird shots, too!

View of  downtown St. Augustine's bayfront from the boat ride.
View of downtown St. Augustine’s bayfront from the boat ride.

Looking for more outdoor attractions by the water?

  • The Schooner Freedom: A scenic cruise or a ghost cruise, enjoy your ride on this 19th century 72′ sailboat and take in the sights.
  • Action Kayak Adventures: Take a guided kayak fishing tour through the waterways that the bigger boats can’t get too. Rods, bait, and coolers are included.
  • Genung’s Fish Camp: An iconic Old Florida Fish Camp, Genung’s also rents kayaks and paddleboards.

Local St. Augustine blogger Meaghan Alvarado is a Flagler College graduate who writes on many topics ranging from fashion and food to crafts and local St. Augustine happenings. 

This article was updated in 2024.

Enjoy Local Foods in the Fall

Where does your food come from? If you’re not sure or are afraid to even look, make a positive change and shop local in St. Augustine! Fall is harvest time and that means delicious, organically grown produce that is ripe for the picking!

If you love to cook or are looking for healthy options, check out these local farmer’s markets or food stands to fill your pantry with fresh, organic foods. Visitors and locals will not only help themselves, but they’ll also help St. Augustine’s local economy.

farmers market tents

The St. Augustine Farmer’s Market is especially popular in the fall.

Every Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. there is a farmer’s market at the St. Augustine Beach Pier Park offering local produce from around Florida. This market provides organically grown vegetables, fruits, and herbs. The market is located at 350 A1A Beach Blvd, St. Augustine, FL 32080.

If you can’t make it to the Wednesday market there is another farmer’s market on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. Here you can also find locally grown vegetables, fruits, herbs and more. The harvest season will produce a large variety of local foods so come out and see for yourself. The Amphitheatre is located at 1340 A1A South St. Augustine, FL 32080.

Visitors will find locally grown goods at the farmers market every week.

The fresh tomatoes at the farmer’s market are always gorgeous. 

Sykes and Cooper Farms is a local, family run farm near St. Augustine, in Elkton, Florida. Sykes and Cooper Farms hosts many fun events throughout the year including the family friendly Corn Maze event that they do every fall.

Maze Entrance at Sykes Family Farms in Elkton, Florida

Fall is even more fun when you include a visit to Sykes and Cooper Farms.

Their farm is located at 5995 Brough Rd. Elkton, FL 32033 and their contact information is (904) 692-1370 or reach them by email at [email protected].

For more info on Farmers Markets visit our Calendar of Events.

Diane’s Natural Market is also a great source for organic and local foods.

St. Augustine Golf Courses

The nation’s oldest city is full of charm and history, but St. Augustine also boasts some of the top golf courses in Florida. Our city has established itself as a premier golf destination, in large part due to its sunny weather, but that’s not the only reason. From highly-regarded local clubs to award-winning course designs, the wide range of golf challenges here attracts visitors worldwide. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of playing on a course frequented by the pros or looking for a scenic spot to enjoy a leisurely round, St. Augustine’s golf courses are sure to offer rewarding play.

The Ultimate Proving Grounds 

King and Bear 

Scenic hole at the King and Bear golf course with waterfront green and forested backdrop

The King and Bear course, a collaboration between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, offers wide fairways and fast greens, presenting a unique challenge that blends their signature design styles. This par-72 course stretches more than 7,279 yards, providing a challenge to all golfers while offering tee options to cater to different skill levels. The course’s condition is described as well-maintained with an emphasis on the quality of the course’s fairways and greens. Amenities at King & Bear include a pro shop, a driving range with multiple targets, a short game area, and a large practice putting green. Notably, the course has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Women-Friendly Courses by Golf for Women Magazine, highlighting its accessibility and fun for female golfers.

Slammer and Squire 

The Slammer & Squire Golf Course

Designed by Bobby Weed, with insights from Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, the Slammer and Squire course features generous fairways and tricky par-3s. While accessible to novices, the course’s water hazards and undulating greens still challenge experts. Its 6,939 yards are peppered with challenges that emphasize precision and finesse, making the Slammer and Squire the perfect course to fine-tune that short game. The course is accessible year-round, with peak season from mid-February to May. It also boasts modern amenities such as a driving range, a golf school academy, and various practice areas. The course is suitable for players of all skill levels, offering multiple tee boxes that cater to different handicaps and playing styles.

TPC Sawgrass 

The Players Stadium Course 

The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is renowned worldwide, not just for its impeccable design but for the iconic 17th hole, a par-3 with an island green. This course, built in 1980, is a must-visit for those looking to test their skills against a course that challenges PGA Tour professionals. The Players Stadium Course is celebrated for not favoring any particular player’s style, offering a balanced challenge to test every golfer’s repertoire. While the course poses a challenge, it accommodates players of all abilities by offering a variety of tee boxes to tailor the difficulty level​. Known to golfers worldwide, this course is a popular feature on many golf bucket lists and is easily the most iconic course near St. Augustine.

Dye’s Valley Course 

Golfers at Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.

The par-72, 6847-yard Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass opened in 1987 and was renovated in 2006. The sister course to the Players Stadium Course was designed by Pete Dye, Bobby Weed, and Jerry Pate. The course’s design employs visual tricks, encouraging play towards hazards, creating a challenge at every hole. Though it has large greens, the water hazards, hills, bunkers, and valleys make tough obstacles for players looking to conquer this Korn Ferry Tour course. Golfweek honored Dye’s Valley Course as the 21st best course in Florida in 2017-18, calling it an essential destination for golf enthusiasts. Esteemed for its challenging yet rewarding design, breathtaking scenery, and impeccably maintained fairways and greens, this course stands out for those who value strategic game play.

More Golfing Gems in St. Augustine

Public Courses

Palm Valley Golf Club 

A ground view of Palm Valley Golf Club featuring a lush green, flagstick, and surrounding water hazards

The 9-hole, par-29 course at Palm Valley Golf Club is a local favorite, spanning 1,425 yards. The course consists of par-3 and par-4 holes, ideal for quick games. Featuring manicured greens and a moderate amount of hazards, the course is great for beginners but also offers challenges for intermediate players. The Palm Valley Golf Club was built by Jack and Sue Hord in 1989 and now sits in the Nocatee community in Ponte Vedra. The family-friendly club’s accessible golfing and 10,000-square-foot putting green provide plenty of practice opportunities for golfers of all ages and skill levels.

St. Johns Golf Club 

Aerial view of St. Johns Golf Club fairway, sand bunkers, and a large water hazard snaking through the landscape

Offering a contrast to the tournament-ready courses, the St. Johns Golf Club course provides a picturesque setting and expansive practice facilities designed to be enjoyable for all ages. This par-71, 6,668-yard course was Renovated in 2022. This public course’s diverse challenges make it a perfect spot to enjoy a relaxed round or sharpen your skills.

St. Johns Golf & Country Club 

A drone photo showing hole 9 at St. Johns Golf and Country Club

The St. Johns Golf & Country Club, designed by Clyde Johnson, features large, fast greens, tree-lined fairways, and challenging bunkers. This pristine course also features two-tiered greens and water hazards. The course’s difficulty varies with the wind and tee choice. The practice facilities include a 10,000 sq ft putting green, chipping green, double-sided driving range, and practice bunkers.

Semi-Private Courses

Cimarrone Golf Club 

Cimarrone Golf Clubhouse overlooking undulating fairway and water hazards

Dubbed the “Wild One,” the popular par-72 championship course at Cimarrone Golf Club offers 7,001 yards of compelling golf for players of all abilities. Designed by David Postlethwait, the course offers high-risk-reward play with hazards on every hole. The smaller-than-average greens add to the precision required to conquer this course. Beginners will appreciate the manageable fairways, and members will appreciate the 10,000-square-foot clubhouse that features a restaurant and lounge.

Golf Club at South Hampton 

Expansive view from the tee box at the Golf Club at South Hampton with manicured fairways, strategic bunkers, and left-side tree barrier

Designed by Mark McCumber, the Golf Club at South Hampton is a semi-private, 18-hole course just outside of South Jacksonville. The links-style course offers challenging play with six sets of tees. The course features numerous large lakes and undulating terrain, stretching more than 7,028 yards with a par of 72. The course is also renowned for its mounding and contoured bunkers (more than 60), offering high-risk-reward opportunities for players with a daring spirit.

Julington Creek Golf Club 

A fairway and solitary sand trap at Julington Creek Country Club, framed by dense tree barriers

Julington Creek Golf Club, a semi-private, 18-hole course with a par of 72, stretches more than 6,908 yards. This course, designed and owned by PGA Professional Steve Melnyk, features doglegs and rolling fairways. Golfers can hone their skills at the recently renovated practice facilities, including a chipping green with an adjacent bunker, a practice putting green, and a well-appointed driving range tee. Julington Creek Golf Club promises a playable yet challenging round for all skill levels. 

Royal St. Augustine Golf and Country Club

Lush green of Royal St. Augustine with the flagstick in view, surrounded by silhouetted palm trees in the early evening light

This 18-hole course at Royal St. Augustine Golf and Country Club, with its par-71 and 6,529-yard layout, meanders through St. Augustine’s native foliage and marshlands. Known for its unique moguled fairways, sandy areas, and various bunkers, this course emphasizes the importance of precise club selection and distance control. It offers a beautiful yet demanding golfing experience that will test patience but also reward thoughtful play.

St. Augustine Shores Golf Club 

A view of the St. Augustine Golf Shores Club in the community

The parkland-style course at St. Augustine Shores Golf Club provides shelter from coastal winds. Only miles from Historic Downtown, this semi-private course offers an 18-hole par of 70, spanning 5,659 yards. It is perfectly suited for both beginners and intermediate players, featuring a full-service driving range and practice area. Despite its modest length, the course presents a challenge with narrow fairways and multiple water hazards. With reachable par-4s and demanding par-5s, this course is designed to test all golfers.

Learn about the St. Augustine Shores community.

Stillwater Golf and Country Club 

Stillwater's smooth fairway splitting bunkers and surrounded by a dense pine forest

Built in 2021, by Bobby Reed, the semi-private residential community course at Stillwater Golf and Country Club offers casually elegant golfing on its 18-hole course. The par-72 course features 9,797 yards of relaxing, scenic game play. The club also features a complete practice facility with a driving range, practice bunkers, and putting greens.

Learn about the Stillwater community.

The Yards 

The Yards in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.

The Yards, offers a fresh twist on the conventional country club. This innovative venue is home to a unique 12-hole golf course. The Yards welcomes both members and non-members to enjoy its full range of recreational amenities. Situated next to the prestigious TPC Sawgrass course in the Sawgrass Players Club, this venue caters to golfers of all stripes. Featuring everything from a driving range and a Par-3 Beer Loop to the classic, 3200-yard front 9 with a par of 35, The Yards brings the country club golf experience to every golfer.

Private Courses 

Marsh Creek Country Club 

Marsh Creek Country Club's clubhouse stands amidst palm trees, overlooking the rolling green fairway

This residential community golf club offers its members a private golf experience. Its 18-hole championship golf course was designed by Mark McCumber and stretches more than 6,883 yards with a par of 72. The relatively flat course features lush fairways, strategic bunkers, rolling greens, and water hazards. With six sets of tees, everyone from novices to experienced players can find their match.

Marsh Landing Country Club 

Located in Ponte Vedra, the Marsh Landing Country Club boasts a professionally designed golf course and expansive clubhouse. Crafted by Ed Seay, the 18-hole course at Marsh Landing challenges golfers of every skill level. Set against the backdrop of the Intracoastal marshes, this picturesque course offers a par-72 challenge across 6,825 yards of meticulously maintained terrain. The country club also features a driving range and a putting and chipping practice area.

The Palencia Club 

Palencia clubhouse with its Spanish-inspired architecture, flanked by palm trees and court pond, overlooking the golf course

 With ocean winds coming from the Intracoastal Waterway creating an added challenge, this 7,073-yard private course, with a par of 72, is situated among age-old oaks. Established in 2002, the 18-hole championship course designed by Arthur Hills features stunning views from its signature 16th hole. Practice facilities are available, including 10,000 square feet of putting green, a double-sided driving range, and chipping and bunker areas. 

Learn about the Palencia community.

Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach 

Aerial view of The Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach's golf course clubhouse

The Plantation at Ponte Vedra was designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay and recently renovated under the guidance of Greg Letsche and PGA Tour professional Billy Horschel. The 18-hole course spans 7,141 yards with a par of 72. This course features more than 50 strategically placed bunkers, plenty of water hazards, open fairways, a variety of doglegs, and a memorable island green on the 15th hole. Aimed at enhancing the golfing experience for players of all levels, the recent renovations created a wider variety of tees and new USGA standard greens.

Learn about the Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach community.

A Golfer’s Retreat

St. Augustine’s diverse golf courses, country clubs, and golf resorts cater to every player, from seasoned professionals to amateur golf enthusiasts. With tough breezy fairways and hard-sloping greens, each course in St. Johns County brings a unique set of challenges and rewarding experiences. Whether you’re eyeing a leisurely golf vacation or contemplating a move to the Oldest City, the golf opportunities here are as diverse as they are impressive.

Enjoying St. Augustine Beach

Florida’s beaches are known for beautiful wide stretches of sand, shells, and fun. Literally millions of visitors flock to the Sunshine State for those very reasons, and, it’s still important to find the beach spot that resonates with you. St. Augustine Beach resonates with me – and lots and lots of visitors (of all ages) all year long. It’s ideal for family vacations, a fun couple’s getaway, or a relaxing holiday celebration because it’s a classic beach destination. You won’t find trendy nightclubs or high rise condominiums, however you will discover miles of beautiful beaches, a state park, a fishing pier, ice cream, bicycles, surf boards, a diner, burgers, seafood spots, mini golf as well as old school hotels, motels, and beach houses. I know I keep using that word “classic,” but that’s what makes St. Augustine Beach special – it’s fun for nine year olds and 90 year olds and every age in between.

My almost-four-year-old niece, Raina, told the family that she wants to spend Christmas in St. Augustine as well as her spring birthday – every year. During the winter holidays my brother’s family stays in an Airbnb close to historic downtown to have easy access to the Nights of Lights. However, for Raina’s birthday, it’s all about a vacation rental in St. Augustine Beach. So far, for this year we have the following on our “to experience” list: a big breakfast at Beachside Diner, a bicycle rental, lots of beach playtime, and a show at the St. Augustine Amphitheater — and this is just the first day’s itinerary.

There really is so much to do — without even going over the Bridge of Lions into historic downtown — that it’s easy to forget to take some time to relax on St. Augustine Beach. So let me help you (and my family) plan your days on St. Augustine Beach — that way you have more time for the sun, surf, and sand.

The St. Augustine Amphitheater’s (now known as The Amp) box office.

Lodging

Exclusively for grown-ups ages 25 and older, The Beachfront Bed and Breakfast is where Raina won’t be staying. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic getaway as the AAA team named it as one of the 14 most romantic places in the United States and Canada. With only eight rooms, The Beachfront B & B offers landscaped gardens, a heated pool, a Jacuzzi, and a beach side location. The second-floor great room and verandah have spectacular views of the sunrise that you can enjoy before breakfast is served in the dining room.

If you’re traveling with family members under 25 years old, you can have a little party – at La Fiesta Ocean Inn & Suites. Here, you can keep the fiesta alive even when you’re not on the beach or at the pool because Fiesta Falls Miniature Golf is right on site (and serves ice cream, too). And for the morning after the fiesta, there’s a light breakfast, included with all rooms, that’s delivered right to your door at whatever time you choose.

For “the modern traveler in the Ancient City,” The Local is close enough to the Bridge of Lions to walk into town, and, it’s just been redone so it’s literally cute as a button. The Local is pink (!) and it’s decorated with pink flamingos and tropical wallpaper. It’s dog friendly, has a pool, and is just a few short minutes from the St. Augustine Amphitheater. (And yes, I am addicted to their Instagram feed for the cuteness factor.)

A visitor – who matches the artwork – takes an Instagram worthy shot outside The Local.

Dining

Everyone loves Café Eleven because we locals (and visitors) appreciate the just-off-the-beach location, fresh ingredients, and friendly prices. Serving breakfast every day, Café Eleven has a breakfast buffet on the weekends. It also has desserts and local beer (on all days) as well as live music (on some days). Check out our calendar to see if there’s some great music happening that coincides with your travels.

Take a break from the sun and head inside to Sarbez for lunch. Just before the Bridge of Lions is this little oasis known for its killer grilled cheese sandwiches and the ’80s style arcade. During the day, it’s perfect for all ages with Old CIty Brew iced coffee and 25 draft beers as well as ski ball, pinball, and Pac-Man (among other arcade classics).

Whenever I feel like I haven’t had enough toes-in-sand time, I eat dinner at Beachcomber Restaurant on A Street in St. Augustine Beach. A Street is like the happiest little block on the beach with smoothies on one corner, tacos on another and the Beachcomber – literally right on the beach. If your table isn’t ready, you can have a drink in the “sand lounge” which is literally a bunch of chairs plopped in the sand next to the dunes. Oh, and, although the Beachcomber is known for its seafood dishes, the hot wings are in fact hotter than an August day on St. Augustine Beach.

The happiest house on the happiest block (A Street) in St. Augustine Beach.

