Things to See and Do Along A1A
Anastasia State Park, located just south of historic St. Augustine on Anastasia Island, FL
With over four miles of beaches and plenty of activities, Anastasia State Park is a great destination for families, couples, or someone seeking solitude.
Reserve your campsite in a wooded hammock for easy access to nature trails or fantastic bird-watching from the front porch of your tent or RV. Start your day with an early morning jog along the beach or take a relaxing dip into the ocean to cool off. Anastasia State Park also boasts excellent fishing for those looking to reel in a catch.
Hours of Operation:
Open from 8 am to sundown, 365 days out of the year.
Camping fees are applicabe. For more information, contact Anastasia State Park at 904-461-2033.
A1A Bicycle/Pedestrian Path, FL
This separated bicycle/pedestrian Path begins at Marineland and runs parallel to A1A for the entire length of the southern portion of this scenic corridor. It meanders through the maritime oaks and connects to trails within the parks and with the mainland at the Hammock Dunes Bridge and the bridge at State Road 100. This path has the distinction of being the first Florida segment of the East Coast Greenway.
The path passes through all four River to Sea parks and preserves. Travelers of the path can encounter the ecosystems of the barrier island including the environmentally significant communities connecting the ocean and the river: beaches, ocean dunes, coastal scrub, and maritime hammock.
The A1A bicycle/pedestrian path not only provides an alternative mode of transportation within the corridor, but it also provides opportunities for the bicyclist, rollerblader, jogger, and walker. The path provides all the scenic vistas of the corridor.
Bings Landing County Park, FL
Bings Landing County Park is an eleven-acre park and historical site located on the west side of A1A. Bings Landing is located within a maritime oak hammock and is adjacent to the Matanzas River and included in the NERR. The park overlooks the marine estuary and provides important public access to the estuary. Bings Landing facilities include a free public boat launch, fishing docks, picnic pavilions, barbecue grills, gazebo, restrooms and play equipment.
Bings Landing is the site of the historical ruins of the Mala Compra Plantation, owned by General Joseph Hernandez. Also, pre-historic artifacts have been found on the site. The county is working with the state to build a museum/interpretive center around the ruins.
Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine, FL
The Bridge of Lions is one of the most prominent design features along Scenic & Historic A1A. Construction of the bridge was completed in 1927. The bridge was designed to reflect the St. Augustine's Mediterranean Heritage, one of the few engineering structures that can be defined by its architectural style. The bridge spans Matanzas Bay (the Intracoastal Waterway) in downtown St. Augustine, linking the mainland portion of the City with its eastern neighborhood on Anastasia Island. The bridge is named after the two lions at the West End of the bridge designed by the sculptor Romanelli of Florance, Italy and donated by Dr. Andrew Anderson. Because of its graceful appearance, the bridge has become a well-known local landmark and has earned its listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Castillo de San Marcos, FL
Castillo de San Marcos was for many years the northern most outpost of the Spanish New World Empire. In 1672 construction of the Castillo de San Marcos, the immense and impressive fortress that guards Matanzas Bay, began. Faced by the growing English presence to the north the Spanish needed to strengthen the City's defenses; therefore, Spanish soldiers and Native Americans were pressed into service to build a giant structure of coquina blocks quarried from nearby Anastasia Island.
Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort and the best-preserved example of Spanish colonial fortification built in the continental United States. Designed by Spanish Engineer Ignacio Daza, it was built in the form of a hollow star with a diamond shape bastion at each corner. Construction of this fort was finally completed in 1695. The physical integrity and the structural splendor of this massive fortress remains largely intact more than three centuries after its completion.
Flagler Beach Boardwalk and Pier, Flagler Beach, FL
The Flagler Beach Boardwalk and Pier are located "downtown." This is the center of many activities associated with a beachside community. The Pier offers one the opportunity to fish or to see the ocean and beaches from a different perspective. One may observe the surfers and other beach activities or just relax and have a picnic at one of the shelters along the boardwalk.
