Along with the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal, the waters that surround Florida’s Historic Coast are part of the 60,000-acre Guana, Tolomato, Matanzas National Estuary Research Reserve—referred to by locals as the GTM. This convergence of waterways is an estuary stretching from Ponte Vedra Beach south to Marineland and contains extensive salt marshes, oyster beds and maritime hammocks.
The gentle swish of the surf along 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beach accompanies anglers casting beyond the breakers where, depending on the season, whiting, redfish, pompano, bluefish and maybe even a tarpon are searching for food, including the bait on the end of your line. No boat? No problem. Florida’s Historic Coast has fishing piers located on waterways ranging from secluded creeks to the deep blue sea. Extending 687 feet into the Atlantic, the St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier is the area’s longest and is ideal for out-of-state fishermen because a Florida fishing license is included for the day with the $6 admission. Other popular piers are at Lighthouse Park, Vilano Beach, and along the St. Johns River at the Shands Bridge and Alpine Groves Park. Get close to the big ones at several bridges – try A1A’s Matanzas Inlet Bridge 12 miles south of St. Augustine and the May Street Bridge on the way to Vilano.
If you want to get offshore there are professional guides like Sea Love Charters, Drum Man Charters and P&A Excursions. They know all the hot spots and can get you there and back.
And anglers looking for some competition will find it at the Ancient City Kingfish Challenge, which offers cash and prizes for the biggest catch. This annual tournament takes place from the St. Augustine City Marina on the Bayfront in July. Paddling Guided kayak and SUP tours provide an opportunity to get an up-close look at dolphins and other marine wildlife. Salt marshes, accessible by boat, paddle board or kayak give way to foot trails that bisect the region’s beautiful maritime hammocks and the St. Johns River Basin. St. Augustine Eco Tours, Anastasia Water Sports, Ripple Effect EcoTours and Kayak St. Augustine all offer guided tours that lead visitors on safe adventures exploring our area’s pristine waterways.
With eight stops on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, the area is a bird watcher’s paradise—especially the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park where thousands of coastal birds make their homes from March to June under the protection of the big gators. In April, hundreds of birders and photographers come to participate in the Annual Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest with world-class field studies and workshops.
Although bald eagles can sometimes be seen, the majestic osprey rules the skies. It’s not unusual to see them soaring above the beach with a fresh fish trapped in their talons. Other coastal birds are attracted to the area’s abundance of fish. Sleek and fast-flying cormorants dive beneath the water to snare a meal. Pink-hued roseate spoonbills (no, they’re not flamingoes) wade in marshes or soar over maritime forests. Colorful wading birds like blue herons, along with pure white egrets and ibises, are longtime locals.
Giant sea turtles nest on St. Augustine’s beaches during the warm summer nights. In the winter months, the Northern Right Whale can be spotted from shore.
Until winter’s cooling water temperatures send them south, the iconic Florida manatee can be seen in the bays and in the Intracoastal Waterway. Beach-goers are sailors are frequently entertained by leaping dolphin.
The gopher tortoise can be found in dry, sandy uplands, such as longleaf pine, oak-sandhills, scrub, and coastal dunes. The gopher tortoise is a land tortoise that originated in North America 60 million years ago, making it one of the oldest living species.
The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is the only place in the world where you can see every living species of crocodilian! They prefer fresh water lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands, but they also can be found in brackish water habitats.
Florida’s Historic Coast is a cyclist’s paradise. Inviting weather, breathtaking coastal vistas, and the quaint historic downtown of St. Augustine attract bikers from near and far. Try the Scenic and Historic AIA Coastal Byway – a route with designated bike lanes between Ponte Vedra Beach to the north and Marineland to the south. And choose to participate in several different cycling events. There are several bicycling events throughout the year. Some of the most popular are the Annual Tour de Forts Classic in April, the Bike MS: PGA Tour Cycle to the Shore in October, the Spoonbills and Sprockets Cycling Tour in November and the Rails to Trail Festival in December.
St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra’s picturesque environment and year-round temperate climate attract runners from throughout the U.S. and internationally. Whether it’s a jog on the beach, a run through the charming historic downtown or a 5K or marathon, Florida’s Historic Coast is the perfect place to lace up your running shoes. Some of the most popular foot races here include the 26.2 with Donna, Matanzas 5000 5K, The Race to the Taste, the Bridge of Lions 5K , and the St. Augustine Half Marathon Weekend. It seems there is always a run, hike or walk taking place almost every weekend on Florida’s Historic Coast. For a complete list of fitness events throughout the year, visit http://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/events-festivals
Located midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida’s Historic Coast includes historic St. Augustine, the outstanding golf and seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra and 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches. For more information on events, activities, holiday getaways, accommodations and to plan your vacation in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com, become a fan on Facebook or call 1.800.653.2489.
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