Things to Do

When my brother got married at Anastasia State Park, after the ceremony all I wanted to know was why we didn’t hike the coquina quarries, walk the nature trails shaded by maritime hammocks, or at least hunt for treasures on the white sandy beaches. This is the grand poobah of parks — Reserve America rated Anastasia State Park as #6 of 100 parks in the United States. Here, you can enjoy swimming, kayaking, paddling, wildlife viewing, walking, surfing, hiking, biking, camping, picnicking, sailboarding, canoeing, fishing, sunbathing, sailing – and snacking. (Yes, there’s a snack bar.)

St. Johns County Ocean Pier is a gathering spot for more than just fishing. Offering a visitor center, a splash park, six beach volleyball courts, two bocce courts, a covered pavilion, beach access, and the Art Studio of St. Augustine Beach, the Pier is a multi use venue that I’ve enjoyed many times for many reasons. Plus, it hosts the Pier Farmers Market on Wednesdays, art festivals, the Music By the Sea series during summer months, and the New Year’s Eve fireworks. (It was the first place Raina ever saw a fireworks show.)

The Village Garden Food Truck Park is the first venue in St. Augustine to host up to six food trucks seven days a week. What that means is that while you’re enjoying St. Augustine Beach you can carve out some time to spend here with multiple food options, cozy outdoor seating, and the plentiful assortment of outdoor games — and everyone (young, old, and in between) will be happy. No one is ever in a sour mood when there are so many food trucks – and games – to choose from every day.

My brother and his wife introducing Raina (pictured left) to the spot in Anastasia State Park where they got married.

More Ways to Enjoy St. Augustine Beach

And if I had to give a little shout out to one of my favorite spots in St. Augustine Beach, I’d choose Les Petits Pleasures – the pleasures may be small in size, but they are huge in taste. When I had foot surgery, the first thing I did when the anesthesia wore off was demand a ride to Les Petits Pleasures for chocolate croissants. I give this traditional French pastry shop two thumbs (and two feet) up.

A bicycle from Drifters Beach and Bike Rental waits on the Bridge of Lions while the drawbridge is raised.

Ecotourism in St. Augustine

We all know the great debate about the mountains versus the beach. In my hometown of Philadelphia I could be sitting on the beach in less than an hour’s drive (when the traffic gods were good to me). When I moved to Denver, the mountains replaced the beach and in just 45 minutes, my tiny car was hanging off the side of a cliff (or at least it felt that way). After nine years in Denver, the beach was calling, so I moved to Vilano where I could walk to see the waves – every day! Never in my wildest imagination did I think I could ever have the beach as my neighbor. Now, I’m closer to the San Sebastian River than the beach, and, I’ve discovered so many different ways to enjoy nature that aren’t the beach (or the mountains). Needless to say, ecotourism is alive and well in and around St. Augustine and now I sometimes debate whether I should have a beach day or a hiking day or a fill-in-the-blank-type-of-nature day. Let’s look at just some of the ways we can explore nature using St. Augustine as our jumping off point.

Sunset over the Vilano Beach Pier.

On the water

Water tourism is popular here with many rivers, inlets, and ocean currents to explore. There is the beautiful and historic bayfront, the Atlantic Ocean that long ago facilitated the voyages of early explorers, and the salt marshes along the Intracoastal that are ready for investigating, as well as a national estuary reserve preserved in its natural state. You can kayak, sail, or even charter a boat along the shore in St. Augustine. Or, you can run after your dog on the beach as he gathers sticks and delivers them to the ocean. With so much to do in and around the water, let’s keep that as our last choice.

Ecotourism is at the forefront of St. Augustine Eco Tours, located at the Municipal Marina, on the bayfront in historic downtown St. Augustine. Offering guided kayaking adventures along the bayfront every day where visitors can paddle through salt marshes and historic waters, St. Augustine Eco Tours also provides small boats with a guide, for up to six guests, that take the group through St. Augustine’s natural scenery. These tours take folks up the rivers and creeks throughout the city providing a full description of the area’s ecology and historic sites. Plus, you can also watch for dolphins or manatees and enjoy some bird watching, too.

Geo Trippin’ Adventure Co. offers kayak tours for all skill levels – holla! (I lived in Colorado for nine years where you had to have skills – and the right clothing and apparel – to enjoy ecotourism, so when I come across a company that says right on their website that they serve all skill levels, I bookmark that baby.) With multiple launch sites, a concierge service for paddlers, guided tours for individuals and groups, as well as kayak lessons, the folks at Geo Trippin’ are no joke – they want folks trained and out exploring the waterways. Geo Trippin’ also offers a Bioluminescent Guana Lake Tour where paddlers can choose a three-hour sunset tour, or paddle in the dark of night (yikes!) for 90 minutes.

If I had to pick the “granddaddy” of all ecotourism organizations in St. Augustine, I might have to go with Earth Kinship. Promoting a kinship with nature, Earth Kinship offers kayak tours, naturalist training, overnight camping trips, and forest therapy programs. Earth Kinship is also launching an ethical ecotourism certification program for Northeast Florida empowering local organizations to support the environment while strengthening the economy.

Kayakers enjoying the water with St. Augustine Eco Tours — historic downtown is behind them.

In protected areas

The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, or the GTM Reserve, is 74,000 acres of coastal lands in Northeast Florida from Ponte Vedra Beach to Palm Coast. The GTM Research Reserve is part of a national system of reserves that focus on research, education, and stewardship. At the GTM Reserve you can learn more about the natural state of St. Augustine through fun and educational hikes, birding events, trails, and waterways. The GTM Visitor Center is located in the northern component, 10 miles north of St. Augustine on A1A in Ponte Vedra Beach. The center has vivid displays that define estuaries and outline their importance for Florida’s people and wildlife. The southern component of the GTMNERR is associated with the Matanzas River, and contains several state parks — Pellicer Creek Aquatic Preserve, Faver-Dykes State Park, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, and the River to Sea Preserve at Marineland. No matter what end you choose, you’re sure to experience nature in its fullest expression.

One of my favorite places, and where my brother got married, is Anastasia State Park. Rated by Reserve America as #6 of 100 parks in the U.S., Anastasia State Park has 1,600 acres of natural beauty, including four miles of pristine beach, tidal salt marshes, and hammock preserves. It’s also home to dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, fish, crabs, and marsh birds. Anastasia State Park is on the Great Florida Wildlife and Birding Trail, so do pack your binoculars. And yes, you can swim. Yes, you can camp. And yes, you can ride golf carts around, too.

The Moses Creek Conservation Area preserves one of the few remaining undeveloped tidal creeks — Moses Creek, a tributary to the Matanzas River. Eight natural communities — scrub, sandhill, upland mixed forest, freshwater tidal swamp, mesic flatwood, depression marsh, dome swamp, and estuarine tidal marsh — call the Moses Creek Conservation Area home. This vegetative diversity provides habitat for a variety of wildlife including great blue herons, egrets, osprey, hawks, gopher tortoise, deer, otter, and fox. Be sure to use the eastern entrance if you want to easily arrive at the water feature with only a short walk. (Yes, I sure did use the western entrance, as the sun was setting, looking for the water feature one winter day!)

A boardwalk in the northern end of GTM Reserve that enables visitors to view wildlife from a shady seat.

In the campgrounds

Numerous campgrounds are dotted along St. Augustine’s beaches and back roads with amenities such as RV hookups, hiking trails, boat launching sites, and fishing. North Beach Camp Resort is where I stayed on my very first night in St. Augustine. Located at the northern end of Vilano Beach (known as North Beach), the resort sits in nature between the ocean and the Intracoastal – pure magic.

Devil’s Elbow Fishing Resort, in Crescent Beach, provides indoor stays, with cottages lining the shore that are available for daily, weekly, and monthly rentals. Daily outdoor activities are plentiful and include kayak and boat rentals geared toward providing an ideal fishing vacation.

If you’re more of a country person, you’ll want to check out 4 Lakes Campground on the outskirts of St. Augustine in Hastings. Sitting by the lake while telling ghost stories around the fire pit is a classic way to enjoy nature.

A cabin that is surrounded by nature at North Beach Camp Resort in Vilano Beach.

On two wheels

It seems almost strange to spend time admiring nature and then drive around in traffic afterwards. One way to stay the course and continue to be environmentally-friendly outside of the woods, water, or campsite is to explore St. Augustine on two wheels.  

Did you know you can enjoy the beach on two wheels? I know! It took me by surprise the first time I saw the fat (and not-so-fat) tire bikes on the beach. Anastasia Bike Rental will deliver a cruiser right to your campsite or hotel or vacation rental – with all the stuff (basket, lock, helmet, etc.) you need for on or off beach riding.

If you’re one of those people who remains committed to the mountains while visiting the beach, get your two wheels over to Nocatee Preserve and Mountain Bike Trail. The Preserve, situated south of the Palm Valley Bridge on the natural estuary directly across from Guana, has three miles of natural, unpaved trails ideal for mountain biking (and bird watching).

A visitor enjoys the sunshine with a bicycle ride along St. Augustine Beach.

Other ways to enjoy an ecotourism experience

Located off A1A on Anastasia Island, just south of the 206 Bridge, Genung’s Fish Camp is part of St. Augustine’s living history. Visitors and locals can enjoy a quieter place and a simpler time — when days spent fishing local waters aboard small boats started and ended on the banks of the Matanzas River. An iconic Florida fish camp, Genung’s was founded in 1948. Today, the locally owned and operated fish camp shows their commitment to the river and its environment by hosting office space for the Matanzas Riverkeeper on site. GeoTrippin’ Adventure Co. – mentioned earlier – operates from Genung’s and offers kayak tours with a focus on the environment and local area history.

Florida Water Tours hosts the Florida Water Warriors program — a 90-minute tour offering STEM-based education focusing on science, particularly marine biology. Only available to private and school groups, the students participate in sample collecting and data logging while the instructors focus on ecology, climate, history, culture, and the sea life that lives in the water.

If you want to dive a little bit deeper (literally), consider Ripple Effect Ecotours. Their partnership with Marineland Dolphin Adventure and the University of Florida’s Whitney Lab has given them unique access to the southern boundary of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. Because of that, they’re able to share research, education, conservation, and a natural interpretation of the environment with their visitors. Ripple Effect Ecotours is rated #5 of 133 outdoor activities in St. Augustine and welcomes paddlers without any experience – as long as you leave nothing but ripples behind.

In an effort to keep the river free of litter, Genung’s Fish Camp takes Matanzas Riverkeeper volunteers out on The Litter Gitter.

Learn How to Surf

If you’ve visited Florida a dozen times or you’re a St. Augustine local, you know that surfing is big here. If you haven’t tried it, perhaps it’s time to take a few lessons.

After all, some people suggest that you’re not a true Floridian and/or Florida vacationer until you stand up on a surfboard and ride a wave.

Local classes are very affordable, usually falling anywhere from $40.00 to $80.00 a day. The more people who take a lesson, the cheaper it typically is per person. A single lesson will give you all the basics to surf on your own. Surf lessons make for a fun group activity with friends and/or family, combining an invigorating workout with precious moments of watching people you care about fall face-first into the ocean. Check out these local instructors and camps in St. Augustine to book surf lessons. If you find a surf class you like, call to reserve your spot. If you have a bit more time or you’re looking for summer activities for the kids, consider checking out surf camps.

Stoked to Surf

Lessons: Call for pricing. 
5-Day Surf Camp (Ages 7+): $285.00 – $395.00

Seriously though, could this kid be more stoked to surf?

Stoked to Surf offers lessons for anyone from beginners to competition-level surfers. The classes are taught by a CPR-certified instructor who offers private lessons as well as a week-long camp for kids seven and up.

The camp has a three-to-one student-to-teacher ratio and runs Monday through Friday, 8:45 to 11:45 a.m. The camp is $285.00 – $395.00 a week and includes lessons on safety, entering the water, standing up, waxing a surfboard, and more. Camps run from June to early August. Call for more information on group pricing.

Endless Summer Surf School

Lessons: Starting at $75.00 per person  
4-Day Summer Camp (Ages 5-17): $200.00

A surfing student takes to the water on her board at Crescent Beach.

Endless Summer Surf School offers private lessons and a surf camp. The camp is four days, with Friday reserved as a make-up day in case of bad weather. The class times are from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Camp price includes boards, healthy snacks, and drinks (fruits/snacks from local markets included). Parents/guardians are welcome to bring their own snacks in case of food allergies. Private lessons are available with one-on-one instruction available or lessons for groups. All instructors are CPR-certified and lifelong surfers.

St. Augustine Surf School

Lessons: $55.00-$85.00 per person  
4-Day Summer Camp (Ages 7-16): $285.00
Mini Group Camp (Ages 4-6): Call for price and date.

A young surfer learning at St. Augustine Surf School.

Fist bump to every kid on a surf board for the first time!

St Augustine Surf School offers private lessons to all ages on how to surf. The lesson is 90 minutes long and led by Surf School owners. Not only are the owners CPR-certified, but they care about making your surf experience one for the books, whether you’re local or on vacation in St. Augustine Beach. Surf instructors will cover surfing safety precautions, technique, and movements, as well as ocean awareness in order to keep a lookout for the optimal surf times.

The price of the classes ranges from a group of four or more for $55.00 a student to private one-on-one lessons for $85.00 a student. St. Augustine Surf School also runs a summer camp Monday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with Friday being a make-up day. The camp includes a t-shirt, professional photo package, snacks, water, fun and games, and surfboard rental. There will be a surf competition on the final day and a pizza party too.

PIT Surf Shop

Lessons: $60.00-$90.00 per person  
4-Day Surf Camp (Ages 8-15): $250.00 

Surf lessons and smoothies at Stir It Up. If that’s not a win-win scenario, then I have learned nothing from my time on this planet.  

PIT Surf Shop has private lessons available every day of the week with 24-hour notice. Classes are taught by CPR-certified surf instructors and all equipment is provided. The lessons last two hours and can be scheduled any time between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Along with surf lessons, the PIT Surf Shop also offers stand-up paddle lessons for those wanting to explore St. Augustine’s rivers. The more friends and family you can get to join you, the cheaper your rate will be per person.

Plus, you can sign up for their surf camp that includes a week of lessons and fun for $250.00. Surf Camp dates run from May to August. They start on Monday and end on Thursday. The camp starts at 9:00 a.m. each morning and ends at 12:30 p.m. The camp is designed for ages eight and older, unless your younger child is a particularly strong swimmer. 

Surf Station

Lessons: $65.00-$95.00 per person  
4-Day Surf Camp: $295.00-$395.00 (Half or whole day)

Surf School at Surf Station in St. Augustine

Yay, they did it! Surf Station campers smile for the camera at the end of a week of surf camp!

Surf Station offers two-hour lessons for every level of surfer, whether you’re just starting out or looking to sharpen your already fine-tuned wave-catching skillz (with a “z”). As always, instructors are CPR-certified and ready to give you an awesome workout on the waves. You’ll need to bring your swimsuit, sunscreen, towel, water, and a snack. Rash guards are recommended for beginners. Surf Station provides board rentals and wetsuit (if needed).

Group lessons have a six-to-one student-teacher ratio. Surf Station also has a summer camp with half-day and full-day options. The camp runs from the end of May to mid-August and includes boards, refreshments, and instruction.

For more water sports and active ways to surf St Augustine, click here.

If you notice a surf camp or class not mentioned here, let us know.

Cover photo: Stoked to Surf

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated to reflect current info on 2024 surf lessons and camps. 

3 Ways to Enjoy a Healthy Vacation

Let’s face it, starting off the year with a “New Year, New You” mantra is the easy part. Keeping your healthy resolutions and motivated mindset the entire year through can prove to be difficult as you carry out your daily routine. And this can become even more challenging when you throw vacationing into the mix.

While vacations can be synonymous with overindulging, they don’t have to be. Of course, it helps when you’re visiting a place that caters to a healthy, happy lifestyle. Guess what? St. Augustine just so happens to be a historic destination city filled with an abundance of healthy options. From the fresh local food to the activities, here are three ways to enjoy a guilt-free visit to the nation’s oldest city this first month of the New Year (or any of the months that follow), and indulge in all the good stuff while you’re in town.

1. Chow Down on Healthy Eats

The first time I set out across my home state of Florida to visit St. Augustine, I had no idea I was driving into a plant-based food paradise. What began as a leisurely spring break trip and a momentary break from marathon training, quickly turned into a plant-based food tour. And as a foodie, I certainly wasn’t complaining.

I was delighted and surprised to find that, both on Anastasia Island and in the heart of historic downtown, St. Augustine is rich in dining options that are delicious, nutritious, and don’t break the bank. What more could you ask for from a destination location? Although there are so many winners it’s hard to narrow it down, here are a few healthy eating options that rank high in my book.

Locavore Downtown DiningThe Floridian

In addition to serving up fresh, local seafood, The Floridian has the best veggie burger I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve eaten a lot), packed with sweet potato and black beans. The Floridian also serves up salads that change with the season, offering several protein choices including tofu, or my pick—tempeh, sourced from the Tempeh Shop in Gainesville.

If you stop by on a weekend and decide to try out their garden-style brunch, you can enjoy this same tempeh smoked and dressed up with quinoa salad in the form of a breakfast wrap, while sipping on iced coffee or an infused lemonade.

Muffins, Juices and More on Anastasia IslandAmphitheatre Farmers Market

Located on the grounds of the St. Augustine Amphitheater on Anastasia Island is the Amphitheatre Farmers Market, a weekend staple for tourists and locals alike. A single stop at the market gives you the opportunity to pick up freshly made pasta, jams, acai bowls from Big Island Bowls food truck, sweet or savory vegan muffins made by a muffin man named Hugo, and more.