The corridor reflects the community's ties to its recreational and natural surroundings. This is done with the "Old Fashioned Fourth of July at the Beach," "Columbus Day," and "Holiday at the Beach" festivals and parades. These events, along with special events such as surfing contests and fishing contests, offer the resident and visitor an opportunity to see and participate in the traditions of "Old Florida."
Flagler Beach Historical Museum, FL
The City of Flagler Beach celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2000. As a result, the city established the Flagler Beach Historical Museum. The Museum is adjacent to City Hall and has been open since September 2001. The Museum depicts Flagler Beach's history, with pictures and artifacts dating back to its founding. It also displays artifacts found along the coast that are associated with the plantations within the corridor.
Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church, FL
Another legacy of the Flagler Era (circa 1887-1913) of St. Augustine history, the Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church offers a classic example of the Venetian Renaissance style. The building, designed by nationally renowned architects Thomas Hastings and John M. Carrere, was built by hotel entrepreneur Henry Flagler in memory of his daughter, Jennie Louise, who died at sea en route to St. Augustine in 1889.
The remains of Flagler and his first wife, Mary, lie beside those of his daughter in a mausoleum within the church. The copper dome of the building, modeled after St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, reaches some 150 feet into the air. Elaborate capitols of old gold and white terra cotta decorate the base of the dome.
Flagship Harbor/Moody Boat Launch, FL
Flagship Harbor Preserve is a 300-acre preserve along the Intracoastal Waterway. The Preserve offers the visitor hiking trails, a 3000-foot boardwalk through saltwater marsh, restrooms, parking, and picnicking facilities. It connects with the Wickline Center and its additional active recreational opportunities of playgrounds, tennis courts, and a basketball court. Moody Boat Launch is located on the northern edge of the Preserve. Free boat launch facilities are available here, as are restrooms and a connecting boardwalk to the preserve.
Fort Matanzas, FL
Since its founding in 1565, the military outpost town of St. Augustine had been the heart of Spain's coastal defenses in Florida. After the completion of the Castillo de San Marcos in 1695, the town had only one weakness: fourteen miles to the south Matanzas Inlet allowed access to the Matanzas River, by which enemy vessels could attack the town from the rear - out of range of the Castillo's cannons. The presence of Ft. Matanzas physically demonstrates the determination of the Spanish colonial authorities to improve their defensive posture in northeast Florida.
Completed in 1742, the fortification was erected on the West Bank of the Matanzas River, immediately north of an inlet from the ocean, in order to prohibit enemy ships from proceeding northward along the river in an attack against the settlement at St. Augustine. Cannons mounted on the gun deck of the fort could easily menace any ship proceeding along the waterway.
Fort Mose, FL
Escaped African-born slaves fleeing the English plantations in the Carolinas made their way toward St. Augustine in the late 1600s and early 1700s, seeking refuge and freedom in the Spanish colony of Florida. Spanish officials permitted the blacks to establish their own community, the town of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first legally sanctioned free black community in what is now the United States.
The men in this town, composed of free blacks, were made members of the Spanish militia, and they served as the first line of defense against the British attacks from the north. The Mose militia served in a number of significant battles, beginning in 1740, when the British governor of Georgia, James Oglethorpe, led troops in an invasion against Spanish Florida. Fort Mose was abandoned in 1763 when Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain. Its inhabitants moved to Cuba. In the 1980s, the State of Florida acquired the grounds on which the village once sat.
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach, FL
A1A passes through Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, which provides the visitor with a unique "river to sea experience." The park provides visitors with the opportunity to observe nature within the various biological communities. The east side of the park offers an oceanfront camping area (34 campsites), bathhouse, and dune walkovers, as well as parking, picnic shelters, and restrooms for the beach swimming area. The west side of the park has a boat basin and launch area, picnic pavilions, and a nature trail.
