A nice day trip in Central Florida – Driving along the coastal Route A1A from Saint Augustine to Daytona Beach
Route A1A from Saint Augustine to Daytona Beach
If you are looking for a nice day trip that includes history, beautiful beaches, great restaurants and shops, you should take a drive from historic St. Augustine to Daytona Beach, Florida on Route A1A. In early March 2012, during Daytona’s Bike Week, we took our drive along this very popular route. The drive is about 50 miles and you drive right along the coast through some quant little beach towns. There are a number of state parks along the way where you can stop and view some awesome coastal scenery. Bikers especially like to take a cruise along this route, and we sure saw a lot of them on our trip, due to the Bike Week festivities taking place. It’s a fun family trip as well; the kids will really enjoy the beaches and the attractions.
St. Augustine, Florida
We started our trip down A1A in St. Augustine, Florida. Here you will find many historic sites and museums, such as The Saint Augustine Treasure museum and the quirky Ripley’s Believe it or Not. The best way to see the historic downtown of St. Augustine is by trolley. The trolley will bring you to all the historic sites and the conductors will tell you all sorts of historic information and stories. They will bring you past the star-shaped Castillo de San Marcos, which is the oldest masonry fort from the Spanish colonial times. There’s also the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park and the beautiful Flagler College. The city has many Spanish style buildings with great architecture. Kids will love visiting the Alligator Farm and seeing some alligators up close. Be sure you take time to stroll down the cobblestone streets and browse the many shops in Old Town. For those who love the spookier side of things, America’s oldest city offers ghost tours and beautiful haunted bed and breakfasts in their historic old homes. Make sure you go over the lion bridge to the Saint Augustine lighthouse and climb the 219 steps to get spectacular views of the city and the coastline. The museum is in the lighthouse keeper’s home with the gift shop.
Once you have soaked up all of the historic aspects of St. Augustine, it is wonderful to take a long walk down Saint Augustine Beach. When you drive down A1A from Saint Augustine you can also stop at Butler beach and Crescent Beach to see some very scenic views from their beach boardwalks. If you get a chance, be sure to stop at Anastasia State Park.
A little further down the coast is Fort Matanzas (another Spanish built fort), which is located on the Matanzas River. This national park has beautiful trails with dunes along the beach.
On the day we went, we noticed a group of people looking up into the trees with telescopes that were set up by the park rangers. We investigated what they were looking at and got to see a beautiful large great horned owl and her two chicks. The scope was aimed right at the owl and one of the chicks, which allowed you to see them up close. It was a fantastic sight to see as they are only there in the spring. They usually leave in April or May, but the mother has been returning to the same location for several years. To get to the Fort, which is located on an island in the middle of the river, you take a free ferry ride over for the tour.
The tour leaves every half hour during operating hours. You’ll learn about the history of the massacre at Matanzas.
Washington Oaks Garden State Park
Also on A1A, you will find Washington Oaks Garden State Park known for its spectacular gardens. One of its most unique aspects is the coquina rock formations along the beach. The rock formations are amazing; with the ocean carving soothe round pools in the rocks that collect sea creatures and various shells. It also most looks like a mini Grand Canyon up close. The colors are beautiful, with the green moss covering the shades of grays and brown of the rocks. The park includes a seawall for fishing and many picnic areas along the Matanza River. The park also has a long boardwalk that extends along a large portion of the beach. This was favorite part of the trip, as I did not know that there was rocky beaches like this in Florida. You can’t swim there, but it great for sightseeing and taking pictures.
There are a number of seaside restaurants along the way. Mango Mango’s Beachside Caribbean Grille and Bar in St. Augustine area is a good choice. Their address and phone number is:
700 A1A Beach Boulevard St. Augustine, FL 32080
They serve Island style food including seafood dishes, burgers, sandwiches, salads, desserts and great tropical drinks. The Conch Fritters are a great appetizer, and their tropical jerk Mahi Mahi is a delicious main course (you’ve got to try their Key Lime Pie for dessert).
After eating we continued our drive down the coastline through Flagler County where you can stop and go to Flagler Beach or walk along its iconic pier or stop by the nearby State wildlife refuge.
In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful drives in the entire state of Florida. Other than a small stretch, where you are diverted a little inland, your route will be mostly along undeveloped coastline where you can see the Atlantic Ocean, the sand dunes, and the sea oats growing there. The drive is a perfect day trip for anyone that just wants to get away and enjoy the beautiful Florida coast. Please visit http://www.FloridaVacationPlans.com, to read more articles about Florida travel destinations.