You can load your bag down with food to cook later and treats to take home with you, or you can have a breakfast picnic right there and then. (I tend to do both of these things.) One of my market favorites is a Sunrise Surfer juice by Creative Juices Natural Cafe, packed with apple, carrot, orange, beet, lemon, and ginger. Although usually present at the market, juicing on-site, Creative Juices also has a café situated just up A1A, offering breakfast, lunch, juices, and smoothies throughout the week, as well as on Saturdays.

2. Walk it Out

St. Augustine has all the pieces in place to be classified as a walking paradise, including slow-moving traffic downtown, a high number of pedestrians, and an entire street dedicated to the act of setting one foot in front of the other. (Yes, I’m talking about St. George Street.)

St. Augustine Historic Walking Tours offers specialty tours of all kinds, from pub crawls to pirate adventures and ghost tours.

Parking your car in the convenient parking garage located downtown on West Castillo Drive, or arriving early in the morning to secure a parking spot along the bayfront or near the plaza, positions you to spend the entire day walking around downtown.

Because of downtown’s tight radius you can simply walk about aimlessly, without any real direction while effortlessly taking in a great many sights and sounds. Depending on who is with you and what you are in the mood for, here are some suggestions for your step-by-step explorations.

Historic Downtown 

Kid-Centered Stop & Go

If you have kids with you, you’re going to need a multi-destination walk that keeps their attention and allows them time to run freely. Plus, it also helps to have a treat or two along the way. Truthfully, the same need applies to adults, which is why I personally appreciate the following route as much as any small child.

Suggested Route: Beginning at the historic plaza, walk up St. George Street toward The Hyppo for handcrafted gourmet ice pops. After a “pop stop,” head all the way to the north end of St. George Street and cross over to the Castillo de San Marcos fort, taking time to circle the exterior of the grounds, and stopping on the greens to roll down the hill or stretch out in the grass.

To finish wearing your kids out, head over to the park situated next to the parking garage, by the name of SWING—St. Augustine’s Wish for Its Next Generation. This giant maze of swings, forts, and slides is a child’s dream. We tested out this park when my extended family was in town and it was a huge hit! It’s always a good sign when a three-year-old thinks they are at a theme park.

Waterfront Workout

For a scenic hill workout (involving one of the city’s largest hills), a walk across the Bridge of Lions and back totals approximately one mile. At the top of the bridge, you get the ultimate photo opportunity while looking back toward downtown, and great views of the water on both sides. Thanks to a concrete barrier, you can walk the bridge and focus on the sights without facing the risk of navigating car traffic.

Truthfully, every time I walk or run over the Bridge of Lions, I have moments where I pause and have to remind myself “I live here in this beautiful place!” Speaking of running, if you bring your running shoes with you, the bridge and bayfront sea walls make a great place for a run. If you’re looking to cross more water and get a longer run and even more of a hill workout in, consider the following route.

Guests can see St. Augustine from a new perspective on a boat tour by St. Augustine Boat Tours.

Suggested Route: Depart from downtown at the base of the Bridge of Lions, running up past the fort, and through the Uptown neighborhood. After passing the Giant Cross, take a detour by the Fountain of Youth on Magnolia, before taking a right and crossing over the Vilano Bridge to the beach.

Approximate distance out and back: six miles.

Leisurely Meandering

For the tourist who prefers sightseeing that involves meandering with no set destination in mind, between the Lightner Museum, Flagler College, and the Casa Monica, there are countless historical photo opportunities and architectural drooling to be had in and around King Street and downtown St. Augustine.

Thanks to the bright, green tourist maps you can readily find your way around downtown on your own. However, if you prefer someone directing you along your way, there are structured walking tours available. Regardless of the route you set (or don’t set) for yourself, wear a pedometer or track your steps using GPS and you will find you’ve walked far more than you think you have! 

TIP: If you choose lodging that is located right downtown, you won’t have to worry about parking—you can simply walk from your room. Check out the wide range of downtown accommodations in the Places to Stay section.

Parks and Trails

If you thought Disney World was the only place in Florida you could go park-hopping and see something totally different and jaw-dropping at each stop, think again. St. Augustine has numerous parks to explore, each flourishing with its own natural beauty.

The Beach

It’s only fitting that I saved what I consider to be the best for last. I like to think of the beach as the most organic type of park you could ever set foot on. One that offers limitless miles of walking, views that span for miles, and simple enjoyment for you and you alone, or whoever you may be with.

Although St. Augustine’s beaches are beautiful the entire year through, the winter offers a unique opportunity to experience the shorelines with fewer crowds and take in the natural wonder that you have at your fingertips without distraction—a natural wonder that many have never seen. As someone who has lived a short drive from the water her entire life, believe me when I say, the shoreline is truly unparalleled and you must see it for yourself to believe it. As an added bonus, saltwater is a cure for many things.

For more information, check out their Reach the Beach mobile app.

Guana River State Park

A bit further away from civilization is Guana River State Park, just a 20-minute drive north of Vilano Beach toward Ponte Vedra Beach. At Guana you can explore trails, see wild birds flying freely, and enjoy water activities. There are also regular events taking place in the Guana area on various days each month, including cultural hikes. Having only yet experienced bits and pieces of the Guana trails, this locale is at the top of my list for trail running.

Canopy Shores Park

A key feature at Canopy Shores Park is the exercise stations located along the trail. Go for a hike with woodland views and wildlife viewing, all while getting a hearty workout in along the way.

Anastasia State Park

On Anastasia Island, just past the Lighthouse, is the entrance to Anastasia State Park. Paying a small entry fee to enter the park opens the door for all sorts of opportunities. Depending on the weather, these include stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and other water-centered activities. Still more opportunities are to be had on land and continue outside the park gates.

The Old Quarry trails found to the right, before you arrive at the park gate, make for an inviting walk parallel to A1A. If you follow the trail all the way through, you will pop out by the Amphitheater. As someone who is always looking for a trail to run that’s off the beaten path, I consider this one a convenient winner that offers a wilderness feel.

3. Try “Active” Activities

St. Augustine Bike Rentals

St. Augustine is notable for having some bike-friendly routes, especially from the Historic District into Anastasia Island. Consider renting a bike and enjoying a scenic ride past some notable sights including the Castillo, the Lighthouse, the Hotel Ponce de Leon, and the Vilano Bridge.

Florida Water Tours

Trust me, if you like gliding along the water and taking in some Florida coastal views, and you’re looking to tone your arms, a kayak trail is a wonderful workout. Florida Water Tours offers kayak rentals and will even deliver it to the boat ramp for you. For beginners, consider taking it out at the Guana Research Reserve boat ramps.

For more healthy options and active fun, centered on being outdoors, check out these “10 Ways to Get Outdoors in St. Augustine.

There are healthy happenings taking place in and around St. Augustine the entire year through. For a full listing of upcoming events, check out the events section. 

This article was originally written by Sarah McCartan in 2015. It has been updated in 2024. 

Free Things to Do in St. Augustine

There’s no way around it, vacations can blow your budget. It starts with paying for a room, home, or campsite and moves on to meals out, tickets to events and attractions, and shopping. (There is always shopping.)

As someone who first came to St. Augustine to visit and then decided to stay (beware, that happens a lot), I’ve been able to sample most that St. Augustine has to offer in small bites over a couple of years and to enjoy the many low-cost activities found in and around the Ancient City.

If your visit has a firm end date and your vacation has a firm (or firm-ish) budget, first decide on where you want to spend your money. Is there a restaurant that you’ve heard about? Is one of your favorite performers playing at the Amphitheatre or at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall during your stay? Would no visit near the ocean be complete without a charter fishing trip? Do the kids absolutely have to see and experience everything at the Alligator Farm, the chance to fight with pirates, or the horror found at the Medieval Torture Museum?

By all means, set aside the funds for the must-dos, and then plan to spend time enjoying the free and less costly things to do here. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find something everyone can enjoy. (Maybe not the same something, but vacations can be about sharing new experiences, right?)

Where to start — historic places, the great outdoors, or free events?

The Great Outdoors

This area was enticing to both the Timucuan Indians and the Spanish settlers due to access to the freshwater rivers, the Atlantic Ocean, and land that was (even if just a bit) above the swamps and marshes.

More recently, despite St. Augustine’s undeniable historic significance, the region certainly wouldn’t be the tourist mecca it is today without our 42 miles of beaches. Therefore, it seems that activities in the great outdoors are a very good place to start.

Beaches

On Vilano Beach in St. Augustine.
On Vilano Beach in St. Augustine.

From Ponte Vedra Beach and heading south to Vilano, Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine Beach, Crescent Beach, and Washington Oaks State Park, all told there are more than 42 miles of beaches to enjoy. To the locals, each beach is unique, not simply where sand meets the sea but where each beachgoer finds their favorite spot for surfing, surf fishing, wading, sandcastle making, swimming, sunbathing, and walking.

Most of the beaches are under the auspices of the State of Florida or St. Johns County. Some have parking and entry fees, others have free lots, and a few may have legal parking on a nearby street. Except for the low cost of parking, a morning or afternoon (or full day) on the beach need not cost anything at all if you pack your own lunch and plenty of water and sunscreen. We locals are big on sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. Don’t leave home without them. We locals also appreciate the St. Johns County Parks Department and have downloaded their “Reach the Beach” app, which is available for iOS and Android.

If you’re coming by car and are planning on some significant beach time, I suggest you find room for towels, a cooler, sandcastle construction aids, and beach chairs. After all, nothing is cheaper than the things you already own. If that’s not possible, most of those things and other beach gear are available to rent from these companies.

Parks, Playgrounds, and Nature Reserves

St. Augustine and the surrounding area have a wealth of parks that highlight our natural resources. Some are small city parks, like the Robert P. Hayling Freedom Park on the southern end of the historic Lincolnville district where the Matanzas and San Sebastian rivers meet. Others are huge, like the 76,000-acre Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. (Yeah, it’s a mouthful. Most of us just call it The GTM Reserve.) Check our events pages for their free monthly programs — all you’ll need is the $3.00 per car parking fee.

In between are numerous city, county, and state parks, as well as areas managed by the St. Johns River Water Management District. Some require a fee for parking, but many are free and a number of them also offer access to St. Augustine’s waterways. If you packed a kayak or paddleboard along with your beach gear and surfboard, you’ll find plenty of free or low-cost places to launch.

The federally operated Fort Matanzas National Monument is free, as is the very short ferry ride across the Matanzas River to the fort. St. Augustine’s National Park, Castillo de San Marcos, is not free — unless someone in your party has a National Parks Senior Pass. In that case, that individual and three of their closest friends may enter at no cost. However, it is free to roam the extensive grounds around the Castillo, from the banks of the Matanzas to the extensive lawn surrounding the fort. It’s a great place to let the kids run around a bit, and there are even hills — or as close to hills as you get in St. Augustine. Fort Mose, the first legally sanctioned free African-American settlement, is free to visit. There is a $2.00 fee to enter their small museum. On the first Saturday of most months, Fort Mose holds a Militia Muster and Training that is open to the public. (Photo above.)

Want to provide more opportunities for the kids to let off a bit of steam? Grab a coffee and visit one of the many public playgrounds all over St. Augustine and the surrounding areas. One local favorite, Project Swing was recently renovated after 25 years of service. There is also a lovely playground in Lincolnville at Eddie Vickers Park, where you’ll find a shaded picnic table, too. If your kids are too old for swings and teeter-totters and you were able to squeeze one or two skateboards (plus helmets and knee and elbow pads) into that full car, the Upchurch Skate Park on Anastasia Island and the Robert Laryn Skate Park at Treaty Park is both challenging and popular.

The kids can cool down at St. Augustine Beach while you visit the St. Johns County Ocean Pier. Pier access costs $2.00, and the amenities on land are free and include a splash park and playground for the little ones and volleyball and bocce courts for those old enough to play.

Free Events and Attractions

Hot Tip: Every free event listed on our website has the Big Green-No-Cost Seal of Approval. It looks like this: 

Free entry badge

Whether you want to be inside or out, there are several free options for entertainment throughout the year. (Full disclosure: most of them are outside, but this is Florida.) Since you are a budget traveler, go directly to our events calendar. From there, you can pick your dates and where you plan to spend most of your time, peruse the list of events, and look for that Green-No-Cost Seal of Approval.

You’ll find the Saturday Amphitheatre Farmers Market and the Wednesday Pier Farmers Market, which offer fresh, local foods, prepared hand-helds, crafts, and jewelry — and local musicians performing live music.

If you enjoyed some of the great outdoors listed above, the St. Johns County Parks Department and other organizations offer nature walks in the parks and strolls along the beach — most with a naturalist to tell you about the flora and fauna you’re seeing. From Owl Prowls to Dolphin Sunset Beach Walks to visiting the historic coquina quarries on Anastasia Island, you’ll find something fascinating to explore. There is no cost and they do often require pre-registration. (Make sure you pack binoculars!)

Throughout the year, it’s easy to find live music performing outside for free. As I mentioned above, the Saturday Market at the Amphitheatre presents the “Free Rangers,” an unorganized ensemble that plays bluegrass, country, and rock — and somehow manages to sound like they’ve practiced.

Some of our most talented local musicians are frequently hired by organizations or shopping districts to perform in a particular area, enticing folks to shop in the stores and to dance on the sidewalk. In the summer and fall, musicians and groups are contracted to perform in weekly concerts at the Plaza de la Constitucion, and the St. Johns County Pier. Many of these events will be listed on our events calendar.

Two of our oldest cemeteries are open to the public for free tours on one day a month. Both the Tolomoto Cemetery and the Huguenot Cemetery offer tours on the third Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

It costs nothing to see the fireworks on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, or to wander around and view the millions of lights during Nights of Lights. I could go on and on because St. Augustine events certainly do. Just check out our events calendar — remember to look for that green seal —and enjoy.

Historic Sites

St. Augustine, AKA “Ancient City” and “Oldest City,” has more than 50 buildings and properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While some are ticketed, others present free tours and exhibits. And even if touring every site isn’t within the budget, history buffs and those interested in old buildings will enjoy walking from one historic site to another, and stepping into the courtyards and gardens, when possible.

First, grab a map and saunter around the Historic Downtown and Lincolnville areas, where markers and signs provide insight into the folks who settled in St. Augustine and those who impacted her future.

The Government House, (the cover photo for this article) located at the head of the Plaza de la Constitución, always has an excellent historic exhibit and never has an entrance fee. (Pro Tip: They also have lovely, clean bathrooms. You are entirely welcome.) Travel up St. George Street for less than a block to the Peña-Peck House, which was built in 1750 by native coquina. Their tours are free — they do request donations.

Three of the churches in the Historic Downtown area — Memorial Presbyterian, and the Cathedral Basilica — allow free tours. Memorial Presbyterian has guided tours on Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. When there are no scheduled events, the Cathedral Basilica is open for viewing on Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The courtyard and much of the first two levels of the Alcazar Hotel (now home to St. Augustine’s City Hall and the Lightner Museum) are open to the public at no cost. In addition to shops and two eateries, visitors can step inside the former hotel pool, once the country’s largest indoor swimming pool.

The Rotunda of the former Ponce de Leon Hotel, now Flagler College, in St. Augustine, Florida.
The Rotunda of the former Ponce de Leon Hotel, now Flagler College.

You’ll find Flagler College across King Street from the Alcazar. Built as the Ponce de Leon Hotel in 1887, Flagler now has ticketed tours led by student history buffs. However, budget travelers are welcomed in their courtyard and breathtaking entry rotunda. Do not miss it.

And there’s more! The Father O’Reilly House Museum, the St. Photios Shrine, and The Shrine of Our Lady of Le Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios are all free to visit. The mission, located on San Marco, has free parking and several historic sites and archeological sites on the property.

Pro Tip: Open our directory of historical sites and then open the ones of interest to see which have a fee. The free ones will have that helpful Green-No-Cost Seal of Approval stating “Free Entry.”

Other Free and Low-Cost Ideas

This catch-all category contains great things to do for everyone, from sampling wine and spirits to playing a round of mini-golf on the waterfront. Not all are totally free, some are low-cost — and many have some tie-in with history, as well. St. Augustine is like that.

Like art? St. Augustine boasts many galleries and all of them welcome visitors. I also strongly suggest that you set aside time to visit the St. Augustine Art Association. Founded in 1924 and dedicated to promoting artists and the arts, this association’s gallery offers numerous exhibits throughout the year.

On the First Friday of each month, many of the galleries invite visitors to view their art, sample a bit of food and drink, and even meet with the artists. They also provide a free shuttle service to the First Friday galleries. All you have to do is pick up a sticker from any participating gallery.

Like comedy? In conjunction with the First Friday Artwalk, Third Space Improv hosts their Friday Friday Open Space event where you drop in any time between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. Here, you can see improv, do improv, or see and do improv. If you want to do improv, all you have to do is drop your name in a hat and wait for it to be called on stage. They also have a free parking lot which means you can use it as your home base for all the First Friday activity if you’re driving.

Like tastings? The St. Augustine Distillery offers free tours and tastings of their locally-made spirits, as do the San Sebastian Winery and City Gate Distillery. Of course, these could be expensive stops should you decide to purchase after the tour. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Like shopping? I did warn you, there’s always shopping and at every price point imaginable. Like any tourist town, savvy budget travelers can find lower-cost souvenirs from historic postcards to pirate eye patches. Because edibles are necessary and therefore always in the budget, take home a taste of St. Augustine in the form of datil pepper sauce, spirits, wine, chocolate, or a growler from your new favorite brewpub.

