St. Augustine is one of the United States’ most historic cities — the nation’s oldest, in fact — and offers enough historical sites, tourist attractions, unique adventures and experiences to keep you coming back for more.
But those aren’t the only reasons folks come to St. Augustine. The beaching is spectacular too, with municipal beaches, an immense state park and a nature preserve among the biggest options.
Read on to discover how to enjoy St. Augustine’s beaches.
Anastasia State Park
It’s one of Florida’s most popular state parks and a favorite among locals and day-trippers who live inland.
The barrier island across Matanzas Bay from St. Augustine’s downtown historic district is Anastasia Island, where you’ll find Anastasia State Park. Cross the Bridge of Lions, head south on AIA, Florida’s Atlantic coastal highway, and you’ll soon spot the park entrance on your left.
Everything you need is here — parking, pavilions, a campground and the Salt Run inlet for kayaking, fishing, canoeing and windsurfing. And, of course, a splendid beach that glistens with mostly white quartz sand. There’s even an amphitheater.
Don’t miss the historic coquina quarry, where stones were cut to build the circa-1672 Castillo de San Marcos, downtown, and the circa-1740 Fort Matanzas National Monument a few miles south. The quarry is near the entrance to Anastasia State Park.
An important beach note: Anastasia State Park’s swimming beach is in the southern part of the park. Because of strong ocean currents, swimming isn’t permitted at the northern beach. But that three-mile portion makes for a great, secluded walk.
St. Augustine Beach
An incorporated municipality of its own, St. Augustine Beach is a quintessential Florida beach town. It’s the southern neighbor of Anastasia State Park, so there’s multiple miles of beach bliss to sample.
Like many northeast Florida beaches, St. Augustine Beach features light-colored, hard-parked sand. Pick your public parking lot, beach access and haul your gear onto this gorgeous vista. If a weekend retreat sounds like fun, plenty of hotels line AIA.
So do all sorts of beach bars, seafood restaurants and local-favorite breakfast places. The latter are great options to fuel up for a beach day.
Two city parks — Ocean Hammock Park and Pier Park — offer beach access and facilities. Stocked with volleyball and bocce ball courts, a splash park, picnic tables, a fishing pier and all the necessary comforts such as restrooms, showers and water fountains, Pier Park is a must-visit.
Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve
Prefer an uncrowded beach experience? Head a few miles north on A1A for the GTM Reserve (a national estuarine research reserve). Located in South Ponte Vedra Beach, Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve preserves 73,000 acres of shoreline, near-shoreline and coastal wetlands and forests.
There are small admission and parking charges, but in return you get Florida’s natural glory in the form of hiking trails and boat launches. There are three beach access points with parking lots.
At the North Beach Overlook, don’t miss the statue of Juan Ponce de Leon. Unveiled in April 2013 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Spanish explorer’s sighting of Florida, it’s accompanied by a historical marker and interpretive infographics. Ponce de Leon is said to have landed very near this location in April 1513.
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