Summer Staycation Idea: Find the BEST Beach in St Augustine!

Simply St. Augustine hosted a writing & photography contest as part of our 31 Days of Summer in St. Augustine series… it was so much fun seeing the work that local students sent in! All the photos in today’s post were shot by student photographers- feel free to comment with your encouragement. I’m so proud of them!

St. Johns County boasts over 40 miles of coastline and although they’re all in one county, our beaches do have distinct personalities. So that begs the question…

What is the best beach in St. Augustine?

We have beaches so packed with shells you have to wear shoes {Guana}, soft sands that stretch for ages at low tide- making for perfect play spaces for kiddos {Butler Beach}, and rocky shores that look like a mini version of the coast of Maine {Marineland}. How do I pick a favorite part of paradise?

You can usually find surfers, families, and walkers at St. Augustine Beach. photo cred: Lily Larson, photography contest winner

As I considered which of our beaches is the best beach in St Augustine, I recalled a “Mr. Know-it-all” column from Wired magazine about pigs vs. dogs:

“Our species is characterized by an inane desire to rank anything and everything. We can’t just admire the guitar wizardry of both Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page or the hoops prowess of both Kevin Durant and Wilt Chamberlain; we must forever slot these high achievers into Top 100 of All Time lists. But quantifying the sublime is a fool’s errand…

I’m with Mr. Know-it-all. Fool’s errand. So, below, I list our most popular beaches and why locals love them… and I challenge you to explore each one and choose your own favorite!

photo cred: Lily Larson, photography contest winner

I’ll start at St. Johns County’s northern beaches and head south. There are additional pavilions and access points, all beach info- including when you can drive on the beach- be found on this St. Johns County Beach Access Information page. Here’s an interactive map of St. Augustine Beach Locations. I’m just touching on the major ones… and don’t worry, locals, I’m not outing all the secret spots. 😉 {Sorry, tourist friends. You’ll still have fun.}

Mickler’s Landing

the good: While it’s true that there are public access points N of here in Ponte Vedra Beach, Mickler’s {pronounced MIKElers} is the northernmost beach that boasts a large parking lot, showers to rinse in and restrooms. The beach is littered with shells- don’t forget your flip-flops! Our kids often find dozens of shark’s teeth here.

the bad: The beach here can be steep and rip currents common. Since we have littles, our trick is to hit it at low tide and set up near a tide pool.

the ugly: On perfect summer days, the parking lot can fill and cars line the street outside the fence. If you’re looking for quiet relaxation, keep driving south.

where is it: Between 1109 & 1111 Ponte Vedra Boulevard. From St. Augustine, take A1A north for a long scenic drive and turn R at the Ponte Vedra Blvd light.

Guana Beaches

the good: If you’re looking for a quiet respite and the same vistas Ponce de Leon saw 500 years ago, Guana is your park. You can’t see a hotel or even a gas station. As with Mickler’s, the beaches here are covered with shells- you must wear shoes- and if you’re up for a treasure hunt, you may just find the perfect souvenir in the mix!

the bad: With no refreshments for miles, you better not forget water & sunscreen!

the ugly: No potties. No lifeguards. You have to cross A1A to get from the parking lot to the beach. Be careful.

where is it: Across from 1600 Ponte Vedra Blvd. From St. Augustine, take A1A north for a long scenic drive and turn L into any one of the 3 parking lots. They’re easy to miss, keep an eye out.

Vilano Beach

the good: Vilano is its own small beach community. There’s a FroYo place, pizza restaurants, a Publix {subs! woot!}, and Beaches Restaurant. The beach itself has a parking lot, restrooms and showers. Great place to fly kites!

the bad: As a mamma, this is not my favorite beach. The current headed into the inlet can be too strong for my littles and trucks on the beach {seasonally} are one more thing for me to watch for.

where is it: From St. Augustine, ask a local for directions to Vilano Beach. It’s easy. Cross the Vilano Bridge, dead end, turn R at that light, L at the stop sign… you’re there!

Anastasia State Park

the good: It’s a state park… which means fewer people and cleaner beaches. They also have restrooms and a grill, a playground and nature trails.

the bad: You have to pay to get in.

the ugly: There is nothing ugly about Anastasia State Park!

where is it: Head over the Bridge of Lions and turn L onto Anastasia State Park Road {Surf Station is on the corner as is Nalu’s Taco Trailer & sometimes a sno cone lady}

photo cred: Lily Larson, photography contest winner

St. Augustine Beach

the good: The pier, sand volleyball courts, a Wednesday morning Farmers Market, a pavilion with free concerts and a splash park… there’s a lot to love about St. Augustine Beach.

the bad: Don’t swim right by the pier- walk down a bit. Also, this stretch of the beach is lined with hotels, so it’s pretty busy. Be a good neighbor and take a bag with you to pick trash up while you walk!

where is it: Head over the Bridge of Lions and turn L onto A1A Beach Blvd {there’s a light there}. Watch for the pier on the L.