Those who have budgeted more can find everything from jewelry to clothing to art to surf gear. As for where to shop? Start in the Historic Downtown, take in the shops at Uptown, and the shops at St. Augustine Beach on Anastasia Island. One word of caution, how much you purchase may be subject to how much you packed in the car in the first place, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find room for a few, carefully curated items.

And there you have it — St. Augustine on a budget with many free and low-cost things to enjoy. We hope you’ll have such a good time that you’ll come back again and again, sampling something new every time. St. Augustine is worth it.

Cool Off with a Summertime Swim

Looking for a place to cool off during your visit? Check out these swimming spots! 

Escape the occasional bout of oppressive heat and cool off in a local swimming hole. When the bay breeze isn’t cutting it, there are a few ways to beat the heat without throwing up your hands and heading indoors. From swimming pools to beaches to splash parks, I’ve got you covered on the ultimate guide to where to swim in the St. Augustine area. After all, it’s a Florida vacation crime if you don’t enjoy some water at some point while visiting us. It’s in the vacation guidelines, I swear. 

Vacationers sometimes overlook the local water culture which can be pretty easy to do—we are swimming in history. But that’s only half the story. There is so much more to St. Augustine than ancient streets and historic homes. Not that we need any more than that—it’s a pretty killer resume all on its own. As part of the Sunshine State, the sparkling pools and beautiful sandy beaches are standard, but St. Augustine excels at adding its own brand of charm to everything we offer visitors. Below, you will find the ultimate sun seeker’s guide to swimming locales.

Local Pools

Pools are sometimes an overlooked feature of coastal Florida living. Whether you’re a Florida resident or from out of state, you’ll probably want the option of a swimming pool. There are, inevitably, those days where you just can’t bring yourself to walk anymore. After all, historic St. Augustine can be quite the cardio workout. When that happens, a pool is a refreshing, low-key option to relax.

Beach life is not for everyone. Sure, the view is gorgeous, but there are reasons why kicking off your flip-flops and trekking across the sand may not be ideal. I mean, the sand alone can be enough of a deterrent. Seriously, it gets everywhere. So if water sans sand and sea creatures sounds like your Florida dream, you are in luck. I happen to know a few pools around the area. 

(I’ll even fill you in on a moderately known secret: there was giant swimming pool in the heart of downtown in the building we now call The Lightner Museum. True story. If you’ve got to see it to believe it, treat yourself to a lunch in the Cafe Alcazar.)

These swimming pools provide the perfect alternative to the beach. There are certainly benefits to enjoying a dip in a swimming pool—no riptides, no wildlife—which means you can play sharks and minnows without actually having to worry about, well, sharks and minnows.

First up is the Willie Galimore Recreation Center. Operated by the St. Augustine Family YMCA, this seasonal swimming pool is $2.00 flat rate for ages 13-59, and $1.00 for children under 13 and seniors. Be sure to grab a towel and check the open swim times before heading out!

Visitors can also check out the Solomon Calhoun Community Center. There are specified hours for this pool as well. Rates are $1.00 for children, $2.00 for adults. Multi-use cards are available to purchase. An $8.00 card for children and a $13.00 card for adults covers 12 swim sessions. Annual passes are $110.00. Call the pool hotline to check the weather status of Solomon Calhoun pool at (904) 209-0380.

Insider’s tip: While locals can pay for their pool visit with a check, the centers don’t take credit or debit cards, so we suggest you bring cash for your dip.

Hotel, Inn, and Camp Resort Pools

For those of you that want a more leisurely approach to pool life, you can book a hotel with a pool. That way, you can swim laps in luxury from the convenience of your lodgings. The Casa Monica, Historic Hilton Bayfront Hotel, and the Best Western Bayfront Inn all allow you to tour the ancient city and enjoy watery shenanigans without ever having to move your car. Not a bad setup at all. 

If you are the type of traveler who shies away from traditional lodging options (or you want to have an Emersonian experience on your vacation), check out North Beach Camp Resort. They offer RV hook-ups, cabins, and a pool. North Beach Camp is situated between the North River and the Atlantic Ocean. And if the sun has left you hungry, you can grab some food at Aunt Kate’s and get a beautiful view of the river. You can also dine beachside at The Reef. Perfect. Day.

Beachside Hotels and Pools

One of the hardest parts about traveling in a group is making sure everyone’s interests are met. That can be a challenge if your group is split between beach-lovers and swimming pool-lovers. Luckily, there are some places that combine both interests, meaning Operation: Relaxation can flow smoothly, just like you planned. 

I like to call these places combo packs. These hotels are located right on the beach, providing enviable views of the sea. That also means you have the opportunity to snap some beautiful pictures and send them to all your friends back home. I’m not going to lie to you, being able to swim in a pool and see the beach is pretty nice. 

So those in your party that like the ocean from a distance can enjoy the pool while gazing at a gorgeous backdrop. A toe doesn’t even have to hit the sand. And those that want the beach can access it easily from the hotel. Vacation just became as simple as you imagined it. Some of the places that offer this combination swimming experience are Beacher’s Lodge, La Fiesta Ocean Inn & Suites, and Resort Rentals. Guests can also check out La Fiesta‘s Beach House for beach access (and the amazing private pool pictured at the top of this article.)

The Splash Park at St. Johns County Beach Pier 

For those with small children, a day at the beach may not be the right fit. Much like the beach/pool combination, the St. John’s County Ocean Pier offers visitors another opportunity for a cinematic ocean view without fully committing to the beach scene. At the Splash Park, kids can hop around the splash pad and enjoy being squirted by water. The Splash Park also features a playground with sand. Kids can build sand castles without having waves crash into them or their masterpieces. 

I took my adorable two-year old niece here when she and her mom visited me. It was definitely the right call—it made letting my niece run (slightly) wild extremely manageable. She splish-splashed in the water jets for hours. I’m pretty sure I scored major cool-aunt-points for this excursion. Well, that combined with our trip to nearby Rita’s Italian Ice for frozen custard.

Historic Coast Beaches

Sometimes, a view of the beach just isn’t going to be enough. In the St. Augustine area, we have some pretty awesome beaches. In a small stretch of coast, we have a striking variety that sets us apart from other places in Florida.

I’m probably a bit biased. I have loved St. Augustine since my first visit. I was 10, and a New York transplant living in Florida’s Gulf Coast. I didn’t move to St. Augustine until college, so I spent my formative teenage years at beaches that could double as bathtubs. While that sounds lovely, when the ocean is basically as hot as the air…there is no relief.

But during the summer, the water in St. Augustine is perfect. Between May and September, the average ocean temperature fluctuates between 77 and 84 degrees. That’s the Goldilocks formula right there—not too hot, not too cold. Just right. Beyond temperate waters, our beaches represent a wide range of ecosystems. We’ve got beaches with coquina deposits, beaches with white sand and slight dunes, and beaches with sands the colors of the sunset—each one an experience all its own.

St. Augustine Beach

A shaggy and wet dog enjoying one of the beaches in the county

St. Augustine Beach has a lot to offer beach enthusiasts, whether they’re looking for a place to skim board, surf, swim, sunbathe, or take their canine best friends. One of the other bonuses to St. Augustine Beach is the ability to drive onto the beach in certain areas.

Of course, make sure that your car has four-wheel drive and please stay away from the soft sand. I made that mistake once (all right, twice) in college. I made the mistake so now you don’t have to. You’re welcome, fellow beach bunnies.

If you need to refuel after swimming and surfing, there are a variety of dining options like Sunset Grille and Mango Mangos close by. 

Vilano Beach

Hands down, Vilano Beach is my favorite place to spend a spare Saturday afternoon so long as I have a good book in hand. Then again, I am almost never without a book in my bag. It comes with the academic territory, I suppose.

And, for the forgetful beachgoer, there is a Publix supermarket just over the Vilano Bridge. It is loaded with skim boards, flotation devices, chairs, bottled water—everything you need to make your beach outing a complete success.  The area also features a few restaurants like the Caribbean-themed Beaches and Surfside Kitchen. At Beaches, you can show up in beachwear making the transition from shore to table pretty easy. They are also pet-friendly. Another bonus.

Washington Oaks

Located south on A1A, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is a bit of a drive, but I promise it is worth it. Washington Oaks has a lot to do on-site, including the ability to take a stroll through the beautiful botanical gardens. But our concern today is the shoreline.

The shoreline is wild—pieces of flat coquina jut into the water, creating an unmistakable sense of awe. Or, what I like to call, the Ariel Effect. It’s pretty hard not to picture The Little Mermaid sitting on top of one of these coquina formations as the waves crash against them. And this beach is a great, exotic photo op. What I’m trying to say is that this beach is completely Instagram-able. No filter necessary. 

Swim with Dolphins at Marineland

If you have made it all the way out to Washington Oaks, you are an absolute trooper and I applaud you. Since you drove all that way, you may as well stop at Marineland

This is the kind of swimming you won’t want to miss (especially for those of you traveling with children). “The Immersion Program” at Marineland gives you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with bottlenose dolphins in shallow and deep water. Yes, you read that correctly—swimming with dolphins is a thing you can do in this fair city. You will definitely want to make reservations for this.

How to Stay Safe While Getting Some Rays

Whether you are at the swimming pool, splash park, or beach, sunscreen is super important. When selecting a sunscreen, try to grab one that is SPF 30 or higher, water resistant, and has broad-spectrum coverage. Reapply every two hours. You will thank me for it later, I promise. I do not go to the pool or beach without a pair of sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. Ladies, floppy hats are not only functional, but they are fashionable. And fellas, baseball caps are always in. 

Forgotten these pool and beach essentials? That is completely okay. As a town, St. Augustine tries to make sure that we supply what you need. Places like Alvin’s Island and Aqua East Surf Shop are great options to pick up last-minute items. 

If you do wind up with a burn, aloe can be your new best friend. But let’s try to avoid that all together. Take the preventative measures before you enjoy the sun and the water. 

If you are beachin’ it for the day, it is not only important to know where to go, but it is also important to make sure that you are staying as safe as possible. 

Every swimmer should be aware of the potential presence of rip currents while going for a dip in the ocean. After all, we want your vacation to be as relaxing as possible. That means you should know what to look for when you are out in the ocean. Rip currents are visible water disturbances so be on the look out for dirty-looking, choppy water. There is a good chance that that disturbance is a rip current, so avoid going into the water if you see this. For more information on rip currents, visit here. Rip currents are a pretty common local phenomenon, so you definitely want to be able to identify the signs. 

As we discussed earlier, beaches mean there is a potential for marine life. Remember, you are swimming in their home so use appropriate caution. 

Now you know how to go from brick-paved streets to pools and beaches in a matter of minutes. Your summer vacation is now as it should be—breezy, sun-soaked, and full of water shenanigans.  

This article was originally written in 2014 and has been updated to reflect information for 2024

5 Great Places to Walk in St. Augustine

Solvitur ambulando. It is a Latin phrase with a simple meaning: “It is solved by walking.”

There is nothing quite as easy, relaxing, and underrated as a nice walk, and the coastal town of St. Augustine, while known for its attractions, museums, restaurants, and shopping districts, offers wonderful opportunites to stroll, amble, and power walk. The city’s architecture and scenery are astounding, and visitors marvel at the European feel of its city streets. The surrounding geography includes pine forests with palm trees and hanging Spanish moss and sandy beaches with rolling waves. There’s something about a calm, scenic walk in St. Augustine that carries more value in it than any other diversion could.

If you’re looking for a charming and picturesque stroll, then these are some amazing places to check out.

St. Augustine Beach

The St. Johns County Pier on St. Augustine Beach on a beautiful day.

The St. Johns County Pier on St. Augustine Beach

Some people spend their whole lives inland, never setting eyes on a beach, and even fewer see the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors come to Florida just to experience the ocean, and it’s a wonderful sight to behold, especially at Anastasia Island. You won’t be overwhelmed by unbearable crowds common at beaches close to large urban areas. St. Augustine Beach is set apart with long stretches of sandy dunes, the fishing pier, and rocky ocean walls, and you’ll find an array of seashells and marine life. Best of all, if you haven’t seen a Florida sunrise, this is the place to watch it. Plus, you’ll see other walkers —dog walkers, power walkers, joggers, and runners. 

Walking the beach is free, though there is a nominal fee if you choose to go into Anastasia State Park or park on the beach.

Mission Nombre de Dios

A statue of St. Francis on the grounds of the Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine.

The statue of St. Francis on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios

The Mission Nombre de Dios grounds are believed to be the landing site of Menéndez, where Christianity first came to America. The site carries much historical and spiritual wealth for those seeking it, but even for those who aren’t, the site’s beauty brings a feeling of peace. The special charm of this serene patch of nature so close to the city is one of the most inviting features of St. Augustine. 

Ancient trees curl over the water’s edge, providing comforting shade. The wetlands extend out, touching the horizon. The Great Cross, golden and majestic, towers over the skyline. In the wooded area, you’ll find a candle-lit chapel covered in vines, that pays tribute to Our Lady of La Leche, who was revered by Catholic natives as an intercessory icon of fertility. Walkways weave through an old cemetery ground that is considered sacred. Despite this, death is not the overpowering feeling of this picturesque trail, but rather, the beauty of life.

Walking the Mission grounds is free, and donations are appreciated to maintain the grounds.

The Bayfront

Matanzas River and Bridge of Lions at Sunrise, viewed from the walk along the Bayfront.

The Matanzas River at sunrise, viewed from the walk along the bayfront.

It’s hard to pick a time of the day when the bayfront is most picturesque, as it always seems to offer an unbeatable view. Even when the weather is dreary or unpleasant, the force of the waves in the bay is an incredible thing to behold. Sunrise, sunset, nighttime and noon – walking the bayfront wall is incredible. It’s empowering when you climb the steps onto the bayfront wall, and stand lifted up against the cityscape, overlooking the water – a flock of sailboats, the Renaissance-inspired Bridge of Lions, the Castillo, the island, and the lighthouse all in view. It stretches from the headquarters for the Florida National Guard, north to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Whether it’s the glowing sunrise or the reflection of city lights off the water at night, there’s never a dull sight when walking the bayfront.

Walking the bayfront is free, though parking near the bayfront wall is metered.

St. George Street, Aviles Street, and Historic Downtown

Walking around the Historic District is a great way to enjoy the outdoors in St. Augustine.

Visitors stroll along St. George Street in historic downtown.

Walking around downtown St. Augustine, you’ll find our “skyscrapers” are church domes and historical spires. Our city noise is the sound of horse hoofs and trolley bells. Fast food means getting home-cooked baked goods from a local counter. This city is built around and among lush greenery, with balconies and vines setting the mood. St. George Street is where the hustle, bustle, and beauty of downtown converge. Crossing over Cathedral Place and King Street, you’ll see the town square with its towering oaks. Further, into the shopping district towards Hypolita, you’ll see palm trees shading businesses, and tiny malls filled with a multitude of tiny shops selling clothing, wines, cigars, housewares, books, and souvenirs. The energy of St. George Street and the historical sites all make for an invigorating walk. If you want to enjoy the street without the crowds, consider strolling St. George Street at sunrise. A walk around downtown St. Augustine is the way a walk around town should be — easy to navigate and pleasing to the eye.

Walking St. George Street is free, parking may not be.

Aviles Street has undergone an amazing transformation over the past few years, especially with the ever-growing popularity of the First Friday Art Walk (pictured in the cover photo). Walk through art galleries displaying the diverse talents of local artists. International restaurants and wine bars with comfortable outdoor seating are popular spots for people-watching because of the amount of foot traffic that goes through this district. Antique shops stand with window displays filled with treasures from the past, tucked into courtyards and behind scrolled gates. Further down, you’ll see Victorian-style bed and breakfasts covered with exotic flowers common in Florida — orange blossoms, bougainvillea, azaleas, lilies, and irises. Aviles Street is like a page pulled from the loveliest towns in Europe. Treading on brick and stone roads and between coquina walls will have you feeling like you’ve walked into another country.

Walking around Aviles Street is free, parking may not be.

Lincolnville 

The Lincolnville Historic District is marked by a sign denoting it's importance.

You’ll pass Lincolnville’s historic marker on a stroll around the neighborhood.

Just a few blocks south of St. Augustine’s Historic Downtown, the Lincolnville neighborhood offers a quiet walk, on tree-lined streets. 

Lincolnville spans 45 blocks on the southwest peninsula of the “nation’s oldest city.” Established by freed men after the American Civil War, it was designated as an historic district in 1991 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Homes in the district range from charming bungalows to imposing Victorians, to newly built modern designs that complement the surrounding architecture.

This eclectic neighborhood of homes, businesses, churches, parks, and museums, includes a self-guided walking tour highlighting the homes of those who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is truly a walkable city — from the Uptown District north of St. George Street, to the Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park at the end of Riberia Street in Lincolnville. Visitors and locals continue to discover blocks and blocks of streets with elegant views, historic homes, and secret gardens. When you add the 42 miles of beaches and all the city, county, and state parks, you’ll find that there are a plethora of reasons to practice Solvitur ambulando in America’s Oldest City.

