Planning a sunny getaway to Florida? Save time to explore St. Augustine, a lovely small historic town just south of Jacksonville on Florida’s East Coast. One of the oldest occupied settlements in the United States, the city is famous for its historic sites and beautiful beaches right in the city. There’s no better way to enjoy all that the Sunshine State has to offer than by tossing a few of the best day trips from St Augustine, Florida, into your itinerary.
With an extra day or two planned in Saint Augustine, you can add a number of wonderful side trips to your Northeast Florida trip. Let yourself get lured in by the pristine beaches of Flagler County, quaint small towns like Palatka, or the amusement parks of Orlando—and much more.
Just getting started planning your vacation to St Augustine? Create your ideal vacation plan using this handy guide to the top-rated St. Augustine day trips.
Top-rated St. Augustine side trips
St. Augustine Beach
If you’re a beach lover, you need to check out St Augustine Beach, a 42-mile stretch of soft white sand on the Atlantic Ocean. The beach starts at Crescent Beach in the south, stretching all the way to St. Johns Pier in the north. St. Augustine Beach is 5.6 miles from the town, making it a quick and easy side trip from St. Augustine.
There are tons of things to see & do around St. Augustine Beach, like swimming, trying out surfing or paddle boarding, and enjoying a walk along the sandy strip. Plenty of rental companies nearby rent water sports equipment; there’s even a beach service where you can rent chairs and umbrellas for the ultimate day of relaxation on the white sands.
Built up an appetite? Plenty of restaurants lie along the sandy coast. Try some wood-grilled salmon or refreshing oysters at Salt Life Food Shack, one of the most popular restaurants along St. Augustine Beach.
After a delicious lunch, soak in the salty sea air with a walk along St. Johns County Pier. The fishing pier is one of the most popular attractions in St. Augustine and one of the area’s must-sees.
First founded as a trading post in the early 1800s, Palatka quickly became a historic city known as the “gem of St. Johns.” This small Florida town has many sights to see and places to enjoy. Visitors rant and rave about the historic homes, beautiful nature, and emerging craft beer scene. Palatka is truly a gem of a town.
When visiting Palatka on a day trip from St Augustine, the Bronson Monholand House is a historic must-see. Step back in time and explore the grounds and the first-floor and second-floor gallery, where a day hasn’t passed since 1854.
See and feel how the people of Palatka lived in the mid-1800s and catch a glimpse into their daily life. There are other museums and pieces of history on the property, like Putnam County Museum and the Judge Isaac H. Bronson mausoleum, to explore as well.
Palatka has many beautiful parks, like the Horseshoe Point Conservation Area and Ravine Gardens State Park, perfect for hiking, relaxing, or enjoying gardens. Connecting with nature and enjoying the town’s green spaces are lovely ways to spend an afternoon in Palatka.
When hunger strikes, visit the historic downtown, teeming with unique restaurants, bars, and boutique shops. Dine in a retro 1950s dining car at Angel’s Dining Car and explore the many craft breweries that line the streets.
One of the best beaches around St. Augustine, Flagler Beach is a pristine stretch of sand that’s free from the overwhelm of highrise condos and hotels that you’d typically see on East Coast Florida beaches. The highway built through Flagler created a fortunate divide, allowing ample real estate for condos and hotels on the west side but leaving the beach untouched on the east side.
Located 28 miles south of St Augustine, Flagler Beach is an excellent choice for a beach day getaway from the historic city. There’s plenty to do at the beach, like packing a picnic, relaxing, and swimming. Take a stroll to the Flagler Beach Pier for a calming ocean walk, or sample some local wine at the nearby Flagler Beachfront Winery.
If you plan your visit just right, you might be able to catch a unique sight: Sea turtles making their nests on Flagler Beach. Look for patrols monitoring nests every year from May 1 through October 31; keep on high alert and you might just see a sea turtle up close!
One of the most well-known cities in Florida, Jacksonville is an easily accessible day trip from St Augustine. Florida’s biggest city offers intriguing museums, lively arts markets, and many natural spaces to explore. Although spending a few days would be ideal, visiting Jacksonville in one day offers an excellent urban side trip.