Hotel Ponce de Leon / Alcazar Hotel (Lightner Museum), FL
The Hotel Ponce de Leon / Alcazar Hotel (Lightner Museum) was the first of the grand hotels that Henry Flagler constructed in St. Augustine in an effort to refashion the City as the "American Riviera," and as a southern resort for the wealthy northerners. The Hotel Ponce De Leon constituted the center piece of opulent architecture of the Flagler Era (1887- 1913). Flagler commissioned a pair of young architects, Thomas Hastings and John M. Carrere, to draw the plans for the building, whose Spanish Renaissance style influenced architectural design throughout Florida for the next half century.
This building is acclaimed as one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance Architecture in America. Another young architect, Bernard Maybeck, who later won national prominence in California, designed the interior spaces, which evoked the Victorian splendor of America's Gilded Age. Louis Comfort Tiffany contributed to the interior. The building served as a hotel for well over half a century before it was converted to educational uses.
Mala Compra Plantation Greenway, FL
The Mala Compra Plantation Greenway is a 323-acre greenway preserving the oak hammock along A1A on the north end of the corridor. Combined with Bings Landing and Malacompra Road/Beachfront Park, the greenway creates an extensive river to sea experience for the visitor.
Along the south end of the corridor, the greenway preserves areas of ocean scrub. It is in this greenway that the Hammock's famed family of peacocks may be found. Much of the greenway is adjacent to the bicycle/pedestrian path along A1A. Plantations from the Spanish and Territorial Periods and middens are within the park.
Malacompra Road Park/Beachfront Park, FL
Malacompra Road Park/Beachfront Park is accessible from A1A on the north side of Malacompra Road. Malacompra Road Park offers trails through a maritime oak hammock and ocean scrub communities and the associated wildlife of a barrier island within these communities. The Beachfront Park offers access to the scrub trails and the beaches.
The Malacompra Park offers hiking trails, picnic pavilions, barbecue grills, ballfields, playground equipment, fishing and beach activities, and swimming, which is limited due to coquina outcroppings along the shoreline.
Marineland Oceanarium, FL
Marine Studios, founded in the 1930s by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Douglas Burden, and Count Ilia Tolstoy, was the world's first oceanarium. The Oceanarium, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, became one of Florida's earliest tourist attractions. This historic site was used to make many early underwater movies, such as "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "Return of the Creature," Clint Eastwood's first movie role. The Dolphin Restaurant next door was also known to be the "local hangout" of such notables as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Ernest Hemingway.
Mission of Nombre de Dios, FL
The Mission Nombre de Dios is considered by some to be one of America's most sacred and historic sites. Here, over 400 years ago, Father Lopez de Mendoza Grajales offered the first Mass in America's first colonial city. It was the beginning of the permanent history of Christianity in what is now the United States. This mission site, which remains in religious use today and contains an early cemetery, is also located close to the landing site of the Pedro Menendez de Aviles expedition and the first Spanish village in Florida. This Mission settlement constituted a highly significant part of Spain's colonial presence in Florida since it was established soon after St. Augustine in 1565. The tall cross marking the mission's location was erected in 1965 to commemorate the St. Augustine Quadricentennial.
Ocean and Beach Overlook, FL
Over 6 miles of the corridor from southern Beverly Beach through Flagler Beach offers unobstructed views of the ocean and its beaches where A1A runs along the dune. Amenities such as restrooms are located at the fishing pier boardwalk area and at the parks. It offers an overview of the ecosystems of the beach and dune on the east. The least tern and sea turtles use the area beaches for nesting. Right whales navigate along the coast in the spring. There are extensive recreational and scenic opportunities as well.
Oldest House (Gonzalez-Alvarez House), FL
For over half a century, the Gonzalez-Alvarez House has been portrayed locally as the City's oldest residence, a description once shared with a number of houses exhibited. However, this building's claim is legitimate. Its beginnings date to the immediate time after the destruction of the English forces in 1702. The oldest part of this house was erected as a two-room one-story coquina structure in the early 1700s.