Gettin’ Sandy on St. Augustine Beach

St. Augustine’s history is intriguing and beautiful, but St. Augustine Beach is one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever been to and a major reason why I decided to relocate to Florida. I could spend hours melting like a popsicle with quick dips in the ocean to cool off. My husband is a little more difficult to get to the beach unless there are good waves for surfing, although lately I’ve gotten him out there a little bit more with his new drone. Boys and their toys…There is more to do in St. Augustine Beach than pass countless hours in the sun, but first, let’s talk about the beach.

St. Augustine Beach Lifeguard

St. Augustine Beach has several staffed lifeguard towers.

First, St. Augustine Beach is also the name of the city along it’s shore. The City of St. Augustine Beach begins just south of 312 and continues for slightly more than two miles, with the majority of the town located between A1A and the beach. The city is why you’ll find more things to do, eateries, and places to shop along the length of St. Augustine Beach.

Before you head to the beach don’t forget some of the essentials:

  • Sunscreen
  • Beach towel
  • Shades
  • Umbrella
  • Beach chairs
  • Boogie board or surf board
  • Reading material
  • Games (velcro ball and mitt, horseshoes, soccer ball or football, etc.)
  • Sandcastle making toys
  • A cooler full of fresh fruit, snacks, and beverages (including the oh-so-essential water)

There are a few stores by the beach if you’re missing any of the above. Sunshine Shop is a great place to grab some new swimwear or flip flops. If you’re looking for a boogie board and some sand toys on the cheap, stop into Alvin’s Island — you can even pick up a gift for your pet sitter or a souvenir for yourself while you’re there.

St. Augustine Beach Essentials

Four things I will not go to the beach without: a towel, suntan lotion, a book, and shades.

One great thing about St. Augustine Beach is that you can actually drive on the beach. I love the convenience of having my Jeep right there and not having to lug everything all the way down to the beach. I’ve seen a number of people have their cars pulled off the beach because they get stuck in the soft sand. Drive at your own risk if you don’t have four-wheel drive, especially if it hasn’t rained in a while. There is a $10.00 fee to drive on the beaches from March 1 through September 30. Vehicle access to St. Augustine Beach is on A Street and Ocean Trace. Love the beach? Any beach? For more information about beach access all over St. Johns County, download the county’s beach app here.

A 4x4 warning sign with SUVs parked on Crescent Beach

If you aren’t planning to drive onto the beach, there’s plenty of free public parking available. There are public parking lots at the pier and on 11th Street with restrooms and showers (for rinsing off the sand in lieu of moving it from the beach to your car). You can also find street parking throughout St. Augustine Beach. Not staying on the beach? Old Town Trolley has a Beach Bus that is complimentary for their trolley ticket holders, so it’s possible to take a tour in the morning and catch a ride to the beach afterward. They will drop you off and pick you up at the beach hotels. See the schedule here.

No one can deny that the scent of saltwater mixed with coconut suntan lotion and the sound of waves crashing is incredibly relaxing. I always enjoy searching the beach for sharks teeth and unique shells and I’ve found that the best place to find sharks teeth is right at the water’s edge. Sometimes I’ll even come across one of those orange and purple starfish. They’re fun to look at and take a picture of for Instagram, but they are usually still alive so I always leave them where I found them.

St. Augustine Beach shells & sharks' teeth

Sharks teeth are my favorite thing to find on the beach!

After a few hours on the beach, I recommend you stop by Stir It Up for a smoothie. My favorite is the Uprising—it has banana, peanut butter, and bits of coffee grinds — yummy! There’s also a number of casual restaurants on A1A to take a lunch break from the beach. To name a few, Salt Life Food Shack has a patio area that is pet-friendly, there is fresh-brewed beer at Jack’s BBQ, and Hurricane Wings has an outside dining area.

As I said before there are other things to do in St. Augustine Beach than passing time on the beach. Fiesta Falls Mini Golf is an 18-hole course that everyone can have fun playing. There’s also Anastasia Lanes if you’re over the heat and want to get out of the sun for some bowling – and into some air conditioning.

After a day in the sun, my ideal evening involves a shower (I always get sand everywhere from laying in the shoreline water), a nice dress to flaunt my fresh tan lines, and a restaurant reservation with family or friends. What’s your favorite thing to do after a day at the beach? 

Beach Rules, Tips, and Safety

While we who love to beach may be the most prominent beings on the beach, please remember that our beaches are home to many wildlife, including a number of endangered or threatened species, such as sea turtles, the Anastasia Island beach mouse, and gopher tortoises—plus a multitude of shorebirds. Any of these may use the beach for nesting and foraging from spring throughout the summer. 

  • Sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1 through October 31. Those renting a home or condo on the beach must reduce the impact of their lighting, so please use shades and curtains at night. Never approach sea turtles who are heading to the beach or back to the sea. Please dispose of all your trash and please pick up any plastic or fishing line you see on the beach.
  • The “Conservation Zone” is 15 feet from the dune front to the shore. To help us protect birds, tortoises, and that cute Anastasia mouse, avoid walking, driving, or setting up your blanket and umbrellas close to the dunes.
  • Please use designated beach walkovers to cross the dunes, fill in any holes before you leave, and do not remove any sand (other than the inevitable) or beach vegetation.
  • Some of the best surfing in the area can often be found at A Street – for information about currents and riptides, go here
  • The following things are prohibited on St. Augustine Beach: glass containers, alcohol, unleashed pets, motorized boats launching or landing, open fires, and loud music.

Places to Stay on St. Augustine Beach

  • Beachers Lodge: My mom and stepdad always used to stay here when they came to visit before moving to St. Augustine. These are great little efficiency condos—with little kitchenettes—right on the ocean, with a pool too!
  • Regency Inn & Suites: Regency Inn is a short walk to the beach and has an indoor pool. Evening dip anyone?
  • La Fiesta Ocean Inn & Suites: A boutique inn right on St. Augustine Beach with award-winning landscaping, waterfalls, and a private walkway to the beach.

Local St. Augustine blogger Meaghan Alvarado is a Flagler College alumni who writes on many topics ranging from fashion and food to crafts and local St. Augustine happenings. 

Bike Week in St. Augustine

Everyone knows that during Bike Week every spring, Daytona Beach is the destination for all bikers and their friends. But you may not know that an ideal stop along the way to this spring ritual is the quirky little town of St. Augustine.

Motorcyclists understand that life is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. So it’s no surprise that more and more motorcyclists choose to travel to Daytona on the scenic route, which is where St. Augustine comes in. It’s hard to beat the scenery along A1A from historic St. Augustine just one hour north of the hustle and bustle of Daytona Beach. The natural beauty of St. Augustine Beach through Crescent Beach, Marineland, and Flagler Beach to Daytona is simply outstanding – high dunes, wide white-sand beaches, some with coquina rock outcroppings (pictured below), and abundant wildlife make this stretch of A1A a memorable journey.

The coquina rocks along the beach shoreline

Coquina rock outcroppings on the beach at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.

St. Augustine itself is a one-of-a-kind experience, with its distinctly European style, its rich history, and narrow brick streets that are perfect for small vehicles, especially the two-wheeled variety. When you’re ready to hop off that hog, St. Augustine’s small size also means it’s perfect for on-foot exploration. Or you can sit back and let someone else drive with any one of the city’s various tour vehicle services, like Old Town Trolley Tours or Ripley’s Red Train Tours. You can even opt for stepping back in time and taking a horse and carriage ride with Country Carriages. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously-occupied city in the U.S., so there’s plenty of time to step back into.

In preparation for Bike Week which runs March 1 – March 10, 2024, the city sets aside areas of street-side parking to accommodate all the bikes that come through. Look for designated parking spaces along Cathedral Street between Charlotte and St. George Streets. The city still charges motorcycles the normal parking fee, but they’ve made it easier with their new parking app, ParkStAug. This is the optimal place to park for accessing all that downtown has to offer, and other visitors will surely be envious.

Motorcycle parking is available along the Plaza in downtown St. Augustine.

Chances are that if you’re visiting Florida, and your destination is Daytona, you’re going to want to spend some time at and around the beach. It comes with the territory when you travel to the Sunshine State. To fully embrace the sun, sand, and water, one need look no further than the A1A Scenic Highway. The legendary Florida State Road A1A provides a main vein North-South straight shot, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, with incomparable views of both.

A1A North between Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine is an ideal route to take if you’re heading south from Jacksonville. Located between Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine is Vilano Beach. This once sparsely populated beachside community boasts some great restaurants, including Cap’s on the Water, and Beaches at Vilano. Cap’s on the Water is heaven for seafood lovers, and is accessible by bike or by boat. Similarly situated is Beaches at Vilano, which offers seafood and bar favorites with an island flare that perfectly suits its maritime surroundings. If risking life and limb on the open road isn’t already enough, Vilano Beach is internationally renowned for its skimboarding scene.

Continuing south, A1A South links to St. Augustine Beach, to Flagler Beach and eventually Daytona. St. Augustine Beach provides plenty of sights and activities. From camping, lighthouse touring, and Alligator Farm zip-lining, to surfing, sipping tropical drinks at the Sunset Grille, or enjoying a spectacular view of the ocean while sampling fresh seafood at Salt Life Food Shack (pictured below), there is no shortage of fun and frivolity to be had on Anastasia Island.

But after you party all night at the beach, there’s still plenty of distance between you and Daytona. And that’s perfectly fine, because in that distance you could swim with dolphins at Marineland, and have your breath taken away by the beauty of the land meeting the sea or take a side trip along International Golf Parkway – a surprisingly beautiful route from St. Augustine to World Golf Village. Head a couple miles north of downtown on US 1 and turn left onto International Golf Parkway. Do you like trees? You’ll love them after this sublime ride.

Ride through miles of Florida scrubland forest on International Golf Parkway.

There really isn’t much of anything here, apart from lush and dense flora as far as the eye can see. It’s a magnificent route even if you’re stuck in a car. Once you get to World Golf Village, have a drink and a bite to eat at Murray Bros. Caddyshack.

Speaking of eating and drinking, Bike Week isn’t just an event, but a celebration of freedom and the American spirit. Get some American spirits in you at biker bar legends like Tradewinds Lounge and The Bar None Saloon.  Tradewinds will have you dancing the night away to live, local music, and the Bar None Saloon is a favorite of local bikers, and known for their friendly bartenders.

If you’re curious about local beer, look no further than A1A Ale Works. Their large lunch and dinner menu will satisfy the pickiest of appetites, and their local brews will perfectly accompany any meal.

Over on the island, for lighter fare and local beer, visit Osprey Tacos and take your meal next door to Old Coast Ales. Osprey Tacos, a laid-back taqueria, features tacos, taco bowls, and delicious sides, all made to order. Old Coast Ales crafts classic brews and experiments with new beer trends, offering ales, IPAs, porters, and more. If you can fit a growler on your ride, bring it in or purchase theirs and take one of your favorites with you to enjoy later at your hotel, bed and breakfast, or campsite.

As you now understand, you have much to keep you occupied during your stay. And you are staying, of course. But where, pray tell, should you stay? As with everything else thus far, when it comes to accommodation options, you have an embarrassment of riches. If you enjoy fishing and water sports, Devil’s Elbow Fishing Resort, located on A1A South and pictured below, is a great choice. It’s a great place to get off the road and into a cozy cottage or rent a boat and get out on the open water.

If you lack sea legs, or simply prefer living on the land, St. Augustine has a host of quaint, comfortable inns and bed & breakfasts. Old Powder House Inn offers a historic stay in the downtown district, as the building once stored gunpowder for the Spanish soldados stationed at the Castillo de San Marcos. Edgewater Inn, as its name implies, offers spacious waterfront rooms from which land lovers can still appreciate scenic views of the Matanzas and the downtown cityscape. Its location at the foot of the Bridge of Lions on Anastasia Island makes accessibility to both downtown and the beach a breeze.

No matter what it is that brings you to Bike Week, be it sheer love of the open road, tradition, the beach, or partying with friends and family, St. Augustine is much more than a pit stop on the interstate. This article has barely scratched the surface of all you could possibly see and do during your time in the nation’s oldest city. For more information on what to do, what to eat, and where to stay, click here.

This article was originally written by Ben Tier in 2016. It has been updated to include current information for Bike Week 2024.

Exploring Nature from River to Sea

Florida got its name for a good reason. When Juan Ponce de Leon landed in Florida on April 2, 1513, he saw the area’s natural beauty and abundant flora, and named this place “Florida” in honor of the Easter season and the Spanish Pascua de Florida, “Festival of Flowers.” A few grisly details and decades later, St. Augustine was founded in 1565.

Though the area has changed drastically since Ponce’s landing, one fact has remained unchanged: Spring is the perfect time to explore nature in St. Augustine.

When exploring St. Augustine in the 21st century, it’s easy to get caught up in the huge variety of shops, restaurants, bars, and attractions, but the Ancient City is the perfect place to enjoy Florida’s waterways, nature trails, and wildlife. Whether you visit for a day, a week, or you call St. Augustine home, there’s a way to get out and explore nature that fits your schedule. The choices abound for outdoor recreation in St. Augustine. (Bonus: some of them are free.)

Visitors can take an eco tour, go for a guided nature walk, learn to identify birds and other wildlife, take a hike, camp out, and even become experts on nature photography at special annual workshops and classes.

Eco Tours

St. Augustine Eco Tours

When your feet get tired from strolling St. Augustine’s charming historic streets, wander down to the St. Augustine Municipal Marina to enjoy the view and book an expedition with St. Augustine Eco Tours. Set out to sea like the nation’s early explorers did and get a closer look at some of St. Augustine’s marine life as you keep an eye out for jellyfish, turtles, dolphins, and more.

With kayak tours, sailboat tours, and motorboat tours, you can choose the level of activity or leisure that best fits your energy. The currents were moving pretty fast the day I took a tour, so I decided the motorboat tour was just my speed. As we set out from the marina, I breathed in the salty Atlantic breeze and smiled as I took in the city’s skyline from a new perspective.

There is something spectacular about a tour guide who can talk for hours without being boring, and it was immediately apparent that Zach with St. Augustine Eco Tours is one of those tour guides. A Flagler College alumnus turned marine biologist, Zach is brimming with knowledge about the history of St. Augustine, its waterways, and the wildlife that inhabits them.

The boat tour took us first under the Bridge of Lions, north toward Vilano Beach and Porpoise Point, which is known to be one of the best places in town for dolphin sightings. When we didn’t spot any dolphins playing amidst the spectacular views of the city from Porpoise Point, Zach gave us a quick lesson about the tides, and ran through a history lesson of St. Augustine’s waterways, which have been manipulated several times over the centuries to suit the needs of the city’s inhabitants. Then Zach pointed the bow of the boat due south, toward the St. Augustine Lighthouse, and we sped on through the water in search of dolphins.

After we passed back under the Bridge of Lions and moved south past the Municipal Marina, toward the 312 Bridge, a young girl on the boat spotted a dolphin fin. Zach stopped the boat, and half a dozen dolphins began to break the surface around us. He told us about the dolphins’ behaviors, remarking that they draw near to the boat because the fish they hunt like to hide underneath boats. We sat for nearly 20 minutes, all ages watching with wide-eyed wonder as the dolphins hunted, played, and interacted with each other just below the water’s surface.

Fabulous leaping dolphin photo (admittedly not captured by me) courtesy of St. Augustine Eco Tours.

After nearly two hours touring with Zach, we had seen dolphins, jumping fish, bald eagles, cormorants, and a man texting while operating a jet ski. Zach summarized the ride perfectly: “You never know what you’ll see out here.”

Guided Nature Walks

River-to-Sea Walk at Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve

Before Spanish settlers arrived in Northeast Florida, native peoples lived off natural resources from the land and sea. Visitors can get a glimpse into what it was like here some 500 years ago by visiting the vast preserve (75,000 acres) of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR). The Reserve extends from the Guana River Dam down to the Matanzas Inlet and south, and included a couple of state parks and the River-to-Sea Preserve near Marineland.

The GTM Reserve offers a series of free guided tours every month that lead guests through the hammock trails and beach ecosystems that are brimming with plants, animals, and marine life. All these walks are low-impact and fit for all ages.

To make the most of the cool spring mornings in Florida, the walks start early – ours was foggy and chilly as we embarked on the trail. By 10:15, the sun was shining, and our guide had pointed out dozens of various plants, offering tips on how to identify the unique species while sharing how Florida natives may have used them for medicine, food, or other purposes. Our group followed the wooded trail to the Matanzas River, where our guide, Ron, taught us about the importance of mangroves in Florida’s oceanic ecosystems.

Back down the wooded trail, we learned that Florida’s natives and early settlers used leaves from holly trees to make tea and the wild coffee that grows in Florida is actually decaf (bummer). Mounds of oyster shells lined parts of the trail, and our guide shared that these mounds had been left by Florida’s native peoples and could be thousands of years old. We also spotted deer tracks, a bald eagle, and a gopher tortoise burrow.

Birding Walk at Fort Matanzas

Shift your gaze to the skies, or rather, to the trees, on a free birding walk at Fort Matanzas State Park. A short (and beautiful) drive south on A1A to this historic site is a small price to pay for some extraordinary birding. The two-hour birding walks begin with brief information sessions about the dos and don’ts of birdwatching. The park even has some spare sets of binoculars available for the walks, accommodating novice and more experienced birdwatchers. Bring your cameras along for this one, nature photographers.

