The waterways of northeast Florida have a much different feel than those to the south. Among the many unique places to visit is St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest continuously occupied city, first visited by Ponce de Leon in 1513.
The Intracoastal Waterway in St. Augustine offers a wide variety of opportunities for boaters. You can launch at a number of local ramps and explore myriad creeks that meander into the marshes. Here you’ll find a plethora of bird life, while beneath the waters, mullet, sheepshead and redfish dart from submerged oyster bars. On calm days, head out Matanzas Inlet for a chance at bluefish, mackerel, tuna, grouper and snapper in the Atlantic Ocean. Cruising along the waterway will also afford you a unique view of the old city, including the mighty Castillo de San Marcos.
Distinctive accommodations abound, like the charming and historic St. Francis Inn. Dating from 1791, St. Francis is the city’s oldest inn and features a lovely courtyard entrance, attractive rooms and a wonderful homemade breakfast.
To the north of St. Augustine is Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, located on a barrier island between St. Augustine and Jacksonville. Ancient middens (shell mounds) contain an early 19th century Minorcan coquina block well. In addition to its rich history, the GTM Reserve provides a host of activities including fishing, birding, hiking and biking on nine miles of nature trails. There’s also a chance of seeing northern right whales and three species of sea turtles on the Atlantic beaches.
The city of Jacksonville is located less than an hour to the north, and is a short side trip for cruisers on the waterway. There you can have access to a vibrant waterfront as well as Jacksonville Landing, which has magnificent restaurants, bars and shopping venues.
Your visit to Florida would not be complete without a visit to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, where you’ll find un-crowded beaches, a historic fort and winding roads shaded by moss-covered oaks. A wealth of accommodations awaits the visitor on Amelia Island, from funky beach houses to the exclusive Amelia Island Plantation. The Nantucket-style Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, with well-appointed room, peaceful porch and never-empty cookie jar, is located on the beach with an expansive view of the Atlantic.
A short ride away is historic downtown Fernandina Beach, which sits right on the Intracoastal. Its full service municipal marina provides excellent accommodations for boaters and a wonderful array of shopping and eating venues along tree-covered streets.
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