Vehicular Access

the good: Less to haul because you can drive right on the beach!

the bad: Only in season, you have to pay, and you must have 4 wheel drive. Don’t even try it without!

where is it: South of St. Augustine Beach, check this link for dates, prices, etc.

Butler Beach

the good: Less busy, amazing beaches, picnic pavilions & restrooms… it’s our fave! The beach is wide and shallow making it great for kids.

the bad: The drive. And it’s a little hard to find. On purpose.

the ugly: This is the beach where my son almost chopped his toe off. That’s only relevant to our family but still… {shudder} Good thing there’s a fire station across the street!

where is it: South of town for a long time then you turn L just after you pass a fire station on the R… watch for the brown signs.

Skyler’s star.photo cred: Aja Galioto, photo contest winner

Crescent Beach

the good: It’s next to South Beach Grill {yum} and has pavilions, restrooms and showers. Wide, shallow, sandy beaches.

the bad: Distance

where is it: Head S on A1A forever… you can’t miss this one!

Marineland Beaches & Washington Oaks Gardens

the good: Marineland is unique because of the giant rocks. They’re fun to climb on, look for unique sea life in little tide pools and explore… it’s so different from Florida’s normal beaches! Washington Oaks is a state park {bring cash}… which means fewer people and cleaner beaches. Across the street, on the river side, there are cultivated gardens, a playground and other gems worth discovering.

the bad: Do.not.swim.there. The rocks are beautiful on the beach but are submerged out in the water as well. This is a strolling & exploring beach.

the ugly: The current can be deceptively strong. Do.not.swim. We had a child sitting on rocks at the edge of the surf and a larger-than-expected wave came up and literally pulled her out in a second, with us all sitting right together! I’m not trying to scare you {although that did scare us!} but play it safe here during outgoing tides- especially with littles.

where is it: Southernmost part of St. Johns County. Gorgeous.

In summary, St. Augustine’s Beaches are all amazing in their own way. Explore them all and choose your family favorite this summer!

photo cred: Aja Galioto, photography contest winner

Thanks again to all the students who entered the photo contest! Aja and Lily’s pieces captured the essence of the beaches in a breathtaking & unique way… Great job, ladies! Thank you for sharing your art with us!

Comments

  1. says

    When we lived in the shores Crescent and Marineland beaches were our go to beaches and we loved it! I love Marineland b/c there is usually no one there so it’s like you’re on your own private island.

    When I bought my car last year I really wanted to buy one with 4 wheel drive just to drive on the beach but decided that wasn’t a smart move…one day..one day…b/c yes I got stuck in the sand once…

  2. Angela L. says

    I lived straight across from Crescent Beach from 1990 to 1991. I loved it, thought it was quite beautiful although, I shamefully admit that other than the time that a friend taught me to drive on the beach, I only ventured maybe 2 or 3 times. I know, I could really kick myself now about that! While I lived in St. Augustine from Sept. ’89 to August ’91, I was miserable and homesick for my family & friends in Virginia……. Now after all these years and not being able to go back to St. Augustine for a visit, I find myself missing it badly….. I almost can’t even imagine how much the area has grown and changed since then. My husband and I had hopes of being able to visit for our tenth anniversary, last September but my son was in an accident the month before which required a bit of surgery and him being wheelchair bound for several months after the accident so we just weren’t able to continue planning on the trip. Pretty sure that it’s out of the picture for this September but hoping to be able make it happen next year! Until then, I’ll just have to keep on stalking here for the latest St. Augustine news, lol!!!

    • says

      I hope I can share some smiles & give you lots of ideas until you do make it back! 🙂 Hope your son is recovering well. ~Allie O

  3. says

    Another cool area to visit near Crescent Beach is Matanzas inlet. It’s a great place to explore and usually a nice area for a shell hunt. There is also a great place to eat just south of the inlet bridge – Matanzas Innlet Restaurant. Best crab cakes ever!

    • says

      I have had 2 experiences at Matanzas Inlet too many! You can have my table 😛 But the view is amazing!! ~Allie O

      • says

        You really had a bad go of it from something on the menu? Or maybe the service? You’re right about that view. Nice!

        • says

          It was the food. Our service was mediocre (friendly but slow & non-existant other than bringing out entrees, water stayed empty, etc.) but the food was just plain bad. I have since heard that it’s the place to go for steamed shrimp and oysters but I’ll let y’all enjoy it without competition for the tables out back. LOL 😉

          • says

            I hear ya. Hey, Allie – have you tried Purple Olive restaurant in St. Augustine Beach? We have had some fabulous meals there.

          • says

            Yes! I’ve never blogged it because I was there with mom & just wanted to enjoy her. The other time was before I started the blog. What’s your fave there?

          • says

            I love it all but it’s probably a toss-up between the Blackened Ahi Tuna and the Diver Scallops. They served me some of the largest scallops I ever ate and they were melt in your mouth tender. I’m a big fan of their Jasmine rice, too. 😎

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