Throughout the birding walk, I could barely adjust the zoom on my lens quickly enough to capture the wildlife around us. We wandered from the park’s oak hammock to its seaside Florida scrub, spotting more than 25 unique birds along the way, including the remarkably colored roseate spoonbill. The guide taught us about the downy woodpecker (which can be identified by their behavior) they don’t sit upright on the tree-like other woodpeckers, but rather venture out and underneath branches). We also saw three eagles. I even got my first case of birder’s neck craning to see an elusive black crown night heron our guide spotted high in the trees.

At the end of the bird walk, the guide ran down a list of all the birds we’d seen and was available to answer any questions. Visitors may also enjoy sticking around Fort Matanzas after the birding walk. There is a free ferry across the inlet available for those who would like to explore the historic fort, also free for visitors.

Special Events for Nature Lovers and Artists

Florida Birding & Photo Fest

For enthusiastic birders and nature photographers, St. Augustine boasts the annual Florida Birding & Photo Fest, with more than 140 opportunities and educational workshops to hone your nature photography skills and get up close with the area’s magnificent wildlife. The Florida Birding & Photo Fest began in 2006, drawing more than 600 attendees from all over the United States and even drawing birders from other parts of the world.

Professional nature photographers, birders, conservationists, and experts in bird behavior lead the classes and workshops, venturing by foot, kayak, and speedboat to some of the area’s best birding spots. There are also unique opportunities to photograph other animals, with reptile and frog photography workshops and a special sunrise workshop featuring horseback riders on the beach.

Photo courtesy of FloridasHistoricCoast.com.

Early admission to the Alligator Farm to photograph the Bird Rookery is a favorite activity for Florida Birding & Photo Fest attendees. Photographers can get up close with remarkable Florida birds, safely perched above patient alligators below. The animals maintain a symbiosis at the Alligator Farm, providing wondrous sights for nature lovers, and amazing shots for nature photographers.

For the nature lover aspiring to be a nature photographer, the classes at the Florida Birding & Photo Fest are led by world-class Photoshop and Lightroom experts, providing ample opportunity to expand your photography and editing skill-sets. If you want to make your photography the best it can possibly be, you can learn more in one hour here than you would in a month of YouTube videos or books. The Florida Birding & Photo Fest also features an exhibitor area, where nature photographers can browse the latest photography equipment and other tools. The exhibitor area is free and open to the public.

Explore a State Park

If you’re looking for something a little less regimented, for a place to camp out overnight, or for the solace of a traipse down a nature trail, there are several parks in St. Augustine that feature tent and RV camping, as well as excellent hiking and biking trails. Some of St. Augustine’s beautiful parks with camping and hiking options are listed below:

Anastasia State Park

Anastasia State Park is conveniently located on Anastasia Island, about a mile from the downtown historic district. The park offers camping, hiking, biking, beach access, and excellent water sports equipment rentals at Anastasia Watersports. Visitors can rent surfboards, kayaks, catamarans, and stand-up paddleboards to enjoy some time on the water. Anastasia State Park’s Earth Day celebration is also a great opportunity for families to enjoy nature together and learn more about the area’s wildlife.

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Located south of St. Augustine on state road A1A, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park boasts some of the most peaceful nature trails in Florida. The park is known for its majestic, Spanish-moss draped oak trees, making it the perfect place for a picnic.

Faver-Dykes State Park

Situated on Pellicer Creek just south of St. Augustine, this park offers a slew of outdoor activities. A popular site for birdwatching, Faver-Dykes State Park also offers camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and more. The playground and picnic area make this park a favorite for families.

For our full list of things to do outdoors in St. Augustine, please visit our Recreation page. With the area’s seemingly boundless natural beauty and wildlife in national and state parks, estuaries, and nature preserves, there’s plenty of ground (and water) to cover, and no shortage of ways to get out there and explore.

Hurricane Update for Nicole 2022

What Happened in St. Augustine with Hurricane Nicole?

St. Augustine is fully open after Hurricane Ian and Tropical Storm Nicole. The Nights of Lights Season will begin as scheduled on Saturday, November 19, 2022.

While homes on the beaches and in a few other neighborhoods, plus a  boardwalks to the beaches, have been heavily damaged by the one-two punch of Ian and Nicole, very few businesses were heavily damaged in the downtown area. 

While some of those businesses took on a bit of water, all or almost all should be fully open. For example, both the Trade Winds Tropical Lounge and Harry’s restaurant opened on Friday the 11th, despite the high water on Thursday.  As an employee of the Trade Winds stated, they are “getting the hang of storm preparation,” now. 

 

See the link “After Hurricane” below for more information.  

 

Information from the City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County

Friday, November 11th, 2022

  • St. Johns County closed the beaches to driving prior to Nicole. Pedestrians will still be able to access the beach, although they are reminded that dangerous surf and rip current activity is expected. Also, many beach walkways at Crescent Beach were comprised or destroyed during Nicole. In some area, pedestrian beach access may be available only via the places where vehicles normally have access. In order to facility assessments and clean-up, the St. Johns County has asked that people avoid those areas of the beach that were heavily damaged and where nearby property and walkways were destroyed.

Cancellations:

  • There have been no announced cancellations. The Adam Sandler performance at the St. Augustine Amphitheater was changed from November 11 to November 12, 2022. The Fortunate Youth Concert at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall was changed from November 10 to November 15, 2022. The Joe Satriani scheduled for November 9 has been postponed, with no time yet decided.

 

After the Hurricane

St. Augustine is open for business: restaurants, tours, and events are back on track. While it may have looked bad on the news, and some neighborhoods and homes were flooded, the water downtown did not impact most of the historic district. Here are the few exceptions:

  • The St. Johns County Pier checked out just fine and is fully opened.
  • The St. Augustine City Marina is fully open and operating with fuel, pump outs, and reservations for moorings and dock space. They reported that no boats were damaged during Nicole. During Ian, the marina sustained damage on the break wall dock, the dock that protects the boats inside the marina. While they work to repair the dock, they have reduced the number of available slips. 
  • Some of the restaurants on A1A near the Bridge of Lions had a bit of water on the floors. Flooding along that section of A1A went from the Bridge of Lions to MoJo’s restaurant. We expect most businesses to be fully open within a few days, if they haven’t already. 
  • Fort Matanzas State Park closed due to Nicole on November 9, and have not yet reopened. had paused their ferry while they cleaned the area from vegetation that fell during the hurricane. The ferry is operating as normal, on Wednesday through Sunday.
  • The boardwalk to the beach at Fort Matanzas State Park sustained damage and is closed until further notice.
  • All events scheduled for the rest of November are still being held.

 

Why Your Dog Wants to Move to St. Augustine

It’s said, “The journey of life is sweeter when traveled with your dog.” It’s an anonymous quote, but anyone with a four-legged kid knows leashing up and hitting the road is one of life’s greatest joys. And, if you’re considering moving or have recently moved to St. Johns County, then you’ve entered absolute “paw-i-dise.” For those looking for specific information, feel free to use the links below.

A black dog with white chest and paws sits in front of a White House with a brick steps
This pup is happy that his family moved to a charming older home in St. Augustine.

Health Vaccination Requirements

Before you and your best friend begin marking dog-friendly territories in St. Johns County, you’ll need to tick off finding a veterinarian and having your pet fully vaccinated. Here’s a list of recommended vaccinations. The first four are state-mandated.

  1. Rabies
  2. Canine distemper
  3. Parvovirus*
  4. Canine hepatitis (Adenovirus)
  5. Parainfluenza
  6. Leptospirosis
  7. Bordetella
  8. Roundworms
  9. Hookworms

Leash Law & Microchipping

As a dog parent safety comes first, so the county makes the leash laws simple: outside your home your dog (and your cat) must be kept on a leash, and the leash can’t be more than 10 feet long. Of course, going leash-less is allowed in dog parks.

Once you see lost dog statistics, you understand why microchipping is also highly recommended. So lap this up: only about 22% of lost dogs entering animal shelters are reunited with their families. However, the return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs is more than 52% (this is a 238% increase). For a complete understanding of Florida’s dog ownership laws and ordinances, start here. For leash laws and FAQs about pet ownership specific to St. Johns County, visit St. Johns County’s Animal Control site, which includes comprehensive information on adoptions, rescues, pet-friendly shelters, and animal welfare.

St. Johns County has three major no-kill rescue centers for dogs, cats, and other species: 

Many of these non-profit organizations also have resale stores.

Now you have a pet that is healthy, legal, and happily living with you in your new home in St. Johns County. It’s playtime! Let’s dig into dog-friendly activities and places to romp with your dog.

Brown dog drinking from bowl at a dog park.
A happy dog, having a drink of water at one of the local dog parks.

Dog Parks

Anyone who lives in St. Johns County knows there’s not enough time to see or do everything the area offers, so I recommend a doggy bucket list. Mine begins with, what else, dog parks. The dog parks listed below offer the security of fenced-in play spaces, and although your dog can go leash-less in the this spaces, all parks enforce strict leash rules when your pup is in other park areas. 

Here’s a bite of information on two of these parks that are top dog for me and my pooch. Paws Dog Park at Treaty Park offers open and shaded areas to wander with a leash, as well as two large fenced areas (one for small dogs and the other for large dogs) for unrestricted play. The Paws Dog Park at Davis Park Complex also has two separate areas for small and large dogs, and they even have a dog wash station.

At the tail end of this, I’d be remiss not to mention that many new housing communities now offer dog parks as part of their amenities.

Dog-Friendly Beaches & Preserves

All state and St. Johns County beaches welcome leashed dogs, and most of our county beaches provide doggy bags and receptacles at beach entrances and in parking lots. Be sure to bring a few extra bags with you on your beach outing because leaving dog waste in the sand is considered littering and you could be fined. Plus, many of the following beaches provide shower areas for cleaning fur and purifying paws. One important note: Anastasia State Park allows dogs on trails and in camping areas, but dogs are not allowed on the park’s beach.

DogSmilingAtBeachInSurf
“There’s a beach? Please, please mom, move to St. Augustine.”

Dog-Friendly Parks & Recreation Areas

St. Johns County and city parks and recreation areas are Fido-friendly. From Riverfront Park, with its tree-lined paved paths that meander along the St. Johns River, to hiking trails in the Guana River Wildlife Management Area, there’s no shortage of beautiful trails and green spaces. Even a park like St. Francis Park, across from the St. Francis Inn in historic St. Augustine, offers a small but lovely place to share time with your dog. Another park to consider is Alpine Groves Park in northern St. Johns County. This picturesque park sits on the St. Johns River and offers towering oak trails and open space for you and your pup to play or watch sunsets on the river.

Dog sitting on a bench with a park setting behind him.
Rossi admits St. Francis Park in historic St. Augustine is his favorite place to contemplate leash laws.

The Guana State Park system boasts 10 miles of wide, tree-canopied trails perfect for escaping Florida’s heat. Add in a variety of habitats including several beach and estuary access points and this may become your go-to dog spot. Expect to see plenty of wildlife, so keep Fido close and on a leash.

Located off US 1, Palencia Park sits at the entrance of the Palencia housing community. Many visitors mistakenly believe this is a residents-only park, but locals in the know understand this is a St. Johns County park gem. There’s plenty of green space and well-maintained tree covered trails designed with your dog in mind. Collier-Blocker-Puryear Park, located in West St. Augustine, offers plenty of open space to play fetch. Go here to see all county parks and what they offer our four-legged friends. Finally, similar to area beaches, all St. Johns County and city parks allow dogs with four stipulations:

  1. Dogs are not allowed on any sports fields.
  2. Leashes must not be longer than10 feet.
  3. You must dispose of your dog’s waste.
  4. Your dog must be well behaved.

Pet-Friendly Businesses

Whether you’re looking for the perfect pet grooming business, your dog needs time with canine friends at a doggie day care, or you just need a reliable dog walker, St. Johns County offers many options and locations.

Places That Love Your Pup

One thing is certain about my dog, he loves to go and he’s always reminding me that anything is paw-ssible. St. Augustine’s historic area is a great place to wander with your best friend and even better if your best friend is your dog. Numerous spots in and around St. George Street provide water bowls – including the “Pup Pub” at Ann O’Malley’s, plus many local coffee shops love to share pup cups. Keep in mind, all the below dog-friendly spots require that your dog is well-behaved and kept on leash.

If you’re up for an adventure, check out A Ghostly Encounter or the Spanish Military Hospital. These spooky, but highly informational tours will raise the fur on your head as you learn about all things St. Augustine macabre.

Want to get your dog’s paws wet, while you take in a bit of nature? St. Augustine Eco Tours invites you and your dog onboard to see everything from dolphins and bald eagles, to jellyfish and manatees. The company offers various tours and vessels, so call ahead for more information.

Another pup-friendly historic site is the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum located on Anastasia Island. Although your dog can’t climb to the top of the lighthouse, there’s oak covered trails, outdoor ranger-led educational demonstrations, picnic tables, and plenty of space to romp and roll.

Want to get a new leash on life? Explore the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. With 15-acres situated on beautiful waterfront, this historical attraction even lets you and your hound sip the elixir of youth.

Dog-Friendly Restaurants

Doberman siting next to a table with a cocktail on it.
“Mom’s drinking a “doberman” cocktail…. I don’t know if I should be insulted or flattered.”

Henry Wheeler Shaw said, “Hounds follow those who feed them” and as a dog owner you know the quickest way to your hound’s heart is through its stomach.This brings us to restaurants, cafe’s, and pubs that welcome dogs. The list is long, more than 107 and growing, so the best way to ensure you and your dog have a great dining experience is to call to begin your search for restaurants that welcome canine companions.

Keep in mind, restaurants must follow current state and local laws around doggy dining, but bare-bones most dog welcoming establishments do provide a space for your dog and a cool drink. Also, all dog-friendly restaurants require that your pup is a “good dog” aka displays no aggressive or out-of-control behaviors. With this in mind, nothing goes better than a dog and great wine and at San Sebastian Winery they let you tag along with your well-behaved dog during their tours and tastings.

Finally, if you’re researching living in or have recently relocated to St. Johns County, you can now check it off as a dog-friendly place to live. And, if there’s anything that wasn’t covered here, or you need additional information, let us know. VisitSt.Augustine.com-Relocation wants to make this your site for all things St. Johns County. And remember, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” – C.J. Frick.

Find Your Perfect Place in the Sand

St. Augustine has many gorgeous miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean – 42 to be exact. And, each beach has its own flavor making beach hopping a legitimate pastime for tourists and locals. Since I no longer live by the beach and am now a “townie,” I’ve become an expert beach hopper visiting all 42 miles rather than just the area that was once by my home. Because of this, I present a north to south guide of St. Augustine sand:

The Northern Beaches

Sunrise over Mickler’s Beach in Ponte Vedra.

Mickler’s Landing (pronounced mike-lers) – A popular beach access point, Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park allows dogs — and horses. Yes, that’s right, you can bring a picnic lunch – by horseback. There’s also a parking lot if you prefer a more traditional mode of transport.

The GTM Reserve in Ponte Vedra Beach.

GTM Reserve — The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) is one of only 29 national estuarine research reserves in the country. You can hike or bike on the nature trails west of scenic A1A and then head to the east side for a swim in the ocean. It’s like doing your own triathlon!

Ponte Vedra Beach Access Point – If you are one of those annoyingly sensible types, you might choose this area for your beach time. Why? Because there’s a super spiffy gas station right next to the parking lot so you can fill up your car, get snacks, and use the rest rooms. How very sensible!

The other kind of parking in South Ponte Vedra Beach.

South Ponte Vedra Recreation Area – If you are really sensible, and prone to having accidents, this point is even better. The reason? It’s literally right across the street from the fire station. Once I saw a minor injury that necessitated a little assistance and the 911 call didn’t even require a phone.

A “lock of love” on the North Beach access bridge.

North Beach Park – Let the kiddos run around the playground and then climb up the steps to the bridge that connects the parking lot to the beach. They’ll be good and tired so they might want to rest up (as in, allow you to rest up) before building a sandcastle. The bridge contains lots of locks – like on the bridges in Paris – so feel free to “lock in your love” while there.

Keith the Dog enjoying a walk in Mussallem Beachfront Park.

Mussallem Beachfront Park – This is a newer, under the radar beach access point that I like because not everyone knows about it yet. Plus, there are no houses there so it’s a little patch of beach populated by only the tiny parking lot. Once word gets out, the little parking lot is sure to fill up fast.

The Nease Beachfront Park sign

A great spot to catch the sunset.

Nease Beachfront Park – This is going to sound very strange … forgo the beach here and instead walk down the boardwalk on the west side of the street at sunset hour. There’s a gazebo at the end that makes for the most perfect sunset watching spot. Bring bug spray with you – you’ll thank me later.

Pink sky time at Surfside Park.

Surfside Park – Bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, parking spaces – oh my! Settle in for the day at Surfside but get there early as the parking lot is known to fill up as this is a popular place to play in the warm weather.

Another beautiful day at Vilano Beach.

Vilano Beach – When you cross over the Vilano Bridge from downtown you feel like you’re entering another world – because you are. This is a world filled with relaxed folks in flip flops, hunting for beach treasures such as sea glass and shells. There are also surfers catching waves – while others watch as they sip cool drinks under the beach umbrellas. A block from “Vilano Town” with its pizza parlors and surf shops, is Vilano Beach where you park your car –or drive it onto the beach with you. There’s a lifeguard here, and sometimes you might even spot a wedding at the Vilano Beach Pavilion.

