Sometimes even when you’re away, you need to get away, as in outdoors–away from the crowds and the hustle and bustle, long lines and long waits. If you’re looking for something a little more laid back and peaceful, you might want to consider a day at a park. We’ve got lots of them on Florida’s Historic Coast. And they all offer unique experiences you can enjoy with your family. So let’s go outside on Florida’s Historic Coast.
From Ponte Vedra Beach south through St. Augustine and the most southern reaches of St. Johns County, there is a wide variety of parks to choose from:
The Guana River State Park
Just north of St. Augustine off State Road A1A. The great thing about Guana is that provides access to the inland river area and has three different parking lots that are across the road from the Atlantic Ocean. This is so Old Florida that many documentary crews film historic reenactments at Guana because the preserve has no buildings in most places. The great thing about Guana is it provides a plethora of outdoor activities. Hiking trails, premiere fishing in the river or on the ocean, boat launches and premier bird watching abound. It literally is all here for the outdoors lover. The Guana River has launches for kayaks or small boats. Or you can take that kayak or standup paddleboard to the ocean. Guana is a hidden gem to many visitors. But locals know this is meant for the hearty and true nature enthusiasts no matter where you come from.
Fort Mose Historic State Park
It’s only two miles north of St. Augustine and this park gives a glimpse into real Old Florida survival and colonial settlement. The 24-acre site on the edge of a salt marsh was one of the first African American settlements as it was established in 1738 by freed slaves and Native Americans. While the historical and archeological relevance is the basis of this park, it also offers amenities such as birdwatching and paddling with a floating dock that provides marshy water access for kayaks, canoes or paddleboards. Fort Mose is particularly proud to promote the facility as a wheelchair-accessible park for those with physical disabilities.
Anastasia State Park
Due west of St. Augustine and near the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse within eyeshot. Anastasia not only has miles of unspoiled beach dunes on the oceanfront, but there is also a beach gear rental shop near a lagoon just inland. This park is very similar to an urban park because it is only about a mile or two from downtown historic St. Augustine. But it has so much more. First of all, there’s beach access that runs for over a mile. And on the inland side of the dunes is that special lagoon. This park also provides extensive wild nature trails for up close and personal experiences. Simply, put, it’s unforgettable.
• Going south along the coast you’ll come to the Matanzas River Inlet which separates St. Johns County from Flagler County. This is a multi-faceted area as the Matanzas State Forest, Faver-Dykes State Park and the Fort Matanzas National Monument are in this general area that covers miles of protected lands. Where to begin? Boat rides can take you to Fort Matanzas in the middle of the Matanzas River. This huge stretch of collective land between the various parks provides access to pristine beaches, wetlands and nature trails. In this multi-venue selection, it literally rolls everything mentioned above into one general location. But it’s hardly small and camping, hiking, biking, and birdwatching all can be had in these parks.
Those are just some of the great activities you can enjoy in Florida’s Historic Coast parks and there are more that feature hiking and bicycling trails inland as well as along the coast. Most state parks do require an entrance fee, so take that into account.
And if it’s not a state park that strikes your outdoor interest, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park on A1A, also near the lighthouse, is a standard that has entertained generations of visitors. Sure, there are plenty of alligators in the park. But there are also exhibits with plenty of other animals as well. One of the most popular being Hoffman’s two-toed sloths, new to the park.
So plan on staying active as you plan your next trip and let’s go outside on Florida’s Historic Coast.