A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway
- DesignationAll-American Road (2002/2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation, Historic
- Length72 miles
This byway lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway on a narrow barrier island with breath-taking views. This environment supports a variety of wildlife, including 50 endangered species. History aficionados will enjoy touring St. Augustine, the oldest continually-occupied European settlement in the United States.
Story of the Byway
Perhaps no stretch of highway reaches further into America’s history than the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway. An officially designated American Byway®, the 72 miles of mostly two-lane roadway navigate nature’s beauty, history, and true serenity. A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway is entrenched in American history, home to the first continuously inhabited city in America – St. Augustine, Florida. In addition, it is the site of the landing of Ponce de Leon in 1513 near Ponte Vedra. This roadway inspires awe as travelers climb the St. Augustine Lighthouse steps, cross the Matanzas Inlet, or observe the spires of St. Augustine in the
sunset. The land and waters on either side of the Byway have been part of the sweep of American history, nature, archaeology, and recreation for nearly 500 years.
From the northern boundary of St. Johns County, the Byway bisects the seaside luxury and golf mecca known as Ponte Vedra Beach, and weaves through America’s oldest city, St. Augustine; finally ending at the terminus of Flagler County at a seaside park named for a true folk hero, the Gamble Rogers Memorial Park on Flagler Beach, the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway connects State Parks, National Monuments, stunning beaches, nature trails, boating, fishing, preserves, estuaries and all of America’s diverse people. Recognized as a National Scenic Byway in 2002, the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway was designated as Florida's second All-American Road on February 16, 2021.
This is one of the premier byways for the history lover, as the whole town of St. Augustine is packed with historical sites dating from the Spanish conquest in the 1400s, up to the Civil Rights protests in the 1960s. New statues commemorate the civil rights leaders of that time near the market where, generations ago, slaves were sold.
Along the way, travelers will be able to find evidence of this coastal area’s great history at one of the many modern day excavations. The Fountain of Youth Park has been the site of many exciting archaeological discoveries of national historic importance. New archaeological excavations are currently underway with funding provided by the State of Florida, the Fountain of Youth, and Flagler College.Next door to the Fountain of Youth, Our Lady of La Leche Shrine marks the original permanent settlement of St. Augustine founded by Pedro Menendez and the celebration of the nation's first Mass on site. Some consider the Mission Nombre de Dios to be one of America's most sacred and historic sites. It was there, over 400 years ago, that Father Lopez de Mendoza Grajales offered the first Mass in America's first colonial city. It was the beginning of the permanent history of Christianity in what is now the United States. This mission site, which remains in religious use today and contains an early cemetery, is also located close to the landing site of the Pedro Menendez de Aviles expedition and the first Spanish village in Florida. The Joseph Hernandez wharf landing site, believed to be the first in use in the early 1800s in Flagler County, has been discovered in what will become Long's Landing Estuary Park. The landing was used to ship turpentine, rum, and other locally raised products to far destinations.
Each year In the spring, the byway hosts the Spoonbills & Sprockets Cycling Tour, a race that attracts as many sightseers as it does hard-core cyclists. The journey consists of 36, 72 and 100-mile routes traversing some of the country’s most breathtaking beaches and historic streets.After pedaling through the bike race, stick around the peddling that takes place during the byway’s Super Scenic Garage Sale. On the third Saturday in November, more than 100 homes and businesses along the A1A participate in this 72-mile extravaganza of retail therapy. The event gives new meaning to the phrase window shopping.
From Ponte Vedra Beach to Summer Haven: Start the byway in Ponte Vedra Beach, at the intersection of JT Butler Blvd./State Hwy 202 and FL-A1A. Follow SR A1A south for 22.4 miles. Follow the road west at Vilano Beach. Follow this road until it reaches San Marco Ave. Turn south to stay on this road. Follow the road until it turns east. The road will be called Anastasia Blvd. The road bends back south and turns back into FL-A1A. Follow this road, passing through Marineland, Palm Coast, Beverly Beach, and Flagler Beach. End at Ocean Palm Dr.
Points of Interest
Bird Island Park
Bird Island Park, adjacent to the Ponte Vedra Beach Library, is the first park encountered by travelers heading south along the A1A Byway. The park is home to the Bird Island rookery, one of many migratory sites along the Great Florida Birding Trail. The park illustrates the ecosystems of Northeast Florida and highlights the native flora and fauna along the two walking trails with interactive art sculptures, educational signs, gazebos, benches and a boardwalk surrounding a pond.
The four-lane roads of Ponte Vedra Beach narrow to two as nature take's over the ride. The first public beach in Ponte Vedra, a favorite of locals, lies two blocks east of A1A at the last traffic light you’ll see for 20 miles. On the right, the turn street is called Mickler Road; on the left Ponta Vedra Boulevard. Even though there is no sign designating this hidden gem, take the left. Mickler’s Landing, pronounced “Myklers” by locals, a local favorite famous for its pink, coquina-sand stretches of beach, has no sign at all. So finding it is a special delight. The wooden walkway through the twenty-foot high sand dunes gives you the first inkling that a special place is about to be revealed.
Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
Simply put, estuaries connect the ocean and the land. Saltwater and fresh meet to become the brackish water that nature uses to foster life. Humans depend on both for their existence, so caring for both is vital. The 73,352 acres of salt marsh and mangrove tidal wetlands, oyster bars, estuarine lagoons, upland habitat and offshore seas that comprise The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve make it a living laboratory for staff, scientists and graduate students. The northernmost extent of mangrove habitat on the east coast of the United States, GTM offers some of the highest dunes in Florida, measuring 30-40 feet, and one of the few remaining "inlets" in northeast Florida not protected by a jetty, appearing exactly as it might have been in the distant past.
Colonial St. Augustine
The Usina Bridge may traverse a single mile of road, but it travels nearly 450 years to the first continuous settlement in what was to become the continental United States, St. Augustine, predating Plymouth and Jamestown by decades. Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés came ashore on August 28, 1565, the Feast Day of Saint Augustine. Eight hundred soldiers and Spanish colonists joined Menéndez at the new village. Menendez was sent by the Spanish rulers to remove the threat of foreign claims on this new territory, first claimed for his country by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513.
Anastasia State Park covers 1,600 acres, featuring four miles of pristine beach, a tidal salt marsh, and a maritime and upland hammock. There is also an archaeological site where coquina rock was mined to create the nearby fortress, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. At Anastasia State Park you can enjoy camping, beachcombing, swimming, picnicking, fishing, windsurfing, hiking, wildlife viewing, boating and more. Anastasia's full-facility campground, including 139 campsites, is located in a wooded area within easy bicycling or walking distance of the beach. A self-guided nature trail takes hikers through a maritime hammock on ancient sand dunes, and anglers have the opportunity to haul in the big catch.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Located two miles south of Marineland on State Road A1A, the formal and meditative gardens to the west are the centerpiece of this park, but Washington Oaks is also famous for the unique shoreline of coquina rock formations that line its Atlantic beach. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River, this property was once owned by a distant relative of President George Washington. The gardens were established by Louise and Owen Young who purchased the land in 1936 and built a winter retirement home. They named it Washington Oaks and, in 1965, donated most of the property to the State.
Betty Steflik Preserve/Moody Boat Launch
The Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve's 217 acres offer the visitor a unique view of the salt marsh and coastal scrub communities. Walk the trails through the coastal scrub and stroll the boardwalk over the salt marsh for a close-up view of the plants and animals of these marine communities in their natural habitat. Whether bird watching, fishing from the pier, launching a boat from the Moody Boat Launch in the Intracoastal Waterway, or picnicking; the reserve offers a peaceful glimpse remembrance of the past, preserved for our future. The preserve is located in Flagler Beach about a quarter mile west of A1A and lies along the eastern side of the Intracoastal Waterway south of State Road 100.
The Flagler Beach Pier & Boardwalk
The history of Flagler Beach is synonymous with Florida folklore. Today, as visitors travel eastward on Moody Boulevard, they can’t help but catch their breath as they look out on the Atlantic Ocean, the beach and the small seaside community founded nearly 100 years ago. It’s a step back in time... The history of this area, now named Flagler Beach, began in 1909 when Issac I. Moody and J.F. Lambert formed the Bunnell Development Company and started selling parcels of land, often through the mail, to families seeking a new beginning. The long, uninterrupted shoreline that is Flagler Beach, with its breathtaking vistas and long history, is what has drawn visitors to this area for nearly 100 years
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park
Located at the terminus of Flagler Beach at the southern tip of the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, this windswept park is named for Florida folk singer Gamble Rogers. The beach is the most popular feature at this park, where visitors enjoy swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing or fishing. The daily low tide is an ideal time to observe shore birds feeding in tidal pools; summer months bring sea turtles that lay their eggs in the golden-brown coquina sand.
Three-tenths of a mile past the right turn to the Usina Bridge to Historic Saint Augustine is one of the area’s historically significant beaches, as well as a terrific beach for skimboarding and other watersports. Virtually all of the beaches along the A1A Coastal Byway are sought out by the surfer community for their consistent waves and beautiful views. Vilano Beach lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tolomato River. The beach is also the home of the annual late-summer Run Drop Slide Pro/Am Skimboard competition.
A Day on Florida's A1A
Start from Ponte Vedra, just southeast of Jacksonville, and continue south along the byway on Route A1A, taking a leisurely drive along Florida’s historic coast. As you continue along the byway, feel free to stop at one of the many beaches for some exciting fun in the sand and waves such as Ponte Vedra Beach, South Ponte Vedra Beach, and Villano Beach.
If you thrive on nature and wildlife, continue along the byway for 16.4 miles to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. The reserve is dedicated to protecting the great diversity of plants and animals and is open to the public.
Continue for 10.4 miles along the byway to reach St. Augustine. This historic town is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States. St. Augustine is packed with historic sites for visitors of all ages such as the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the Mission of Nombre de Dios, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse. While in St. Augustine, be sure to shop at the boutiques, art galleries, candy shops, and antique stores. Also discover the fresh seafood, barbecue, and Southern staples that St. Augustine is famous for, perhaps by dining in one of the many waterfront restaurants.
The byway continues along A1A past more beaches open for recreation. Stop by the Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreational Area for some great opportunities for fishing and boating along Florida’s intercoastal to complete your day trip.
Update this byway information today!