As a peninsula, Florida boasts 1,800 miles of coastline, which puts waving palm trees, fresh seafood and toes-in-the-sand beaches within a short drive no matter where you are in the Sunshine State. Here’s a route to start dipping your toe in. Start with Fernandina Beach in the north and continue south down A1A to the Canaveral National Seashore in Central Florida, hitting the following key stops along the way.
From charming, historic downtown Fernandina Beach, to sunset cruises, to horseback riding on the beach, this barrier island invites you to stay, play and unwind. Hungry? Grab a rooftop table, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, at the Salt Life for fresh-caught grouper. Visit Fort Clinch State Park, a well-preserved Civil War era fort with living history demonstrations, hiking trails and two campgrounds — one at the beach, one at the river. Need some pampering? Choose from two luxurious spas at Omni Amelia Island Resort, well-known for its clean-and-green therapies, and the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, a cavernous yet intimate setting. Hint: Ask for the Ritz’s signature Heaven in a Hammock treatment.
Although the draw of downtown Jacksonville is certainly worth a pitstop, it’s the coastal communities that truly shine. With plenty of stops on the Jacksonville Ale Trail, craft beer lovers can find the perfect amber, India pale ale (IPA) or stout. Head to Green Room Brewery, Jacksonville Beach’s first microbrewery, for a pint of Diamond Blonde Ale. For the area’s best street tacos, pop into the colorful Cantina Louie. Rent a kayak and paddle your way through Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Talbot Islands State Parks. History buffs can dig into the past of Mayport Village and Kingsley Plantation. Looking for a dog-friendly beach? Visit Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park for swimming, surfing and fishing.
As the oldest U.S. city, St. Augustine boasts a walkable district, including famous St. George Street, filled with local artisans, historic buildings and the must-see Colonial Quarter for interactive history experiences. You’ll also find two of the best pizzerias in Florida — Pizzalley and Pizza Time — dishing up mouthwatering Brooklyn-style pizza. Stay the night at one of the dozens of quaint bed-and-breakfast inns dotting the area. Don’t miss the city’s focal point — Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress with views of the St. Augustine Inlet. Cross the Bridge of Lions to explore Anastasia State Park, a protected wildlife sanctuary, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. It’s a 219-step climb but worth the spectacular panoramic view.
Along popular Daytona Beach sits a family-friendly boardwalk with plenty of shops and restaurants and a bandshell with an ocean view that is home to the beloved outdoor Summer Concert series. Birdwatchers will enjoy spotting some of the 160 species sighted in Tomoka State Park. Hikers and cyclists can meander through 33 miles of Volusia County trails, including the East Central Florida Regional Rail Trail built along an abandoned railroad. Nearby, visit world-famous Daytona International Speedway or hop in the virtual driver’s seat at the Daytona 500 Experience. Looking for a little culture? Head to Daytona’s hidden gem — the Museum of Arts and Sciences, which sits on a stunning 90-acre nature preserve.
Canaveral National Seashore
Stretching for 24 captivating miles, the Canaveral National Seashore features the longest span of undeveloped public beach along Florida’s East Coast — perfect for taking a dip in the ocean or building sandcastles. At Mosquito Lagoon, reel in silver perch or fly fish for red drum. Check out Turtle Mound, one of Florida’s most famous archaeological sites, built by Native Americans who tossed their oyster shells — all 1.5 million bushels of them — onto a pile that towers at 35 feet high. The grand finale? Simply soak in the sound of waves lapping at the shore on this pristine barrier island before heading back home.
This beautiful stretch of Florida’s North-Central coast makes the perfect two- or three-day road trip anytime of year.