St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra: Amazingly Affordable
On Florida’s Historic Coast, some of the most memorable natural wonders, historic sites and family adventures are free (or nearly free).
There’s still a lot of summer left. But what if you don’t have a lot of time or money left to do it all? Fortunately, Florida’s Historic Coast offers plenty of opportunities to squeeze a little more luxury out of even the shortest summer vacation. And during the lazy days of August and September you can experience the centuries-old city of St. Augustine, the outstanding golf and seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra, and the area’s 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches, along with plenty of things to do for free or $10 or less.
Before diving in, check out our top picks for budget-friendly attractions and activities.
Free Fun Along Florida’s Historic Coast
One of the best ways to enjoy the ancient city is by walking along its brick-lined streets. The Bridge of Lions, the bay front and the grounds of the Castillo de San Marcos are Instagram-worthy spots that will make your friends green with envy. While strolling in the Historic District, be sure to check out the exhibits at The Governor's House Cultural Center and Museum. A walk along Aviles Street, the nation’s oldest, is a treat in itself. While there, stop in at the Spanish Military Hospital Museum. Or get a historical perspective at the nearby Oldest House Museum.
Looking for sweet treats? The Whetstone Chocolates Tasting Tours offers free samples and a behind-the-scenes look at the factory crafting a variety of chocolate confections.
Sample artisanal spirits at the St. Augustine Distillery and City Gate Spirits or try one of the daily tours and tastings at the San Sebastian Winery – both are free and within walking distance of the Historic District. Time it right and enjoy the local art galleries during First Friday Art Walk.
Beyond the historic city, take a scenic drive along A1A and find wallet-friendly fun as you go beach-hopping along the coast. Golf lovers shouldn’t miss a trip to Ponte Vedra to tour the Clubhouse and visit the famous 17th island hole on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
For some of the most spectacular views of nature, head for the windswept Anastasia State Park with nature trails, campsites and pristine sandy beaches. The GTM Research Reserve (beginning in Ponte Vedra to the north and continuing to Marineland to the south) is an estuary with extensive salt marshes and a maritime hammock perfect for exploring, launching boats and kayaks. The St. Johns County Ocean Pier Park offers amazing views of the beach and the Atlantic Ocean and there’s a splash park nearby for the kids to enjoy.
Top Things to Do for $10 or Less
You might be surprised how much vacation fun $10 or less (per adult) will get you. Savvy shoppers can purchase combination tickets for discounts to attractions and tours through St. Augustine’s Old Town Trolley Tours and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! St. Augustine. Many attractions and tours offer discounts on tickets if purchased online in advance.
You’ll find several attractions in one place at the Old Town Trolley complex. The Old Jail was built by Henry Flagler in 1891 and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It was operational for more than 60 years and housed 72 prisoners at a time.
The Oldest Store Museum storytellers make this tour with more than 100,000 essential items and inventions from the turn-of-the-century come to life!
The Classic Car Museum of St. Augustine features automobiles from the 1890’s to modern day sports cars as well as memorabilia for car enthusiasts of all ages.
The St. Augustine Aquarium offers an 80,000 gallon Snorkel Adventure, interactive shark and stingray lagoon, and other hands-on exhibits alongside views of marine life such as eels and seahorses.
Immerse yourself in the most entertaining and educational documentaries, as well as Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, at the World Golf IMAX. With North Florida’s largest screen (70 feet wide and five stories high), the World Golf Hall of Fame IMAX Theater is at unique movie-going experience. Families can enjoy a little friendly competition on the 18-hole natural grass putting green or the Challenge Hole at the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum.
Affordable Places to Stay
Budget-conscious travelers can find a wide range of accommodation rates and plenty of hot lodging deals for mid-week, extended-stay or vacation packages. There are also many vacation rentals available for families and groups of all sizes.
Be sure to ask about deals and reduced admission or accommodation rates for first responder and unsung heroes, military, seniors and groups.