A number of alterations after 1763 brought the house to its present appearance reflecting Spanish as well as British architecture. Today it is furnished to represent different periods. This house was first exhibited as a house museum by a private entrepreneur in the late 1800s. Then the building was acquired in 1918 by the St. Augustine Historical Society. Since that year, it has served as the centerpiece for the Society's historical holdings and interpretive museum. In daily public tours of the building, guides explain life in Colonial St. Augustine.
Hours of Operation:
Open from 9 am to 5 pm.
children (6+) $4
family rate $14
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, FL
For over 100 years, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm has delighted visitors of all ages with displays of alligators, crocodiles, exotic birds, and reptiles. Plan your visit around one of the provocative presentations or just browse on your own. Stroll the boardwalk in the natural bird rookery for views of brightly feathered birds. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm offers entertainment for all!
Hours of Operation:
Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. Extended summer hours from 9 am to 6 pm.
Fees vary for adults and children. Discounted admission price for groups of ten or more, AAA members, military and senior citizens.
St. Augustine Lighthouse, FL
One of the city's most familiar landmarks, the St. Augustine Lighthouse was one of a series of lighthouses constructed along the Atlantic coastline during the mid-nineteenth century. The northern tip of Anastasia Island, the location of the lighthouse, has been closely associated with the defense and maritime history of St. Augustine since the sixteenth century, when Spanish officials placed a sentry tower in the vicinity of what is now Lighthouse Park to overlook the approaches by water to the city.
About a century later the Spanish constructed a guard house and lookout tower at the site. Under British control in 1763, the tower was raised and a cannon placed atop of it to signal the approach of vessels. In 1821, upon the acquisition of Florida by the United States, federal authorities converted the Spanish watchtower to a lighthouse. The lighthouse that exists today was constructed in 1876.
St. Johns County Beaches, FL
Tucked away on Florida's northeast coast, the beaches of St. Johns County stretch from Ponte Vedra, to Vilano, to Anastasia Island, to the City of St. Augustine Beach, to Crescent Beach, to Summer Haven and finally to the Town of Marineland. Just as distinctive as the architecture and the history of St. Augustine, St. John’s beaches and communities possess distinct environmental characteristics, historic charm that collectively make this stretch of dunes, surf and sun an American Oceanside dream.
From the post Civil War times, northeasterners, especially consumptives and other invalids, were encouraged to escape the winter by indulging in the healthful effects of the sea air and sea bathing. But it wasn't until the late 19th Century, that seaside tourism in St. Augustine really exploded when Henry Flagler, an oilman extended the Florida East Coast Railroad and decided to develop the City of St. Augustine into the "American Riviera."
The River to Sea Preserve at Marineland, FL
This 90-acre public preserve of ecologically sensitive lands from the Matanzas River to the Atlantic Ocean is accessible from A1A, with the ocean and dune system on the east and the scrub and maritime oak ecosystems on the west.
Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserve, FL
The Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserve extends into Flagler County and Flagler Beach along the Intracoastal Waterway and its associated marshes as far north as South 23rd Street. The aquatic preserve is also designated an "Outstanding Florida Water." This designation acknowledges the exceptional recreational and ecological significance of the waterway. The preserve is accessible by water from the Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area.
Varn Park, FL
This six-acre beachfront park offers handicapped access to the Atlantic beaches. Parking, restrooms and showers are available. Ocean dunes, ocean scrub habitat, and the Atlantic beach are within this park between A1A and the ocean.
Beach activities, including fishing and swimming, are available to the visitor, along with restroom and shower facilities. The park is also adjacent to the bicycle/pedestrian path. The visitor passes through a natural ocean scrub area and is adjacent to the natural vegetation of the primary dune.
Information provided by National Scenic Byways
Map and Driving Directions
Beginning from Jacksonville, Florida:
- From the Jacksonville Airport, the traveler must take Airport Road east to I-95.
- Continue to drive south on I-95 until reaching the J Turner Butler Blvd., or State Road 202 exit.
