What’s New in 2018 on Florida’s Historic Coast
Florida’s Historic Coast includes St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, and Ponte Vedra Beach, home to the PGA TOUR and THE PLAYERS Championship.
What’s New with Lodging
By the end of 2018, Florida’s Historic Coast will add 1,465 rooms - either new or newly renovated – to the St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach area. Currently, Florida’s Historic Coast has approximately 11,000 rooms destination wide.
The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens in St. Augustine is a hotel like no other. Opened in March 2017, The Collector was once the home of the Dow Museum of Historic Houses, a beloved St. Augustine landmark dating back to 1790. The Inn blends contemporary indulgences, quaint touches, personal service and amenities while maintaining authenticity. With its wrought-iron finishes, fountains and period details, this distinct hotel boasts 30 uniquely appointed guest rooms and suites.
The newest lodging property to open on Florida’s Historic Coast is the Marker 8 Hotel and Marina. Providing panoramic views of St. Augustine’s historic bayfront, Marker 8 has 26 elegant themed rooms, each with a unique view. Complimentary wireless internet access is available in all rooms. The Hotel’s Marina provides concrete floating dockage for vessels up to 90 feet. Guests to the hotel and the marina enjoy a complimentary breakfast each morning, access to the Fitness Center, a daily social hour with complimentary beverages, access to the hotel’s bicycles and heated plunge pool overlooking the bay.
With an opening planned for the summer of 2018, Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort will feature 180 two-room suites featuring a private bedroom and separate living room, more than 7,000 square feet of event space, a resort-style pool with full-service poolside cabanas, guest bicycles, free shuttle service to the St. Augustine Historic District, an on-site signature restaurant and many other impressive seaside resort amenities.
The Hammock Beach Resort, located south of St. Augustine in Palm Coast, has completed a remodel of the lobby with all new furnishings and a sophisticated new lobby bar. The resort’s make-over extended to its Premium Ocean Front Suites, meeting and function space, and restaurants. The resort’s Jack Nicklaus designed Oceanfront Course re-opened in November 2017 after the course’s entire turf service was replaced. Hammock Beach has never looked better!
The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa has completed a $25 million refresh that included expanding the size of guestrooms. An all-new Sawgrass Suite was unveiled, featuring both living and dining rooms to comfortably seat eight guests. Most exciting was the completion of the premium service wing rooms and suites that same month. Behind an unassuming glass door, guests’ VIP keys open a wing welcoming them to an unparalleled oasis. Guests have privileged golf access to the adjacent TPC® Sawgrass’ championship golf courses, on site dining, spa, pools and activities round out resort amenities.
What’s New Attractions & Tours
This year the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park celebrates its 125th Anniversary with a wide range of celebrations and special events, most notably the opening of a brand-new attraction, Oasis on the Nile. Since 1893, the Alligator Farm has provided St. Augustine visitors fun and educational opportunities to interact with every species of crocodilians, reptiles, mammals and birds. The new exhibit set to open in March 2018 will showcase Nile crocodiles and feeding shows, bi-level crocodile viewing opportunities and exhibits of Egyptian artifacts and replicas of famous antiquities.
The St. Augustine Aquarium, Snorkel Adventure & Zip line is a new Florida marine attraction. The first phase, which opened in December 2016, consists of an 80,000-gallon Snorkel Adventure, an interactive Shark & Stingray Cove, seahorse and hands-on habitats. Guests enjoy interaction with some of Florida’s most beautiful marine species with sharks, stingrays and fish feeding. For the adventurous, get up close and personal snorkeling with sea life in a natural reef environment. The Castaway Canopy Adventure by Zipstream opened in the fall of 2017 providing guided tour, climbing walls, bridges and more – a thrilling experience above the aquariums and forest.
New to the St. Augustine area this year, The Magic & Mentalism of Viktor Zenko at the Houdini Theatre, presents a show filled with incredible illusions, hilarious comedy, and adventurous audience participation.
Kids Krew Tours is specifically designed for families and kids. Your guide on this adventure through the historic streets of St. Augustine keeps everyone engaged learning the history of the city. Participants become one of the pirate crew, look through a real spy glass in search of soldiers, learn how to use a compass and find treasures throughout the city.
The ultimate air boat ride with Sea Serpent Tours offers historic and ecological excursions where visitors explore the area’s inland waterways; the St. Johns, the Tolomato and Matanzas Rives and surrounding tidal creeks.Guests see the diverse environment Northeast Florida.
Explore Tours make it easy to get around St. Augustine. St. Augustine locals Blaise Morrell and Calli Zavodney created this tour and transportation company to provide visitors with personable experience from the locals. Using Electric vehicles to transport, Explore makes traveling and touring convenient. Park your car and use the transport for an easy point-to-point $3 fare.
St. Augustine’s Escape U is an escape room players solving a series of puzzles using clues and hints that challenge guests to use their own investigative skills, logic muscles, and teamwork to solve room-escape games. Games include the Castillo de San Matanzas where players have to protect the fort from British invaders, battling their own mind in the Asylum room, and battling the high seas in the Storm Room.