The Southern Beaches

A welcome sign greets visitors at Anastasia State Park.

Anastasia State Park – Holla! I don’t normally say, “Holla!” when it comes to state parks, however Anastasia is a beautiful beast all its own. (My brother fell in love with it so much, he got married here.) The park has expansive beaches, nature trails, a snack shop, a beach supply shop, camping, restrooms and … a secret back entrance to the St. Augustine Amphitheatre (ok, so it’s not so secret anymore). On show nights, you can park in Anastasia’s lot and take a (free!) golf cart shuttle to the show. Read that again – seriously, I insist. Where do you find these fun little gems? Only in St. Augustine.

Beachfront Parking St. Augustine Beach – Sitting between Anastasia State Park and Embassy Suites Resort, this sweet little beach spot is another under the radar area. It only has a few parking spots, but it’s fun place to pull into when you’re short on time and don’t want to be sucked into all the fun things to do in St. Augustine Beach.

Sunrise over the St. Johns County Fishing Pier

St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier – There’s a lot happening here from beach volleyball courts, an oceanside pavilion, and a splash park for children. Plus, the Farmers Market is every Wednesday morning, and there are lots of festivals that use the pier as home base. The St. Augustine Beach Art Studio & Gallery is located right next to the pier so if the family can’t agree on fishing or swimming or art viewing, you can do all three!

510 A1A Beach Blvd Parking – Plan your beach time to coincide with Café Eleven’s open hours as you will find a parking lot, rest rooms, and beach on the east side of the road and the café on the west. Word is that Café Eleven makes a mean breakfast as well as hosting some kick a** live shows.

A local poses next to the Beachcomber Restaurant on A Street at St. Augustine Beach.

A Street – When you hear people talking about St. Augustine Beach, chances are what they’re really talking about is A Street. This is where it all happens – surfing, eating (with your toes in the sand at The Beachcomber), drinking, and parking – on the beach. You can get tacos, smoothies, cocktails, beer, vegan sandwiches, and so, so much more within a one block area. There’s even a gentleman there to help you park – on or off the beach. If you want to know where the beach party is, it’s on A Street.

A horse sunbathing on Butler Beach.

Butler Beach — Dedicated to preserving the dunes that is home to the endangered Anastasia Island beach mouse and the gopher turtle, Butler Beach also played a significant role in the civil rights movement as African Americans were always permitted here when some beaches were “white only.” Today, it has all the bells and whistles making it a perfect spot to settle in for the day whether you arrive on foot, via car, or by horse(!) as it allows horses (and cars) on the beach.

A little free library at Crescent Beach.

Crescent Beach Park – Think you felt like you were “getting away from it all” when you drove over the Vilano Bridge to the northern beaches? Try driving over the quaint 206 Bridge to Crescent Beach. It’s a much slower and more laid-back vibe once you get this far south. The parking lot is big and so is the beach. Despite the vastness of it all, the lot fills up with day trippers as Route 206 goes right into the country and this is the beach for those country folks.

Sunset over the Matanzas Inlet.

Matanzas Beach and Inlet – Everyone loves Matanzas and for all sorts of different reasons. Some enjoy the beaches on the inlet. Some enjoy the floating snack shop (no, I am not kidding). And some enjoy the fishing, or the birding, or watching the sun come up on one side of the inlet and set on the other side of the inlet. Whatever the reason, it’s a special place that’s the southern tip of St. Augustine and you’re invited to find the way you best enjoy it.

Taking a drive on Vilano Beach in St. Augustine.

Driving on the Beaches

Vehicles are permitted on Vilano Beach, St. Augustine Beach, and Crescent Beach within designated areas. However, access may be limited at any time due to weather, sand, or tides. This might include closing vehicle access ramps or limiting beach access to four-wheel drive vehicles only. Traffic is regulated with a 10 mile per hour speed limit strictly enforced.

Beach driving and access ramps are available at the following locations: Vilano, Porpoise Point, A Street, Ocean Trace, Dondanville Road, Matanzas Ave, Mary Street, and Crescent Beach at Cubbedge Road.

From March 1 through September 30, there is a daily fee  of $10.00 to drive on the beaches. Toll booths are open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. through the end of August and only on weekends in September. Go to St. Johns County for up to date information on beach driving and passes

  • From May 1 through September 30 driving on the beach is allowed only from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • From October 1 through April 30, driving on the beach is allowed only from 9:00 a.m.  to 5:00 p.m

Oh and if you do get your vehicle stuck in the sand, fear not. Contact Beachside Towing at (904) 814-0138 – they have 20+ years of experience pulling people out of the sand,

A fisherman on the beach surf fishing and four planted rods

Surf fishing is a popular pastime in St. Augustine.

Surf Fishing

Surf fishing requires specific equipment and a strong arm to get the cast out beyond the breakers. But with a little knowledge of what’s running at that time of year and what bait and rigs to use to catch it, surf fishing can be productive and a whole lot of fun.

A popular spot for knowledgeable surfcasters is around the inlet at Vilano Beach, especially in the area from the jetty on the Atlantic side west to Porpoise Point. (It’s best to avoid fishing from the jetty itself — the footing is dangerous and the rocks can be unstable.)

From the pristine beaches of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve in Ponte Vedra to Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine Beach and south to Crescent Beach, surfcasters will find rich opportunities to catch drum, whiting, pompano, and more.

Local bait shops can help you decide if it’s a good time to surf fish, and some offer surf fishing equipment rentals as well.

An Aussie and their person surfing at Pups and Sups in St. Augustine.

I have yet to teach my dog how to surf because I’m not sure it would go so well —maybe you’ll have good luck with it!

Surf Reports

If you want a comprehensive daily surf report – think swells, winds, tides, weather, and commentary, visit Surf Station on the web. Even if you’re not a surfer, the report will tell you everything you need to know for a comfortable day at the beach. And yes, they can also teach you how to surf and sell you surfing equipment. For a comprehensive list of surfing schools and their offerings, go here.

Imagine yourself relaxing here – courtesy of Drifters Beach and Bike Rentals.

Beach Equipment and Bicycle Rentals

If you weren’t able to stuff all your beach supplies into the car or airplane, we got you covered. There are several businesses that rent beach equipment. My favorite is Drifters Beach and Bike Rentals as they promote an eco-friendly way to enjoy St. Augustine. And yes, you can ride their bicycles on the beach, too.

Leatherback sea turtles safe on the beach thanks to Mickler’s Landing Turtle Patrol.

Protecting the Sea Turtles

The St. Johns County beaches are home to several species of endangered or threatened sea turtles. Beachgoers have a responsibility to protect these creatures and their vulnerable nesting sites as the turtles return each season to nest along the beaches. Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1. People in beach front houses are required to reduce their impact by eliminating interior and exterior lights which may disrupt nesting sea turtles. Visitors can also have a positive impact on nesting sea turtles by taking the following actions while enjoying the beach:

* Refrain from using fireworks and making fires — fireworks are illegal anyway.

* Remove ruts and sandcastles before leaving the beach.

* Avoid using flashlights as they can be harmful to the turtles.

* Stay off sand dunes and conservation zones.

* Never use balloons as they can end up in the ocean. In fact, as of February 4, 2022, it is illegal to release any balloons or air lanterns in St. Johns County.

* Don’t approach sea turtles emerging from, or returning to, the ocean.

If an injured, sick, or deceased sea turtle is encountered, don’t push it into the ocean. Instead call the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at (904) 824-8304. Leave only footprints, so the turtles have a safe and clean habitat for nesting and hatching.

For more information, please call St. Johns County Habitat Conservation and Beach Management at 904.209.3740.

Yes, you can take your horse to the beach.

Horseback Riding on the Beaches

St. Johns County offers horseback riding on approximately 30 miles of coastline. A permit, that is free of charge, is required to ride horses on the beach and takes about two weeks to process. The application is available here. For additional permit information, and to find out what beaches are open for riding, visitors can contact the Habitat Conservation Section of St. Johns County at (904) 209-0619.

Beach Safety

Lifeguards are available at major public beaches from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. — weather permitting.

The most deadly water/weather related event in Florida are the rip currents. Swimmers can spot a rip current by its foamy, choppy surface, its brown color, as well as sand being turned up and moving. A swimmer caught in a rip current need not panic – instead swim parallel to shore until out of it.

Additional rip current and other beach safety tips can be found from St. Johns County.

Golden Retriever mix in the air with joy on a sandy beach

Be sure to pick up after Fido.

Beach Rules

Be sure to adhere to these rules when you head to the beach:

* Loud music – If you can hear it 25 feet away from its source, it’s prohibited.

* No alcohol or glass containers.

* Open fire is a no-no as are fireworks.

* Dogs must be leashed and doggie poop bags go in the trash bins.

* No commercial activity is allowed.

* And you can’t launch your boat from the beach. 

* Don’t leave anything on the beach overnight – even if it breaks – there are no litter fairies.

* Use designated walkovers to cross the dunes to get to the beaches.

* Don’t remove sand or vegetation from the beach and please stay out of conservation areas which are marked by brown signs.

* And do not, I repeat, do not harass any animals – on land, in the sea, or in the air.

* Oh and, keep your clothes on – even if your clothes are nothing but a bathing suit the size of dental floss.

Beach wheelchair rentals from Andy's Taylor Rental in St. Augustine, Florida

The county provides beach wheelchairs to rent.

Renting Wheelchairs

There are beach-accessible wheelchairs available to rent — for free — on a first come first serve basis. Call St. Johns County at (904) 209-0331 to reserve one. They have bigger wheels that can roll through sand and they are also able to sit in a few inches of water. 

Public restrooms are available at some beaches.

Facilities

Yes, some people pee in the ocean even if they don’t want to admit it. If you would prefer to use actual restroom facilities, click here for locations. You’ll also find out about other useful amenities such as parking, picnic tables, showers, and beach walkovers.

Planning a Visit with Accessibility in Mind

Planning a Florida vacation can be both a gift and a challenge, and even more so a challenge for people looking for accessibility. Fortunately, wheelchair users can enjoy the sand, surf, and sun alongside their loved ones with our accessibility resources. St. Augustine is an older town and the well-traveled wheelchair user might be discouraged into thinking that “old town=lack of accessible locations.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the same way that other major cities around the world may be old but still offer plenty of accessibility, the same can be said for St. Augustine. With wheelchair accessible hotel suites, attractions, restaurants, streets, and even beaches, there’s plenty for families to enjoy. Check out these answers to some of your questions about getting to and around the city of St. Augustine utilizing wheelchair accessible services.

Getting There

There are a few local cities by which visitors may travel to the Ancient City by plane: Jacksonville and Orlando are two of the closest. There is also Northeast Florida Regional Airport that flies locally and is only about 15 minutes from the city center. From each of these airports different options are available to transport wheelchair users and their loved ones to St. Augustine.

By train, visitors can come to St. Augustine from Palatka which has a wheelchair platform, a chair lift, and an accessible waiting room.

There is a wheelchair accessible taxi offered by Checker Cab Company by calling (904) 829-1111. If you’re looking for a wheelchair-accessible ride from the airport in St. Augustine or Jacksonville, or the train station in Palatka, they are available to call 24 hours a day. Calling in advance helps shorten your wait time, and the rate is $2.00 a mile, making a ride from Palatka or Jacksonville to downtown St. Augustine about $60.00 and a little more than $100.00 respectively.

If you’re staying further away from the downtown area or coming from Orlando, consider renting a wheelchair accessible van for your stay. There are a few companies in Florida available to provide this service—Mobility Works in Jacksonville is one of them.

Accessible Parking in St. Augustine

There are several lots that service the historic district, and many of them offer accessible parking spots. The St. Johns County Pier has accessible parking spots and others are dotted on lots along A1A. There are also access points at St. Augustine Beach starting at A Street where vehicles can drive onto the beach. This makes it much easier for wheelchair users and their families to enjoy the ocean without the hassle of getting down to the water through the dunes or wooden walkways.

Many local attractions are wheelchair accessible, including the Castillo, Ripley’s, the Lightner Museum, and Third Space Improv.

Wheelchair-Friendly Places to Stay

Although some bed and breakfasts may not be wheelchair accessible due to their age, many surrounding hotels and vacation rentals are able to accommodate guests with reduced mobility. The specialists at Vacation Rental Pros and First Choice Florida Vacation Rentals can help guests find accommodations to suit their needs. Additionally, hotels near downtown St. Augustine including the Southern Oaks Inn and Renaissance Historic Downtown have accessible rooms for visitors, as does some of those near the beaches, such as Ocean Sands Beach Inn, located just north of Vilano Beach. (Their beach access is not accessible, due to the steps required to get over the dunes.)

Getting Around

Now that you’re here, strongly consider staying in the downtown area. It may be more expensive, but it will be well worth it to be close to the attractions. Many prominent sights are located in the downtown area within walking distance of hotels. If you really want to see all the sights and attractions without the walk, Old Town Trolley has a half dozen trolleys that are equipped with ramps and lifts to be wheelchair-accessible or scooter-friendly. You can call 1-888-910-8687 to alert the trolley folks 24-hours in advance of your mobility needs to minimize your wait time. If you have a collapsible wheelchair, it can be stored in the vehicle until you are ready to use it.

Old Town Trolley tours gives visitors a chance to sit back and enjoy the scenery in St. Augustine, Florida.

There are five trolley stops that are wheelchair/scooter friendly:

1. Old Town St. Augustine (Stop 1)

2. Potter’s Wax Museum (Stop 3)

3. San Sebastian Winery (Stop 12)

4. Plaza de la Constitucion (Stop 14)

5. Old Town Trolley Welcome Center (Stop 19)

To read more about how Old Town Trolley can accommodate your mobility needs, please click here.

Rent Wheelchairs and Mobility Scooters

If you are visiting and need to rent a wheelchair, rentals are available from Solano Cycle. There are also beach-accessible wheelchairs available to rent for free on a first come first serve basis. Call St. Johns County at (904) 209-0331 to reserve one. They have bigger wheels that can roll through sand and are able to sit in a few inches of water. 

Mobility scooters can be rented from Solano Cycle and Saint City Rentals. Both rent scooters that weigh about 250 pounds and both offer delivery to clients in St. Augustine.

Public Transportation

For public transportation during the day, The Sunshine Bus Company runs routes from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with one-way fares at $1.00 for passengers and $.50 for persons with disabilities. The Sunshine Bus makes stops at all the major areas of town including the Bridge of Lions, the Outlets, St. Augustine Beach, and much more.

Two wheelchair-accessible ramps lead into Mojo Old City BBQ.

Many restaurants, such as Mojo Old City BBQ, Harry’s Seafood, and A1A Aleworks, are equipped with accessible ramps and spacious interiors and exteriors. For those who want to enjoy the St. Augustine nightlife, locations such as White Lion and Meehan’s have low tables to enjoy drinks at when the bar is out of reach. Besides that, you will find that most of the restaurants in town are accessible by wheelchair.

St. Augustine is consistently improving its accessibility so that persons with disabilities can truly have fun in the nation’s oldest city!

Check out these wheelchair-accessible parks and attractions

  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum: Elevators can take guests to various floors of this outrageous odditorium!
  • Lightner Museum: Experience the gilded age with three levels of antique artifacts.
  • Pirate & Treasure Museum: This immersive museum entertains and educates visitors regarding the history of pirates.
  • Aberdeen Park Playground: The wheelchair-accessible playground includes an all-inclusive whirl, ADA swings, a sensory dome, and musical pieces.
  • St. Johns County Ocean Pier: The fishing pier is accessible, as is the pavilion, and kids splash area. While there is a small fee for fishing from the pier, it is reduced to $2.00 for veterans and persons with disabilities.
  • Third Space Improv: This comedy studio has a ramp from the parking lot to the sidewalk in front of the studio that’s all on one level. The stage even has a ramp, so if someone in a wheelchair volunteers during a show, it’s easy to get in the spotlight.

Aberdeen Park Playground is an all-inclusive, wheelchair-accessible playground in St. Augustine.

The TOUCH St. Augustine Braille Project

Five of St. Augustine’s historic statues, and two art statues, are accessible to blind visitors because of the TOUCH (Tactile Orientation for Understanding Creativity and History) St. Augustine Braille Project. The bronze braille markers are at the Pedro Menendez; Juan Ponce de Leon; St. Augustine Food Soldiers; Henry Flagler and Father Pedro Camps and the Minorcans statues downtown. They are also available at the St. Augustine Art Association’s Heavenly Bodies and Signal from Shore statues.

The plaques use braille letters to describe the history and tactile graphics are used to act as a visual map to describe how the statues actually look. The tactile graphics include descriptions, which direction the statues face, their height, color, action, as well as other details. A raised pictorial representation of the statue is also on the plaque.

The Braille Trail map

A map to the Braille Trail which also has an audio guide.

We are constantly updating this article whenever we find out about a new accessibility resource.

Pick the Perfect Spot for a Beach Wedding

Do You Take This Sun, Sand and Sea? … I Do!

If you’re the kind of bride who likes the feel of sand between her toes better than the pinch of five-inch strappy sandals, St. Augustine checks all the boxes for the perfect destination beach wedding.

With more than 40 miles of white quartz sand beach, pristine ocean hammock backdrops and an abundance of sunshine, the nature-loving bride and the exotic-tropical-getaway bride will find all they could ask for on their perfect day here.

Because the ocean has been a longtime magnet for brides who want to “do it their way,” many local venues, wedding planners and service providers have been in the wedding business for decades. Armed with all that experience, the region’s experts are assured to make your day go off without a hitch.