- Head east on State Road 202 and exit onto SR A1A in Ponte Vedra.
The exit to Ponte Vedra takes the traveler to State Road A1A and on toward the northern entrance of the Byway, in St. Johns County. The A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway begins at the Duval/St. Johns County boundary line.
- Heading south, the traveler arrives at the historic Ponte Vedra Inn, the Tournament Players Club, the PGA National Headquarters building and ATP Tour International Headquarters.
Continuing south, the Byway passes Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas NERR, between the communities of Ponte Vedra and Vilano Beach.
Vilano Beach lies further south along the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway. The beach is a pedestrian-friendly commercial village and fishing pier.
- Continuing south, the traveler will cross the relatively new (since 1995) high rise Usina Bridge, where breathtaking panoramic views can be found.
- Beyond this area, the traveler passes the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind just before entering May Street, defined by large canopy oak trees and graceful old homes.
- Soon after, the traveler enters San Marco/Avenida Menendez, where the Fountain of Youth entrance and "Antique Row" can be found. Also here are a number of tourist attractions, such as Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum and the Visitor Information Center.
- It is at this point along the Byway that the traveler will encounter the renowned Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
As the visitor travels from the mainland over the historic Bridge of Lions, the prominent St. Augustine Lighthouse is visible in the distance, lying next to the Alligator Farm and Anastasia State Park, one of the oldest beaches in the United States.
- Continuing south around the coastal hammock of Anastasia State Park, the traveler arrives at CR A1A/Beach Boulevard, traveling through St. Augustine Beach.
- County Road A1A connects with State Route A1A again, continuing south. Butler Beach, the first African American beach in the US, can be viewed. The highway continues through the communities of Crescent, Summer Haven, and the Town of Marineland. The Byway then arrives at the St. John/Flagler County boundary, the beginning of the Flagler County portion of the Byway.
- The Flagler County portion of the Byway continues its southern stretch along the Florida Coast, on the barrier island. The Byway's only connections to the mainland are by two bridges, one in the Hammock and one in Flagler Beach. The entire Flagler portion of the corridor is an important part of Flagler County's award winning Coastal Greenway.
- The county line marks the narrowest point of the corridor, and the traveler may see the open expanse of the Matanzas River and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to the west, while the coquina rock beach is visible just over a low dune to the east.
- Continuing south, the traveler passes the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory, a well-known center for marine research and education, located on the west (right) side of the road. On the east is Marineland of Florida, the world's first oceanarium and underwater filming complex.
- Further on, just south of the oceanarium, is the River-to-Sea Preserve at Marineland. The visitor can park and stroll the expansive boardwalk overlooking the ocean on the east side of the Byway or trek the coastal hammock to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)/Matanzas Estuary on the west.
- Continuing on the Byway another two miles, passing a well-landscaped residential community, the traveler reaches Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. This is another river-to-sea experience between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River, featuring exotic gardens, magnificent oaks, hiking/ biking trails, fishing, and picnicking, as well as exploring tidal pools among the coquina outcroppings on the beach.
- About 1.5 miles south of the state park, the traveler encounters Bing's Landing County Park, an 11 acre recreational park and historic site located on the west side of the highway, bordering the Intracoastal Waterway.
- Continuing down A1A, on 16th Road and Jungle Hut Road, there is more beach access. Jungle Hut Park has beachfront facilities for the ocean-loving traveler.
- Further south on A1A, Varn Park -- a six-acre beachfront park -- offers access, including handicapped, to a sandy beach. (The coquina rock outcroppings are covered by sand here.)
- Traveling south through the hamlet of Beverly Beach, with its ocean-side picnic kiosks and dune walkovers, one arrives at Flagler Beach. Here A1A provides over six miles of beach overlook as it runs along the dunes. The Flagler/Volusia County line marks the southern end of the Byway.
Flagler County Palm Coast Chamber of Commerce
St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & the Beaches Visitors & Convention Bureau