Drive 51 miles north of St Augustine to spend the day exploring the top-rated Jacksonville tourist attractions. Start off with a relaxing stroll through Little Talbot Island. This five-mile stretch of pristine shoreline sits in a lush maritime forest with plenty of birds and wildlife roaming around – no binoculars needed!
Discover secret beaches on the nearby Big Talbot Island, and step back in time to see Florida as it was hundreds of years ago. Spend the day on a guided kayak tour or enjoy a hike in one of Jacksonville’s most beautiful parks.
If you visit Jacksonville on a Saturday, treat yourself to an afternoon of arts & culture by visiting Riverside Arts Market. Support local businesses and artisans as you wander this adorable market under the Fuller Warren Bridge.
Not only does the Riverside Arts Market give a place for farmers, artists, and small business owners to gather, but it helps to create a sense of community and is an economic outlet for the community. Pick up some fresh Florida produce or browse the pottery, jewelry, or flea market stalls to find the perfect souvenir.
Dying to get out of the Florida heat? Pay a visit to MOSH (Museum Of Science & History) to learn something new or the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens for a stroll in their gallery and well-manicured gardens.
New Smyrna Beach
A unique beach destination in Florida, New Smyrna Beach is filled with fascinating things to do on a day trip. From stretches of beautiful beaches, dunes, disappearing islands, and eerie ruins, this unassuming beach town will surely captivate and amaze you.
New Smyrna Beach is located 70 miles south of St Augustine and is a wonderful place to spend a day. The stretches of calm sandy shores draw beachgoers from all over Florida and make the perfect backdrop for a picnic or family gathering.
One of the best things to do in New Smyrna Beach is to head north of town to discover Smyrna Dunes Park, where you can wander the sand dunes and enjoy scenic lookouts with views of the Atlantic Ocean. Walk or bike through this unique park and enjoy a day out in nature.
From Smyrna Dunes Park, look north to catch a glimpse of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. If you happen to visit at the right time, you might be able to see or visit the Disappearing Island. The island is famous among Floridians, although many rarely get to visit this gem.
Disappearing Island appears in the ocean between Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna Beach. Check the daily tidal charts: The island will only appear at low tide, and visitors will need to leave by high tide. Rent a boat and grab some prime beach real estate for the day.
In New Smyrna Beach, you’ll find the Cruger-dePeyster Plantation Sugar Mill Ruins. Free for all to visit, this historic site was once part of an 1830s plantation.
In the early 1800s, a steam-operated sugarcane mill was built on the property, which was later destroyed in 1835. Today you can wander the ruins and enjoy a small piece of Florida history.
Enjoy an island adventure 70 miles north of St Augustine on Amelia Island. This island is famous among tourists and locals for its golf courses, sunset horseback rides, and sandy beaches.
One of the most popular things to do on Amelia Island is to choose one of five challenging and picturesque golf courses, including the Amelia Island Club, for a skill-testing round of golf. All five courses on the island offer holes for all skill levels, making it perfect for true beginners and more advanced golfers.
After a day of golfing, book a romantic sunset horseback ride on Amelia Island’s most popular beaches. Amelia Island Horseback Rides provides different kinds of rides with their trusted local guides and horses along a stunning stretch of beach. (What better time to check this off your bucket list?)
If you’d rather keep your feet in the sand, the beaches of Amelia Island are lovely for an afternoon swim or to relax in the sun. The island has many beaches, but Main Beach Park has great basketball and volleyball courts and playgrounds to keep everyone entertained.
Cumberland Island is a pristine natural reserve located 73 miles north of St Augustine, across the border in Georgia. Take a ferry from St Marys, Georgia, to reach Cumberland Island and rent a bike or take a guided tour to explore immersive boardwalks and well-preserved ruins that’ll transport you back to the early 1800s.
Once you leave the ferry and set foot on Cumberland Island, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back to a world before technology. On the island, you can visit the well-preserved ruins of an 1800s mansion, the Dungeness Ruins.
Wander through the Dungeness Ruins before heading to the Saltwater Marsh Boardwalk. The boardwalk is the perfect way to immerse yourself in some of the 9,800 acres of wilderness on the island. Walking along the Saltwater Marsh Boardwalk, you can spot large waterfowl, tiny crabs, and wild horses in the distance.
