From historic sites to delicious eats and elegant accommodations, a leisurely drive on Highway A1A is the perfect way to discover life in Northeast Florida. Explore where the locals go and soak up the sunshine and magnificent ocean views along the 67 miles of the scenic coastal byway connecting Amelia Island to historic St. Augustine and beyond.
Highway A1A begins its Florida journey on the peaceful and relaxing Amelia Island. Enjoy the slower pace of life and visit historic spots such as Fort Clinch State Park and the Amelia Island Lighthouse or explore the beaches via horseback on a guided tour with Kelly Seahorse Ranch. History buffs, don’t miss taking a guided tour of Kingsley Plantation, Florida’s oldest standing plantation house settled along the banks of the Fort George River. As part of the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, this National Park encompasses 46,000 acres. The island is also popular for boutique shopping along Centre Street and its great eats at hotspots like 29 South and Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen.
Travel south along A1A and drive aboard the St. Johns River Ferry. Departing daily from both sides of the river, this car and passenger ferry connects travelers with Fort George Island and Mayport Village. The trek across the river is just under a mile and costs $6 one way for cars, providing riders with magnificent views of the river and a fun, old-fashioned experience.
You’ll arrive on the southern side of the St. Johns River in Mayport, Northeast Florida’s quaint, fishing village where shrimp boats bring in the fresh catch of the day. Feeling hungry? Stop in at Safe Harbor Seafood featuring fresh fish and the signature Mayport shrimp. With plenty of waterfront seating, you’ll see why this dining hot spot is a hit with locals.
Following A1A into the Jacksonville Beaches area, rest for the night at the luxurious four-star One Ocean Resort & Spa in Atlantic Beach. Dine at the lush Azurea, the resort’s AAA four-diamond restaurant featuring a menu that changes with the seasons and where there’s a view of the ocean from every seat.
In the neighboring Beaches Town Center, pick up a treat at Peterbrooke Chocolatier and peruse the aisles at The Bookmark, Northeast Florida’s independent community bookstore, all just steps from the ocean.
In Jacksonville Beach, stroll the boardwalk and visit the locals along the Jacksonville Beach Pier and explore the Beaches Museum & History Center to learn about the railways that made their way through Northeast Florida. Grab some snacks for the trip at Trader Joe’s, a discount gourmet grocery store with a loyal fan following.
Ponte Vedra Beach
Pack your clubs and discover a golfer’s paradise in Ponte Vedra Beach. Home to The Players Championship each May, the world’s best golfers test their skills at the famed 17th island green. The clubhouse is open daily for lunch guests and docent-led, free tours of golf’s greatest moments. The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa offers visitors 99 holes of championship golf and access to the resort’s Cabana Club with oceanfront views and signature dining at 619 Ocean View restaurant. On the south side of town is Mickler’s Landing, a local surfing hot spot and the perfect starting point for a walk on the beach.
Between Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine, the highway hugs the ocean with spectacular views outside the driver’s window. On the passenger side, miles and miles of marshland and palmettos stretch into the distance at the GTM NEER, one of the world’s largest estuaries. Turn into Cap’s On The Water or Aunt Kate’s for a seafood supper on the scenic Tolomato River.
Soon, Highway A1A runs straight through the heart of historic St. Augustine. Discover Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. First discovered in 1513, the park is known as the original site of the nation’s oldest city. Another mile down the road, enjoy the views from the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States and explore some of the Old City, from St. George Street to Flagler College.
Cross the beautiful Bridge of Lions toward the ocean again. Take a walk on the wild side at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, home to all 24 species of crocodiles. The park’s Crocodile Crossing is a one-of-a kind zip lining experience with riders sailing above the park with alligators and crocodiles on the grounds below.
For live entertainment, catch a show at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. This covered, outdoor pavilion has welcomed musical stars such as Willie Nelson, Duran Duran and Bonnie Raitt throughout the years, along with farmers markets and holiday events for the community.
End the trip at St. Augustine Beach and toast to a fun-filled excursion.