One word that seems to be synonymous with Florida: beaches. And with good reason – the Sunshine State has no shortage of shorelines that tempt the imagination, and no two are exactly alike. With long stretches of sand, warm water temperatures, and perpetually sunny weather, visiting the state is a no-brainer for individuals and families looking for a few days of shelling, swimming, and sand castle construction.  

Hugging Florida’s northeastern coastline, the city of St Augustine is a great place to explore the Atlantic side of the state. As the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the US, it’s known for its historical monuments and attractions — but don’t sleep on the beach scene here. The waters are a bit more brazen than its Gulf of Mexico counterparts, making it attractive to surfers and boogie boarders in the area. Avid wildlife watchers will be happy too — the crashing waves, grassy dunes, and golden sand come together to make tropical habitats for the sea turtles and spoonbills that live in the state parks and nature preserves in and around the area.

From family-friendly beachfront parks to waterfront wildlife sanctuaries, you're bound to find a strip of sand that’s suited to your adventure — here are five of the best beaches in St Augustine.

Aerial view of a black-and-white striped lighthouse. A peninsula in the distance covered in greenery gives way to a long stretch of golden sand
Follow the nature trails in Anastasia State Park on your way to the pristine beach © rodclementphotography / Getty Images

Connect with nature at Anastasia State Park 

Four miles of pristine shoreline sit nestled within the 1600 acre preserve at Anastasia State Park. While the white sandy beach attracts sunbathers looking for a prime roasting spot, the brisk waters here offer just enough chop to turn the heads of surfboard, sailboat and paddleboard enthusiasts. 

Before you set off for an afternoon swimming through some salty waves, wind your way through the park’s tidal salt marshes and hammock preserves via one of the nature trails on site. You’ll spot birds, turtles and a variety of wildlife on your path. And if you time it just right, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most spectacular sunrises in the state. 

Camping is also an option here and available for $28 per night.  

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A woman rides a bicycle on a firm-sand beach. Behind her are three people on horseback
The firm sand on St Augustine Beach makes it great for activities such as cycling and horseback riding © Dave Davidson / Getty Images

Surf, sand, snacks: St Augustine Beach is the perfect day out

St Augustine Beach checks off a slew of must-haves for a well-rounded beach day: you’ve got shoreside restaurants for post-sun snacking, a fishing pier, a beachside park, sand volleyball courts, and a splash pad for the little ones in the group. It has a little something for everyone, which is why it receives high marks when it comes to picking the perfect location for a beach day. 

The waves here are popular with kiteboarders and surfers, while the hard-packed sandy floor makes a solid surface for a tranquil bike ride along the coast.

If you’re looking to post up by the shore for the day but are turned off by the potential amount of equipment you’ll have to purchase and lug around, there are a few beach rental shacks in St Augustine Beach that can supply all the lounge chairs and umbrellas you’ll need for the day.

Hunt for shark's teeth at Ponte Vedra Beach

Ponte Vedra is akin to the crown jewel of beaches in the St Augustine region — with its turquoise waters and sugary sands, the area’s attracted its fair share of posh resorts and luxury homes. In fact, the world-renowned TPC Sawgrass, host of The Players Championship golf course, is located nearby. 

You’ll want to enter the beach through Mickler’s Landing just two blocks east of A1A on the southern end of Ponte Vedra. Here you’ll find the area’s famous pink coquina-sand beaches (coquina is a type of sand composed almost entirely of shells) along with beachcombers looking for modern-day and fossilized shark teeth along the shore. There’s also plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife — just take the wooden walkway near the entrance of Mickler’s through the 20ft high sand dunes for a closer view. 

A retro pier with dolphin-shaped decorations in silhouette as the sun sets casting orange and blue light in the sky
Vilano Beach is a superb spot to watch the sunset © gnagel / Getty Images

Enjoy a beautiful sunset from Vilano Beach

When in St Augustine, channel your inner railway mogul and set a day aside to soak up the sun on Vilano Beach. In the 1800s, it was the beach of choice for the founder of the Florida East Coast Railway, Henry Flagler, and his wealthy friends. Today it remains popular amongst locals, with its retro pier and art deco surroundings. 

Located just north of downtown St Augustine's historic district, it’s one of the area’s best-kept secrets, offering an incredible vantage point for watching the sunset. But don’t expect a day calmly floating on a lounger — due to its location near the Matanzas Inlet, the beach’s steep drop off, heavier surf, and strong current make it better suited for surfing and skimboarding.

Unspoiled Crescent Beach is perfect for getting away from it all 

Named after the natural shape of its shoreline, Crescent Beach is a quiet strip of sun-kissed sand located in Anastasia Island, just 20 minutes from downtown St Augustine. You won’t find much development in the area — just a smattering of house rentals and cottages — which makes this the perfect spot for quietly getting lost in a good book. In fact, this is one of the most unspoiled beaches in the area, a highlight for the eco-tourists and beach purists in the group.

For those looking for a more active experience, the hard-packed sand at Crescent Beach also lends itself to horseback riding, beachside biking, peaceful jogs, and a round or two of frisbee.

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