Top Self-guided Tours on Florida’s Historic Coast
Sometimes you just want to explore on your own. These walks and hidden gems off the beaten path are worth stumbling upon.
September 8, 2021
- If you like the idea of seeing of St. Augustine in a new light, you must download the Then + Now Walking Tour of St. Augustine on your phone. Then, start walking. This fascinating self-guided tour takes you along a path of specific sites throughout the Historic District that inspired paintings in the Lightner Museum’s recent exhibit of impressionist art. From Aviles Street to King Street and the Bridge of Lions, you’ll be enchanted by how the views right before your very eyes inspired so many artists over the years.
- Tolomato Cemetery With so much history behind this tiny town, a visit to this ancient burial site is a reminder of all those who played a part in the story of St. Augustine. Here you’ll come upon the burials of Christian Indians and people from Spain, Cuba, Greece, Minorca, Africa, France and many who built, fought for and lived in this historic town. Even if you’re not a fan of cemeteries, you’ll find this spot at once beautiful and inspiring. Open to visitors the third Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Lakeside Sculpture Garden/Veterans Memorial Headed to the beach? Staying on the island? You’ll want to stop by this charming little sculpture garden. Located by a small lake, the garden features about a dozen sculptures by local artist Thomas Glover. There is also a Veterans Memorial, a peaceful spot to meditate or remember those who served their country. Nearby, a boardwalk and picnic tables provide a great vantage point to enjoy nature.
- St. Augustine Art Association The colors of Fall are everywhere and there’s no better time than October to take them all in at this bi-annual art exhibition. Discover works of art in all kinds of mediums, from paintings and drawings to sculpture and collages, all created by local artists, many of them for sale. The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.
- Touch St. Augustine Braille Trail As you walk along and around the Plaza de la Constitucion, you’ll come upon various sculptures of people that were instrumental in the history of the nation’s oldest city, among them, Henry Flagler, Don Pedro Menendez, and the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers. As part of the “Braille Trail” these sculptures are brought to life through site-specific Braille signage with raised tactile diagrams and interpretive descriptions. There are also audio stories available for free by phone, mobile web app and online. You’re encouraged to touch the art!
- First Coast Cultural Center Now located in Jacksonville Beach, what was once the Cultural Center of Ponte Vedra Beach continues to promote the creation, understanding and appreciation of art in Northeast Florida. Visit the gallery for exhibitions of the finest local, regional and national artists in all mediums. Open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Bird Island Park One of the prettiest spots in Ponte Vedra Beach is also one of the most peaceful. Take a leisurely stroll through the gazebo along the boardwalk overlooking the pond—notice the wildlife carvings on the boardwalk railings. You’re bound to see some native birds nesting in the live oaks or feeding by the water—a good reason to bring along binoculars and a camera. Several trails meander through the garden of indigenous plants and trees. Sprinkled in between the plants and paths are whimsical sculptures, benches and shady spots for a rest or meditation. The highlight? The intricate mosaic artwork of wildlife creatures surrounding the small amphitheater seating. Amazing.