Planning a getaway in Northeast Florida? Spending time tanning and swimming at one of the best beaches in St. Augustine is a must! Located on Florida’s Historic Coast, Saint Augustine offers a ready-to-explore historic downtown with pristine shorelines a stone’s throw away. Whether you want to tackle water activities like boogie boarding and swimming or go hiking and experience seaside wildlife, plan your coastal adventure with this complete guide to St. Augustine’s most beautiful beaches!
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St. Augustine Beach
Looking for the closest stretch of sand to St. Augustine’s historic downtown? Head over to St. Augustine Beach for all your favorite beach activities. With a huge fishing pier and picnic shelter, it’s a fantastic place to bring the entire family. The beachfront park and seaside restaurants give Saint Augustine Beach a relaxing vibe that’s perfect for a laid-back vacation.
Take the kids to the splash park to cool off from the hot Florida sun. For more active beachgoers, there are also places to play beach volleyball. The waves are perfect for surfers, paddleboarders, and kiteboarders. Walkers and cyclists will also find the hard-packed sand on this white sandy beach easy to travel on.
All the top places to see in St. Augustine are in the nearby downtown core. After a long day of swimming and surf sports, you can head to shopping and dining attractions.
Driving is also allowed on the beach, and it’s pet-friendly, easily making it one of the area’s most versatile beaches. It also has plenty of lodging options close by, including elegant resorts, boutique hotels, and beach cottages for rent.
Need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? Crescent Beach is further from downtown and in a residential area. The coastline carves out a huge “C” from where it touches the Atlantic Ocean. Head to this serene beach to experience incredible white sand and family-friendly waters.
A less popular beach destination, Crescent Beach will never leave you fighting for parking. Its center has picnic gazebos, beautiful sand dunes, quaint shops, and inviting restaurants.
The parking areas also have restroom facilities where you can shower and change into and out of your swimsuit. Feel free to drive all your beach gear right down to the water. The public beach access points here allow you to drive along the shoreline.
After a busy day in the sun, head to Crescent Beach Bar & Grille or Safe Harbor Seafood for delicious burgers and fresh seafood. There are also plenty of taverns where you can sip a cold beer and watch the sunset.
Crescent Beach doesn’t have too many lodging options. Your best bet is to head back into the downtown area after swimming and eating. Although further from the beaches, the Historic District is the best area to stay in St. Augustine for travelers.
Anastasia State Park
If you’re searching for a more active holiday, Anastasia State Park has all the hiking and nature activities you could ever dream of. Head over to Anastasia Watersports, which is located within the state park. Here, you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes. And, just a 6-minute drive away, you can also easily explore Anastasia Island and take in its beautiful sandy beaches.
As one of the largest bird nesting spots in the state of Florida, it’s a bird lover’s paradise. Viewing wildlife at the bird sanctuary is a great way to spend the day.
Anastasia State Park also has plenty of room for picnicking, hiking, walking, and running. Some trails aren’t paved, so strap on your hiking boots or comfortable sneakers. The park also has camping facilities for those who choose to stay the night.
To cool off after hiking or bird watching, go swimming or shelling on the 5 miles of beaches on Anastasia Island. The tidal marshes and impressive sand dunes are amazing spots to explore and capture great family photos.
The Saint Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum is also on the island and is a top attraction on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
Trying to hit up the same spots as the locals? Vilano Beach is the top choice for a casual atmosphere and a low-key ambiance. Vilano Beach is a small but vibrant beach town where you can meet friendly locals and eat amazing food. You can access the stretch of sand from Surfside Park off Highway A1A.
To blend in with the locals, check out the fishing pier. After catching some epic views (or a few fish), head on up to the northeast coast of Vilano Beach for a wide variety of waterfront restaurants, including The Reef, Aunt Kate’s, and Cap’s on the Water. No matter which you choose, you can sit outside with a fantastic view over the sands.
Depending on beach driving conditions, you can drive your car right along North Beach. If there are already too many cars and you aren’t able to secure a spot on the white sand, there are also several off-beach parking lots.
Located just minutes from downtown on Saint Augustine’s historic coast, Butler Beach is one of the prettiest Florida Atlantic Coast beaches. With the wide stretches of sand, the most popular activities are sunbathing and swimming. You can also go for a peaceful bike ride along Butler Beach.
Interested in learning more about the history of the beach? Head to Frank B. Butler County Park to learn how the beach played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement and changed the lives of African Americans living in Saint Augustine. If you have a boat, feel free to use the boat launching ramp or the floating dock located right in the park.
Home to a perfectly preserved sand dune ecosystem, the park also protects the endangered Anastasia Island beach mouse and the gopher tortoise. Bring a packed lunch and sit at the picnic tables as you reflect on the beach’s history with your friends and family.
South Ponte Vedra Beach
For a beautiful seaside oasis, visit South Ponte Vedra Beach. Located between Saint Augustine and Jacksonville, it’s the perfect spot for a relaxing day of swimming, picnicking, and beachcombing.
Take advantage of the off-beach public parking and available grills to whip up your own BBQ meal. Afterward, head just 2 miles down the road to the Guana Tolomato Matanza National Estuarine Research Reserve.
South Ponte Vedra Beach is only 45 minutes from Jacksonville, where you can explore more beautiful beaches and natural settings. The most populous city in Florida, Jacksonville is also full of museums and art galleries that you can visit after spending the day at South Ponte Vedra Beach.
Among the top Jacksonville attractions, you’ll also find fun eateries and a large variety of restaurants. Many are set along the main downtown strip, giving you plenty of options to experience amazing food and Southern hospitality.
Fort Matanzas National Monument Park
A trip to Saint Augustine isn’t complete without learning more about the rich history of this coastal Florida town. Even if you have just 24 hours in Saint Augustine, Fort Matanzas National Monument Park is a must-see.
Protecting more than 300 acres of the Florida coastal environment, you can see a wide variety of ecosystems at the fort, including marshes, dunes, and even some endangered wildlife. Taking a ferry to the fort is the main activity. Get ready for this interactive cruise by grabbing your ticket at the visitor center. Once at the fort, take a guided tour with a knowledgeable park ranger.
Strap on your hiking shoes and bring your swimsuit in your bag for more activities after checking out the fort. Hike the nature trail for a close-up look at the wildlife and the diversity of the landscape.
For swimming, hike down the marsh trail. At the end of journey, you can go for a dip in the refreshing water or try kayaking. Bird viewing is also popular along the trail.
Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
Located close to Ponte Vedra Beach, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve offers an interactive experience. Here, you can learn about all the different ecosystems and animal species that call Florida their home. Bring the kids to the aquariums and laboratories or take a guided eco-tour.
The GTM Research Reserve is one of the only places you can see live oysters and gopher tortoises up close. For a unique experience, explore the surrounding beaches and forests teeming with unique local wildlife.
With nine miles of nature trails, you can spend the day enjoying the warm weather by hiking and biking within the reserve. The estuaries are also a hotspot for fish and birds. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available to explore the marshes, or you can always bring your own equipment!
Also in the reserve is Mickler’s Landing, one of the most popular beaches near Jacksonville. With its easy public beach access, Mickler’s Landing is the perfect spot for swimming and surfing.