6 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors Like a Local
Florida’s Historic Coast offers lots of ways to immerse yourself in the great outdoors.
With 42 miles of beaches, natural reserves, and estuaries, visitors come from far and wide to soak up the sun and scenic beauty. But where do the locals go? Here are a few of our not-so-secret favorite experiences.
Florida’s Historic Coast is a mecca for all species of birds, and you can spot them everywhere, from our beaches to our state park trails. A special place locals like to come upon is Bird Island Park. The park is a beautiful place to simply walk around with binoculars. It tends to be still and quiet, perfect for attracting birds. There’s a gazebo and boardwalk overlooking the pond (be sure to check out the animal cut-outs on the railing), and winding trails surrounded by local flora and dotted with sculptures. One of the must-see spots in the park is the elaborate mosaic artwork of nature and animal scenes on the seating ledges surrounding an open stage area.
The beaches and state park trails offer countless miles for bikers to leisurely enjoy the outdoors at their own pace. But what if you prefer to do a little off-roading? Locals love the natural, 3+ miles of unpaved trails in the Nocatee Preserve in Ponte Vedra Beach. These trails, surrounded by shade trees, are perfect for a mountain biking workout. Of course, if your idea of cycling is more of a leisurely, scenic ride, St. Augustine can accommodate you with bike paths from downtown to the seashore and hamlets in between.
Dining Al Fresco
Everybody loves a picnic, especially by the water. And on Florida’s Historic Coast, visitors can enjoy dining outside at any one of our 42 miles of beaches. But there are so many other ways to enjoy dining al fresco. Locals love their food trucks and we’ve got a park full of them. At Village Garden Food Truck Park you’ll find something to please every kind of palate. From Hawaii-inspired poke bowls to fresh fruit smoothies and slow-smoked barbeque to authentic New York bagels, you’ll have lots to fresh choices from up and coming chefs. And while you’re relaxing at the outdoor tables, play a friendly game of corn hole with the kids. Further north, head for the waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. There, you’ll discover some of the most beautiful spots to enjoy dining on a deck overlooking the water as the sunsets. From Cap’s on the Water in Vilano Beach to Palm Valley Fish Camp in Ponte Vedra Beach, there is simply no fresher seafood and farm-to-table fare anywhere than on Florida’s Historic Coast (just ask a local).
When you’re surrounded by all kinds of waterways, from estuaries and rivers to ocean and inlets, you’re bound to see wildlife swimming about. We’re talking mainly dolphins and manatees. But you’ll also see the occasional turtle or tortoise if you bike along the beach during nesting time, mid-May through October. On Vilano, a popular spot for driving and parking on the beach, locals enjoy bringing along their kayaks and paddleboards to skim the waters off Porpoise Point. That’s the honey hole for spotting curious bottlenose dolphin and friendly manatees as they come to the surface and scout for food. You might also see a Least Tern, which is endangered and nest here from May through October. After a day of wildlife watching, head over to Kingfish Grill for the freshest seafood, sushi bar, and stunning waterfront views.
Enjoying “Old Florida”
Locals love their Crescent Beach. And with good reason. It’s got a laid-back vibe that’s palpable from the sandy beach to the local restaurants. Named for its distinct shoreline shape, Crescent Beach is wide and uncrowded, offering plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the sun and surf. And because it’s at the very south end of Florida’s Historic Coast, it’s a bit off the beaten path, which locals feel gives it a more “old Florida” flavor. And speaking of flavor, you’ll find plenty of local favorites such as Paula’s Beachside Grill where you can feast on a burger and some cold brews under a shady umbrella. Or if you’re in the mood for fresh fish, South Beach Grill is a favorite with locals for its fish tacos, crab cakes, and fresh-caught shrimp.
Boating and Canoeing
Kayaks, canoes, and sailboats, oh my! Florida’s Historic Coast offers a plethora of ways to get out on the water and a boatload of places to enjoy it. Locals know the salt marsh and beach at Anastasia State Park offer such an amazing opportunity to experience the biodiversity of the area. You can rent a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard from Anastasia Watersports and jump right into the water there. The gentle waters of the Salt Run are a perfect spot to learn or simply paddle leisurely as you appreciate the local sea life, flora, and fauna. Don’t forget your camera, as there will be plenty of opportunities to stop and capture nature from your canoe in this stunning setting.