On Anastasia Island near St. Augustine, Crescent Beach is a cozy beachfront community. It has white sandy beaches, a refreshing ocean, and captivating nature. In between the natural attractions is a charming residential community that never feels like a tourist trap.
In Crescent Beach, you can enjoy what’s great about Florida, from the amazing seafood to the Intracoastal Waterway, without feeling like you’re getting in someone’s way. Visitors can enjoy a relaxing beach vacation where you’ll quickly feel like a local.
Not sure what to do in Crescent Beach? Start your planning with our complete Crescent Beach guide.
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Things to do in Crescent Beach, FL
Spread out like a half-moon bay, Crescent Beach is the top local beach for residents and travelers alike. To the north, you’ll find St. Augustine Beach, a sprawling 2-mile stretch of sand complete with a historic pier. As it’s one of the most popular St. Augustine day trips, this famed beach draws in the crowds, leaving a more tranquil experience for those choosing to spend the day on Crescent Beach.
The Anastasia Island beach comes complete with convenient parking, just steps away from the shore. From your car, you’ll walk through a lush park. This is another fun place to hang out, especially for families or couples looking for a cute picnic spot. Visitors will have quick access to the beach’s public restrooms along with several gazebos for a shady lunch.
After crossing over the dunes, you’ll arrive at the calming white sand beach. Lay down the towel and admire the views. The Atlantic touches down on the sand with great near-shore swimming. When the wind picks up, you can also take advantage of the surf.
In the 1920s, Frank B. Butler, a businessman from Lincolnville, was frustrated by the series of white-only beaches along the coast. So much so that he bought a large acreage spanning from the Atlantic to the Matanzas River. Butler Beach was named after him and for a long period during segregation, it was the only African-American beach from Daytona Beach to Jacksonville.
Butler Beach is just a few minutes north along the A1A from Crescent Beach. Visitors can access the gorgeous powdery sands via Frank B. Butler County Park. Here, you’ll find free parking along with access to a number of amenities. During the warmer months, the popular St. Augustine area beach is staffed by lifeguards providing a protective eye over swimmers, making it a popular spot for younger families.
Throughout the day, beachgoers will be a brief walk from restrooms and showers. For lunch, you can also make use of the BBQ grills and picnic pavilions. Those in town with their furry friends can come to the beach; however, all dogs must remain on a leash.
Frank Butler County Park West
A big part of Frank Butler’s legacy is the park named in his honor. It’s split in two, with the east side providing access to the beach and the west side a front-row seat to the Matanzas River. Frank Butler County Park West is bigger by some margin and provides for the better overall park experience—not to mention the access to the Intracoastal Waterway.
Frank Butler County Park West has a large parking lot that is used by boaters, beachgoers, and picnickers but rarely overflows. The parking spots lead to the boat ramp and grant direct access to the river. Alongside the ramp is a floating dock, the perfect place to put in and embark on a kayak or SUP journey to the many nearby islands.
Those with larger craft will be able to explore further afield. This includes the opportunity to head south along the river to find the Fort Matanzas National Monument. Those setting up for a picnic day will enjoy the beautiful park, featuring a number of glistening creeks, picnic tables, grills, and bathrooms.
GeoTrippin Kayak Adventures
Any time spent on or near the waters surrounding Anastasia Island will pique your curiosity. So it makes sense that one of the best things to do in Crescent Beach is to explore on a kayaking trip. Renting your own craft and setting off from Frank B Butler County Park West is one option. But you’d be doing your exploration a disservice by not linking up with GeoTrippin Kayak Adventures.
This kayaking outfit is led by a team of expert guides who know the area well. Their range of tours and departure points means they’ll be able to cater a trip that best suits your goals. They have five main tours. These include the Bioluminescent Guana Lake Tour, which you can experience at sunset or at night, and the Eco Trip, which involves exploring a lagoon teeming with wildlife and protected waters.
GeoTrippin is also available for lessons and private tours. Those adamant about exploring on their own can also rent their own kayaks.