Here’s a look at what St. Augustine has to offer for your destination wedding and some tips for avoiding wedding-day disasters.

Photo by  Adam Kontor on Pixabay

Picture-Perfect Locations for Your Beach Wedding

Anastasia State Park

Minutes from downtown St. Augustine, Anastasia State Park is a state-owned and maintained property. With four miles of pristine beach and stunning views of sand dunes and the Atlantic Ocean, Anastasia State Park’s native Florida hammocks provide a natural backdrop for your wedding-day photos. If an outdoor reception appeals, the park maintains several pavilions you can rent.

  • Sea Turtle Pavilion: Close to the ocean and near a lifeguarded beach. Includes water and electric services. $100.00 per day. Maximum occupancy 130.
  • Watersports Picnic Pavilion Located on the banks of Salt Run and the Anastasia Watersports launch. Includes water and electric service. $100.00 per day. Maximum occupancy 35.
  • Gazebo: Nestled in the foliage of a native Florida hammock. No electricity. $75.00 per day. Maximum occupancy 30.

Location: 300 Anastasia Park Road, St. Augustine. For more information, go here.

Photo: Anastasia State Park Photographer: Bruce Len

Butler Beach

A historic beach south of St. Augustine on A1A, Butler Beach is secluded enough to be romantic, yet equipped with modern conveniences. Wide stretches of white sand beach leaves room for as many guests as you like, and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean make a nautical backdrop for your wedding-day photos. On-site restrooms provide privacy for last-minute primping, and built-in barbecue grills and picnic pavilions make your casual outdoor reception a breeze.

Location: 5860 A1A South, St. Augustine. For more information, go here.

Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Research Reserve

North of Vilano Beach on Coastal Highway A1A, the GTM Research Reserve is charged with maintaining the natural estuarine landscape in South Ponte Vedra Beach. The reserve has three beach access points: GTM North, GTM Middle and GTM South. Parking lots are located on the west side of A1A at each access point, and crossovers to the beach are meticulously maintained. Weddings at these pristine beaches are intimate, secluded and romantic since few people outside of locals know they exist. As a bonus, some of the best restaurants in St. Johns County are located within minutes of these beaches and can accommodate small to mid-size wedding parties including Reef Restaurant and Aunt Kate’s at North Beach and Pussers at Ponte Vedra Beach.

Location: 505 Guana River Road #6527, Ponte Vedra Beach. For more information, go here.

River-to-Sea Preserve

Just 15 miles south of St. Augustine near Marineland, the River-to-Sea Preserve is a 90-acre stretch of protected land between the Matanzas River and the Atlantic Ocean. Walking trails, picnic areas and unobstructed views of sand dunes and sea grass make this cozy, secluded area perfect for an intimate wedding. Natural and manmade rock formations and jetties also provide an interesting backdrop for your wedding photo gallery.

Location: 9805 N. Ocean Shore Blvd., Palm Coast. For more information, go here.

St. Augustine Beach

The most populated beach in the region, St. Augustine Beach has a long stretch of white quartz sand beach. Plus, the St. Johns County Pier looks rustic chic in wedding photos. If your wedding party is family-friendly, the on-site splash park and playground will be popular with the kids. If fun in the sun is on the reception agenda, the pier pavilion holds 200 and rents for $450.00 per day for non-residents. Other on-site facilities include restrooms, showers, picnic tables and a visitor center. The beach is staffed with lifeguards in the summer season — from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Location: 350 A1A Beach Blvd., St. Augustine Beach. For more information, go here.

A bride and groom share a kiss in front of a dune on a beach in St. Johns County, with her veil draped across the grass

Photo courtesy of Bayfront Marin House Weddings. Photographer: Ashley Steeby.

Vilano Beach

The retro mint-green beach pavilion at Vilano Beach screams strapless, skirted swimdresses and high-waisted bikinis. A popular beach for horseback riding, the “Old Florida” 1950s vibe of this casual beach still offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. For additional wedding photos head to the town center and the pier, both of which have charming Art Deco features. The pavilion is available to rent at $53.00 for four hours. Facilities include restrooms, showers and a dune walkover. The beach is staffed with lifeguards in the summer season.

Location: Vilano Road, St. Augustine. For more information, go here.

A couple on the beach in St. Augustine. Photo by Rob Futrell.

Photo by Photographer Rob  Futrell

Built-In Honeymoons in St. Augustine

Since St. Augustine is a well-known tourist destination, attracting more than six million visitors each year, the community has a plethora of hotels, bed-and-breakfast inns, and short-term condo rentals to accommodate your whole wedding party. Once the wedding’s over, though, you can send the guests home and enjoy an idyllic honeymoon right here. For a little romance, couples enjoy lazy days at the beach, afternoons getting couple’s massages and evenings walking hand-in-hand down St. George Street.

St. Augustine is more than just another subtropical paradise, however. The region is rich in history and bursting as a vibrant cultural community. With literally dozens of local attractions, a tasty international cuisine scene and plenty of outdoor recreation, the built-in honeymoon is one of the many reasons couples choose St. Augustine for their destination wedding.

The Total Package for Your Destination Wedding

About 70% of weddings on St. Augustine beaches are destination weddings, with couples coming from all over the country and around the world to tie the knot right here. Planning a wedding anywhere can be time-consuming and confusing, but when you’re traveling to an exotic locale for your nuptials, there are even more things to consider. One option that out-of-town couples find appealing is a venue that can accommodate the wedding and reception. If they can accommodate guests too? Even better.

The following hotels, condos and resorts are on the beach (or very close) and offer special pricing for reception space rentals. Some include rooms for overnight guests and can offer block room rates. Because they are popular event spaces, most will have professionals who can help with wedding arrangements as well.

Budget-Friendly

Photo:  The Clubhouse Deck at Ocean & Raquet Resort in St. Augustine

St. Augustine Ocean & Racquet Resort
Fronting an expansive sandy beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, St. Augustine Ocean & Racquet Resort offers reasonable nightly rates and plenty of on-property amenities. Each individually owned condo has two bedrooms and two full baths, plus a fully stocked kitchen with everything needed to cook and an in-room washer/dryer. Some condos have minimum-stay requirements. On-site amenities include two pools, five hot tubs, two beach walkovers, four tennis courts, pickleball, fishing ponds, a grill area, a bocce ball court and shuffleboard. The clubhouse is available to rent for weddings and receptions.

Location: 880 A1A Beach Blvd. Cost: $125.00 to $178.00 nightly condo rate. For more information go here.

Guy Harvey Resort
From beachside decorations to overnight accommodations, Guy Harvey Resort offers everything you need for a fabulous beach wedding. The property’s ocean-themed Nautical Room accommodates up to 150 guests, but the outdoor pool deck and tiki bar is also a popular spot for wedding receptions. Bonus: The resort offers complimentary transportation to and from St. Augustine’s historic downtown via the Old Town Trolley Beach Bus.

Location: 860 A1A Beach Blvd., St. Augustine Beach. Cost: $150.00 to $200.00 nightly room rate. For more information, go here.

Bayfront Marin House – Cottages at Vilano

This bed and breakfast is located in St. Augustine’s Historic Downtown, but they have vacation properties on Vilano Beach and are able to offer beach weddings for two to 20 people. Couples can decide to hold their reception near the beach or travel back to town for a reception at their historic bed and breakfast overlooking the bayfront.

Location: 10 Beachcomber Way, St. Augustine, Florida. Cost: Generally, $300.00 for either a room at the bed and breakfast or a night at one of the cottages. For more information, go here.

Luxury

Embassy Suites
An oceanfront hotel just steps from the sand, Embassy Suites is located on St. Augustine Beach next to the St. Johns County Ocean Pier. Offering all the amenities of a luxury hotel, the property has 11 meeting rooms, so you’re sure to find a right-size reception space. An on-site Starbucks serves up eye-opening caffeinated favorites, and your wedding guests can greet the day with free made-to-order breakfast taken poolside with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Location: 300 A1A Beach Blvd., St. Augustine Beach. Cost: $250.00 to $400.00 nightly room rates. For more information, go here.

Serenata Beach Club
Since the beach club is in secluded South Ponte Vedra Beach, you’ll feel like you’re hosting a wedding on your own private beach. A romantic setting with everything except overnight accommodations, the Serenata Beach Club adds a touch of elegance to your coastal nuptials. Hotel accommodations are just 7 minutes away in Vilano Beach or 15 minutes away in downtown St. Augustine or the Sawgrass Village in Ponte Vedra Beach. An on-site certified wedding planner can help with outside vendors such as photographers, cake decorators and flowers, and the on-site chef will make food for your reception a breeze. The property, which prides itself on hosting only one wedding per day, has on-site event space that holds up to 160 and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Serenata Beach Club is a pet-friendly facility, so it’s OK if you want your dog to be your best man.

Location: 3175 S. Ponte Vedra Beach Blvd., Ponte Vedra Beach. Cost: $5,000 minimum. Average price is $100.00 to $120.00 per guest. For more information, go here.

Photo from Guy Harvey Resort in St. Augustine

Seaside Reception Spots for Your Beach Wedding

Wherever you tie the knot on a St. Johns County beach, you’re no more than 15 minutes away from a venue that specializes in wedding receptions. Though you’re spoiled for choice, these locations are a stone’s throw from the beach, which makes getting to the reception quick and easy. 

The Reef
A classic seafood restaurant, The Reef offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. One of the few restaurants in St. Johns County that sits directly on the ocean, The Reef has three semi-private areas available to rent for your reception and a fully private upstairs banquet facility that can accommodate up to 80 guests. The Ocean’s Edge (upstairs) offers a direct view of the ocean from each area and includes two private balconies, an outdoor bar and a dance floor. 

Location: 4100 Coastal Highway, St. Augustine. Near the GTM Research Reserve and Vilano Beach. Cost: Entrees are $25.00 to $35.00. For more information, go here.

Aunt Kate’s
Situated in a grove of live oaks on the banks of the Tolomato River, Aunt Kate’s is rustic chic with breathtaking sunsets over the Intracoastal Waterway. Offering local seafood and classic Minorcan dishes for more than 100 years, the restaurant is a favorite among locals. Minutes from the GTM Research Reserve and Vilano Beach, Aunt Kate’s provides private space for up to 120 people in its banquet facility. 

Location: 612 Euclid Ave., St. Augustine, FL 32084 Cost: $300.00 to $400.00 Banquet Room Rental; Entrees are $25.00 to $50.00 per person. For more information, go here.

Milano Room (Amici’s)
Located on Anastasia Island minutes from Anastasia State Park and St. Augustine Beach, Amici’s has four event rooms to choose from with accommodations for 10 to 150 guests. In addition to classic Italian dishes, owner and executive chef Freddy Underhill likes to experiment with flavor combinations and local, seasonal ingredients.

Location: 1915 A1A S, St Augustine Beach, FL 32080. Cost: Entrees range from $15.00 to $25.00. For more information, go here.

Pussers
Just 15 minutes from the GTM Research Reserve and located in the seaside community of Ponte Vedra Beach, Pussers Bar and Grille specializes in fresh local seafood, tasty Caribbean fare and colorful tropical drinks. Private event options include the Rum Room, the Upper Deck, the Lakefront Patio and three dining-room options. The popular event spaces can accommodate between 45 and 150 guests with décor ranging from a colorful tropical vibe to an intimate royal navy setting. 

Location: 816 Highway, A1A N, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082. Cost: $27.00 a plate, average. For more information, go here.

Conch House
Located on Anastasia Island and the three-mile lagoon Salt Run, the Conch House is just minutes from Anastasia State Park and St. Augustine Beach. An “Old Florida” Caribbean-style resort, Conch House has a marina, grass roof tiki hut dining options and some of the best Conch Chowder in St. Augustine. Three banquet room options are available and accommodate between 30 and 150 guests. The private rooms are individually priced.

Location: 57 Comares Ave, St. Augustine, FL 32080. Cost: Entrees range from $25.00 to $40.00. For more information, go here.

A St. Augustine Beach wedding courtesy of Lunar Kiss Photography.

A professional wedding planner can help make you look this good on the beach.

Seasoned Professionals Can Help Plan Your Beach Wedding

Your St. Augustine Beach Wedding
The team from Florida Beach Weddings offers wedding services on St. Augustine Beach for parties of two to 100. They provide a range of services, including an on-site coordinator who will officiate the wedding. They offer distinctive styles and decor, a rustic arch, a bamboo canopy, and more. You start with the package that suits your style, and customize it with your choices for your vows, colors, music, and decor.

Cost: Packages start at $1,995.00. For more information, go here.

Sun and Sea Beach Weddings
Want to eliminate all the stress of planning your beach wedding? The professionals at Sun and Beach Weddings have been there, done that when it comes to all things wedding from flowers to photography to conch shell-covered tables.Packages start as low as $950.00 and can include décor, photographer, officiant, seating, flowers and music. Some packages include reception coordination, dinner setup, DJ services and lighting.

Cost: $950.00 to $13,200.00. For more information, go here.

The Wedding Authority
Since 1972, The Wedding Authority founders Bill and Carla Young have been helping couples create memorable weddings in St. Augustine.The professional wedding planner’s Beach Wedding packages range from $400.00 to $1,400.00 and include wedding officiant and consultation with the officiant. Other amenities and services depend on the package purchased but can include a sand blending or unity candle ceremony, wedding chairs and wedding arch.

Cost: $400.00 to $1,400.00. For more information, go here.

Photo of The Reef Restaurant’s back deck, beach, and rainbow.

Insider Tips for Your Destination Wedding in St. Augustine

Weather Permitting

Weather is always a consideration for outdoor weddings, but St. Augustine’s average year-round temperatures make planning a beachside ceremony here easier than many locations. Though we can’t guarantee beautiful weather on your special day, it’s probable you’ll choose one of the region’s 223 days of sunshine each year.

Rain can put a damper on your special day, but it’s not as bad as showing up for your beach wedding and finding no beach! Planning around high and low tides will be essential if you want your wedding to go off without a hitch. Luckily, there are some really smart people out there who know how to predict these things. Your wedding planner should be able to guide you on the right time of day to get married, but if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website while you’re in the planning stages. You’ll be glad you did.

Here’s a look at the individual seasons and what you should know before planning your destination wedding on St. Augustine’s stunning beaches.

Spring
Not too hot and not too cold, springtime is a favorite for our northern friends. While carports are still covered in snow in some regions, here, the Kelly green starts to show in early March. Average daily temperatures are between 70 and 75 degrees, and the blossoming trees and flowers add color and charm to your wedding photos. 

Summer
Characterized as hot and humid, St. Augustine’s summers are perfect for die-hard sand-and-surf fans. Wedding attire gets more casual with Caribbean and Polynesian themes being popular choices. At summer weddings, brides and grooms often wear bright, tropical prints, and shorts are not uncommon for the men. Plenty of couples, however, brave the 90-degree average day weather in classic wedding attire. In addition, longer days provide more opportunities to capture photos before the sun sets. 

Fall 
Balmy and beautiful, the weather falls back down to a daily average of 75 to 80 degrees. The beaches are typically less crowded in the fall, but the weather is still warm enough to enjoy long walks on the beach and some of the most stunning sunsets you will ever see. Hurricane season is technically June 1 through November 30, but late August to early October are particularly active months for weeklong rain-producing storms. Though the chances of your wedding plans being dampened by a hurricane are pretty rare, it’s wise to have a back-up plan, just in case.  

Winter
For those who don’t mind a brisk breeze, winter can be a great time for St. Augustine beach weddings. Off-season hotel discounts are a perk, and average daily temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees mean the bride can wear long sleeves and more fluff. As a bonus, winter is the dry season in Northeast Florida, so the chances of being rained out are slimmer. 

Kram Kran Photo captures a beach wedding in St. Augustine, FL

Be sure to look both ways before you kiss!

Look Both Ways 

Driving is permitted on many of St. Augustine’s beaches between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Designated driving lanes are established on each beach, so you’ll want to set up well clear of the steady stream of 4x4s the beaches attract on the weekends. 

Parking is allowed on the west side of the driving lane between the cones and the dunes on most beaches. At Vilano Beach, however, vehicles parallel park on the east side of the driving lane.

A vehicle pass is required from March through September but is not required October through February. Annual passes are $50.00 for St. Johns County residents and $100.00 for non-residents. A daily pass is available for $10.00 with discounts for active-duty military and individuals who are handicapped.

Making it Legal

Permits are required for all events on St. Johns County beaches, including weddings. The cost for a wedding permit is $100.00 and can be purchased through the county. St. Johns County staff can also help with renting one of the many picnic pavilions and outdoor spaces available at county parks for your reception. The county offers an online reservation system, but you can also call (904) 209-0752 if you have questions.

Fees and permits are not the only legalities to consider, however. In the days of AirBNB and VRBO, many entrepreneurial-minded property owners have started opening their beachside homes up for weddings. Though this can be a convenient and cost-effective beach wedding option, be sure to ask if the venue is licensed by the county to host weddings. Brides have enough to worry about on their special day without adding the threat of being shut down by law enforcement.

Finally, as of February 4, 2022, it is illegal to release any balloons or air lanterns in St. Johns County.

Other reading about weddings in St. Augustine

Cover Photo by Sun and Sea Beach Weddings.

This article was written in 2022 with accurate prices for that year. Contact the vendor directly, for up-to-date pricing.