On the island’s north side, get a treat by visiting the Plum Orchard Mansion. Take a tour of this late 1800s mansion and marvel at the architecture, furniture, and machinery of the period.
History buffs will also find plenty of other historical sites to explore on Cumberland Island, like the First African Baptist Church, Sea Camp Ranger Station, and the Ice House Museum.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
The Washington Oaks Gardens State Park can be found 20 miles south of St Augustine and is a nature lover’s paradise. This state park has beautiful formal gardens that stand out among the rest. Get close to nature by taking a photography walk or picnic along the sea wall!
At Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, walk through the beautiful gardens of roses, bird watching and admiring nature along the way. Stunning citrus groves, greenhouses, and formal gardens make a leisurely half-mile walking tour.
Explore the tidal pools on the eastern side of Washington Oaks Gardens State Park to spot small fish and hunt for shells. The seawall is a popular picnic spot, too. Don’t forget your blanket and basket!
Located just 80 miles southwest of St Augustine, Ocala is a hidden gem town waiting to be discovered. Try horseback riding, relax in the local park, or sample local Florida wine all in one day. This unassuming Central Florida city is packed with exciting activities that’ll make for a memorable day!
There are plenty of activities to fill your day, but the best way to experience the wonder of Ocala is to take a horseback riding tour at Gypsy Gold Horse Farm. One of the top Ocala attractions, this locally owned horse farm has over 16 imported Gypsy Vanner Horses on its property. Book yourself onto one of its tours if you want to ride them or learn about the horses and their history.
Sholom Park is a picturesque green space outside the city that’s the perfect backdrop for a picnic. The park has many charming features like a pond, labyrinth, enchanted garden, and an olive tree promenade. Walk among and admire the natural flora and fauna found in Florida.
Sample some delectable wines at Katya Vineyards. This fine-dining restaurant and winery offer chef-inspired menu items that pair perfectly with their many local and imported wines. This locally-owned restaurant goes the extra mile to ensure you have an astounding experience with each course!
Cape Canaveral is located 124 miles south of St Augustine and is the perfect day trip for families. This coastal city has many unique attractions to explore, including historic lighthouses, U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Museum, and scenic ocean-side beaches.
No trip to Cape Canaveral is complete without paying a visit to the historic Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. This historic lighthouse was built in the early 1800s and is still open to the public for tours. The tour also visits the Space Program museums; it’s a great way to learn more about the U.S. Space Program and its history!
Immerse yourself in U.S. Air Force and space history at the U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Museum. This museum shines with numerous missiles, rockets, and other space flight equipment on display and over eight unique exhibits to visit. Get up close with space technology and history at this intriguing family-friendly museum!
The Jetty Park Beach & Pier is the perfect place to wander around for the afternoon. Watch ships come and go or try your hand at fishing. Head to the Jetty Park Launch Viewpoint on the right day and you may even get to watch a rocket launch into space!
One of the most popular destinations in the United States, Orlando is a dynamic city with plenty of activities that could quickly fill up a week’s worth of time. Don’t worry if you don’t have a week to spend in Orlando: The Central Florida city also makes a fantastic one-day outing from St Augustine!
Ever dream of visiting Universal Studios? Fans of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Spider-Man will be delighted to know that a trip to Universal is easily doable, even if only visiting Orlando in one day from St. Augustine.
Check out some of their famous rides like Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, shop till you drop at their merchandise stores, or dine in a classic 1950s diner. Everyone in the family will have a fun-filled day at Universal Studios Orlando, even if you’re not a movie buff!
If roller coasters aren’t on your Orlando must-do activities list, try getting up close and personal with one of the most famous reptiles in Florida: the American Alligator. Gatorland is an animal park that specializes in alligators, wild birds, and cats. See a thrilling gator show up close, or take a daring trip into the swamp to see the alligators up close!
For another fun outdoor adventure, you can take an up-close look at wild animals in their natural habitat. Wild Florida offers half-day airboat tours that get you up close and personal with Florida’s unique native wildlife.