Fort Matanzas National Monument
The history around Crescent Beach is a poignant reminder of the area’s connection to the start of modern American history. Just north of Crescent Beach is St. Augustine, otherwise known as the Nation’s Oldest City. But closer to Crescent Beach is the imposing Fort Matanzas National Monument.
The fortified tower is made of coquina, a soft limestone made of broken shells. The structure was completed in 1742 as a means of defending St Augustine. A town that was once a prominent Spanish military settlement.
To arrive at the historic fort on Rattlesnake Island, visitors will have to jump on board a ferry. The ride runs from Wednesday to Sunday from 9.30 am to 4.30 am. The ferry journey, just like the monument, is free to visit. Lucky visitors may also bear witness to the reenactments and demonstrations that occur daily during the summer.
The fort is the focal point of the monument. But protecting this part of local history has led to the surrounding acres also becoming protected land. You can explore it on several nature trails.
Matanzas State Forest
On mainland Florida, the Matanzas State Forest covers an immense 4,600 acres. This makes for the largest state forest near Crescent Beach. Travelers can indulge in the opportunity for some outdoor adventures without having to venture far.
From Crescent Beach, you’ll have a 10-minute drive over the Matanzas River to the park. Each visitor must get one of the free day-use permits in order to end the forest. Once you’re ready to explore, you’ll have a variety of options which include hiking, biking, horse riding, and paddling.
Most of the park is an upland pine plantation where slash and longleaf pines are found in abundance. But around a quarter of the forest is undisturbed marshland. The waterways are a popular spot for kayaking and fishing is also allowed.
The forest has one major trail that snakes its way through hardwoods and along the Matanzas River. You’ll also find a series of roads to explore the park in more detail. Overnight primitive camping is allowed with a State Forest Use Permit.
Faver-Dykes State Park
South of Matanzas State Forest is Faver-Dykes State Park. The park is around 20 minutes from Crescent Beach and provides exceptional nature with more amenities to enjoy. These include more marked trails, alongside fantastic paddling experiences and excellent bird watching.
There are four major trails through Faver-Dykes State Park. These will guide you through the beautiful environment at a leisurely pace. One trail not to be missed is the 2.6-mile Hiram Faver Trail. The path takes you into thick forests on your way to a viewpoint that stands above Pellicer Flats.
Connecting to the flats is Pellicer Creek, which is a section along the Florida State Canoe Trail. Faver-Dykes is a great place to bring the canoe to explore the water and get a different perspective of the park, including the range of birds that frequent the estuary.
After a big day of exploring, settle in for some cozy front-country camping with 30 sites available.
Where to eat & drink
Whether it’s a day on the beach or an overnight journey through a local state park, visitors to Crescent Beach will work up quite the appetite. In classic Florida fashion, you’ll have access to ample seafood restaurants with plenty of casual fare that helps you live the vacation experience.
With an outdoor patio, and raw and steam seafood bar, the Commander’s Shellfish Camp has you covered. Those who love fresh seafood won’t be disappointed, especially with their Virginia oysters.
Known as the Oldest City’s newest secret, Back 40 A1A is no longer a covert restaurant. The world is well and truly out for this laid-back establishment where the sea breeze rolls through. Guests can enjoy a mix of Tex-Mex and Caribbean food with plenty of vegetarian options.
A short walk south is the family-owned and run, Violas. Serving a classic Italian menu, you can expect delicious brick oven pizzas and pasta complimented by a great selection of wines.
Towards St. Augustine Beach is the Seafood Kitchen of St. Augustine. This restaurant has all your favorite fried seafood dishes in a simple layout. Another chilled place to eat is Crescent Beach Bar & Grill. Enjoy classic pub fare while being steps from the beach.
At sunset, come to Sandbar Pub for golden hour cocktails under the twinkling patio lights. Enjoy the Old Florida vibes with pub bites and ice-cold beer.
Where to stay
The town’s only traditional accommodation option, Beacher’s Lodge offers spacious suites on blissful oceanfront property. Guests will enjoy direct beach access along with extra amenities like a heated outdoor pool and barbeque facilities.