Florida’s Historic Coast may be best known for the nation’s oldest city, historic sites, 42 miles of pristine beaches and a thriving arts and cultural scene. But step outside the brick-lined streets of downtown St. Augustine and you’ll discover the natural beauty that attracted the earliest explorers to the area. Today, the state parks of Florida’s Historic Coast welcome all kinds of explorers, from hikers to bikers, and kayakers to paddleboarders, who enjoy immersing themselves in the great outdoors.
With more than 1,600 acres of unspoiled white quartz sand beaches, tidal marshes, maritime hammocks, and ancient sand dunes Anastasia State Park is one of Florida’s most popular parks for visitors to explore. Visitors can observe the wildlife along the beach, from a canoe or kayak, or on the Ancient Dunes Nature Trail. The park’s protected wildlife area and trail systems attract birders, bicyclists, fishermen, surfers, and of course, sunbathers. And the sunrise here is spectacular.
Anastasia State Park is located on the Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, making it the perfect place to see songbirds such as warblers, cardinals, robins or even painted buntings. From the beach, visitors may find laughing gulls, least terns and black skimmers. There are also abundant wading birds hunting for food along Salt Run, including colorful roseate spoonbills. Look up and you may see an osprey or eagle looking for prey.
Over four miles of beach and several miles of park roads, some with bike lanes, are available for bicycling. Bicycles are available for rent at the concession inside Anastasia State Park. The four miles of beaches and designated swimming areas are monitored by lifeguards from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Ready to go offshore? Kayak and Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) are available for rent at Anastasia Watersports.
One of America’s prettiest beach campsites, the park offers 129 campsites for RVs and tents all located within the beautiful maritime hammock and just a short walk or bike ride from the beach. Pets are allowed in designated park campgrounds, and service animals are welcome in all public areas of the park.
Nearby covered picnic pavilions and permanent restrooms make it easy to spend the entire day. The Island Beach Shop and Grill is located within the park and offers casual dining options, sundries, a gift shop, and free wifi. Anastasia State Park is committed to providing amenities accessible to all visitors. Beach wheelchairs are available upon request at no charge.
A 40-acre waterfront historic site, Fort Mose Historic State Park is the site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what is now the United States. In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered the settlement of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, or Fort Mose, as a settlement for those fleeing slavery from the English colonies in the Carolinas.
The only stipulation for gaining their freedom was that they had to declare their allegiance to the king of Spain and become members of the Catholic Church. It is estimated that 100 Africans made Fort Mose their new home. What is particularly interesting is that the residents created a sort of new cultural community, pulling from Native American, Spanish and English cultural customs.
Although there are no remains of the earth and wooden structures from the early settlement, visitors can stroll along the boardwalk over the marsh to view the land where the settlement once stood and learn more from an interactive museum that tells the complete story of that first settlement.
Fort Mose has been recognized for its national significance in commemorating the history of the United States. In 1994, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The park offers picnic areas, observation and birding boardwalk, kayak launch boardwalk, a visitor center and museum. Visitors interested in birding will enjoy ample viewing opportunities for species such as the Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, and White Ibis.
Visitors can explore the park in a new and challenging way. Experienced Geocachers have requested permission to hide caches containing trinkets, treasures, or information in various places around the park. Please check the Geocaching website for the most current and up-to-date information and clues to locate these little treasures as you enjoy the park.
Faver-Dykes State Park is located on the outskirts of St. Augustine, America’s oldest city, and close to the highway. The park encompasses a wide array of habitat, from wet to dry and the southern and eastern boundaries are made up by bodies of water. On the southern boundary, there is Pellicer Creek, one of the main attractions at the park for boaters, fishermen and bird watchers.
Those interested in history will enjoy learning that little has been done to disturb this landscape where Timucuan Indians once lived. When you enter, imagine a path instead of a road, and you can see this part of “old Florida” and its trails the way the first Europeans saw it; rich pinelands and hammocks, spreading marshes, and a winding, many fingered creek for their canoes.
Hiking along any of these trails, visitors are hiking through time, to see what many before for hundreds of years have seen. The picnic area and campground trails are both leisurely half mile trails dominated by longleaf pines and turkey oaks, winding through the hammock with views of the creek along the way. The half-mile Pine Loop Trail has beautiful views of longleaf pines, saw palmettos, and a variety of grasses, wildflowers and native shiny blueberries where natural plant communities thrive.
Visitors can rent a two-person kayak or canoe and explore Pellicer Creek, a unique mix of fresh and saltwater and home to one of the most diverse plant and animal habitats in Northeast Florida. They may even see bald eagles, great blue herons, manatees, river otters and many more while paddling along this 2 to 6-foot deep creek.