A fascinating new program series presented by the Florida Humanities Council is coming to the Lightner Museum in the spring of 2018. The Humanities Speakers Series showcases four engaging talks and performances focusing on Florida’s history, culture, and people. Each of these ticketed events will take place in the museum’s historic pool area with topics including a historical journey to Florida colonial life, a dive into the cultural lore of our state’s lush springs, and an exploration of manatees.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is always one of the area’s top attractions. And why not? That amazing view from the top is totally worth climbing 219 steps. But it’s what’s under water that’s really getting attention. Secrets from the sea, artifacts, and archaeologists are part of the museum’s exhibit, Wrecked! Discover the long lost secrets of a 1782 Loyalist shipwreck and the science behind its archeological recovery from the ocean floor. New this year is the Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, with its conservation lab, research library and x-ray room. The lab provides a walk-thru viewing room where guests can interact with archeologists working to conserve their finds from the waters off our coast. The museum’s new exhibition, Legends of the Light, is installed partially in the new building’s education space and partially in the Lighthouse tower.
What’s New with Food and Beverage
St. Augustine’s newest eatery, St. Augustine Seafood Co. is the latest addition to the Colonial Quarter complex where visitors can learn all about the oldest city’s heritage through living history experiences. Other restaurants on the property include the Taberna dell Caballo offering authentic Spanish flavors and the Bull and Crown Publick House, which represents the British influences on our local culinary heritage. The St. Augustine Seafood Co partners with local fishermen and fish markets to provide the freshest quality fish, shrimp and oysters direct from the boats fishing our local waters, and they also support maritime research efforts of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum by contributing proceeds from the sale of their already popular Lighthouse Lemonade.
The St. Augustine Distillery has become one of the hottest spots in town. The Distillery utilizes Florida ingredients to produce whiskey, rum, vodka, gin and bourbon in hand crafted small batches. Since opening in 2014, the Distillery has already won awards along with fans of its products. Housed in a historic building that once served as an ice plant, guests enjoy the free tours and tastings daily. In the fall of 2016, the Distillery launched Florida’s first legal Bourbon since prohibition and in November 2016, USA Today named the St. Augustine Distillery’s Gin the #1 Craft Gin in the country.
Since the opening of the St. Augustine Distillery, new craft cocktail lounges are popping up all over. Odd Birds has attracted fans of the art of craft cocktails. Relax with a variety of small bites of eclectic fare and live music. Prohibition Kitchen invokes the spirit of Bartolo in the very spot of what was St. Augustine’s Genovar Theatre, the social epicenter of Flagler’s prohibition era, in the heart of historic St. George Street.
Distilled Spirits aren’t the only popular new beverages on Florida’s Historic Coast. Wine continues to make a splash. St. Augustine has two new wine rooms. The Carrera Wine Cellar, where there is no limit to the themed wine classes offered; and the new Bin 39 Wine Bar at the St. George Inn pours the best boutique wines from Sonoma and Napa valleys.
What’s New with Art and Music
Concerts at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre include world-renowned artists, and the “Amp’s” new Backyard Stage events - which take place in a small staged area behind the venue – are free or low cost and feature up-and-coming bands with food trucks and local artists displaying their wares. The Amphitheatre recently opened the Front Porch concert space to add even more performances to the schedule.
The newest music venue on Florida’s Historic Coast, The Colonial Oak Music Park features free concerts in downtown St. Augustine. The Park features cocktail stations servicing the finest locally produced ales, wines and spirits in a relaxed outdoor atmosphere where visitors can walk right in and enjoy performances.
The Florida Chamber Music Project provides live classical music in an intimate chamber music setting. This ensemble includes very talented string musicians that share their talents at a series of concerts at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall throughout the year.
What’s New Shopping
St. Augustine’s Uptown area on San Marco Blvd is still known for the beautiful Mission Nombre de Dios and the great cross that towers over the Nation’s oldest city. But the once quiet, empty stretch of San Marco Avenue is now lined with eclectic boutiques, a wine bar and the popular “Uptown Saturday Night,” event that brings out shoppers the last Saturday of the month who enjoy live music, libations and the chance to mingle with friends old and new.
Sawgrass Village in Ponte Vedra is a modern entertainment, dining and shopping complex, that’s shaking things up. Boutiques and one-of-a-kind stores include A’Propos Boutique, John Craig Clothier, J Turner & Co., Lemon Twist, Scout & Molly’s Boutique and the Village Jeweler. You’ll also find fine art, personal shoppers and Cocktails and Seafood Happy Hour. It’s not your typical mall and restaurant row, not even close.
St. Augustine Outlet Mall has completed an extensive $7 million interior remodel and added new stores and merchandise. Improvements include bright new flooring, inviting soft seating area, Wi-Fi throughout the mall and touch screen directories. Recently new stores opened including H&M, Old Navy, Toys “R” Us, Christopher & Banks and 2Q smoothie & bubble tea.
St. Augustine Premium Outlets has also opened new stores. Torrid, which sells trendy plus-size clothing for women, Swarovski, which sells high-quality crystal jewelry and accessories, Book Warehouse, a discount book store for children, Crew Cuts J.Crew fashions for children, Janie & Jacks children’s clothing, roz & ALI women’s fashions, Zumiez shoes and clothing, LIDS officially licensed sport headwear, and TaylorMade Golf Factory Store, which sells off-season product lines and gear from TaylorMade, Adams Golf, Adidas Golf.
New for Groups and Meetings
There are lots of themed experiences for groups and meetings at the many attractions and unique venues on Florida’s Historic Coast. Pirate Melee is a delightful private group tour of the Oldest City that takes guests on a fun-filled trolley tour where they are boarded by Pirates then taken off to an enchanted location to enjoy a delicious dinner and lots of Pirate Magic, music and entertainment! Designed for groups of 25 or more, Pirate Melee can be custom tailored to meet the group’s needs.
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 and vacation opportunities 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.