As mentioned in our two previous Florida itinerary posts (here and here), Florida has been a surprise hit for us, which is no less true for the northeast corner of the state. We have loved engaging with the varied history and personalities of all the Floridian regions.
So, on our first day, we began our exploration of northeast Florida on the Space Coast! We’d been listening to several books on tape on this trip related to both JFK and the Space Race, so we were very excited to visit the Kennedy Space Center!
Though on the expensive side, we feel that a visit to the area would not be complete without stopping here. For the price, you get quite a bang for your buck! Plan to spend an entire day here. Entrance includes a bus tour, two different IMAX movies, a Mars Experience, opportunities to meet astronauts, and real up close experience with shuttles of yesterday and tomorrow.
That evening, we continued to the nearby small (and now beloved) community of Scottsmoor, where we stayed the next two nights with a Boondockers Welcome host.
We LOVED the couple we stayed with from our first meeting with they invited us in to have dessert and look at maps!
On our second day, we woke up dark and early for a day on the Mosquito Lagoon with the 2 Castaway Redfish Charter. Captain Lulay was a very experienced fisherman and we got pretty lucky, catching about 30 red fish and speckled trout!
That afternoon, we returned to the camper and enjoyed the rest of the day with our incredible hosts. First, we got a tour of their orange grove – learning the proper way to cut an orange, the differences in the way each variety tastes, and how to know when they’ll be sweet or dry.
Next, our host showed us his incredible catamaran, that he’s customized to include all kinds of amazing gadgets, like GPS enabled autopilot!
Finally, we went geocaching, a hobby we all enjoy, before hunkering down to water the Superbowl together that night. It was a SUPER fun day!
On our third day, we sadly said goodbye to our hosts and headed out for a bit of kayaking from the nearby Menard-May Park, where they have several paddling trails that launch from a public ramp. We saw many ospreys and dolphins! We combined the Three Sisters and Pine Island Bay Trails. The result: a path that looks like a kayaker!
That afternoon, we drove on to Blue Spring State Park where we were fortunate enough to snag a reservation. The campground is really nice, but the park itself is very popular with tourists as it is a known manatee viewing area. We only saw a few, but the water is crystal clear and lovely to walk alongside.
On our fourth day, after a chilly evening, we headed out for a run around the park to see if any more manatees had come in. They hadn’t, but we enjoyed the run all the same!
Next, we packed up and headed north back towards the coast, stopping at Ormond Beach, where you can visit an old Rockerfeller home, The Casements, for FREE. The tour is pretty fascinating and the views from the house, stunning.
Without a lot of time left in our afternoon, we made a beeline up to the Matanzas State Forest, where we had made reservations to camp for the next two nights. The campground has four very private, primitive spots and was the perfect base camp for our explorations the following day.
On our fifth day, we made sure to leave camp with enough time to get to catch the Ferry to Fort Matanzas, an old Spanish fort set up to protect the river into St. Augustine. Visiting the National Park Service site is FREE and only takes about an hour.
Next, we explored the nearby (and highly recommended) Washington Oaks Garden State Park. The park includes two sections across the street from each other. On the main entrance/inland side, you can explore beautiful formal gardens, ride your bike along the Old A1A, or fish.
The Atlantic side is renowned for it’s beautiful coquina rock formations! They are incredible to see and hop around on!
In the afternoon, we drove over to explore the Princess Place Preserve, an old property that actually belonged to a princess! Well, a wealthy American who married an exiled Russian prince… In any case, the grounds are beautiful (and…free!).
From there, we kayaked along Pellicer Creek, which we were told was a beautiful paddle…but it was really only so-so. I guess we’ve been spoiled by some other amazing Floridian paddles lately!
On our sixth day, we wanted to make sure we explored the Matanzas State Forest at least a little, so went for a jog along its ample dirt roads.
After packing up, we headed north towards St. Augustine! Our first stop was a place I’d long wanted to visit: Fort Mose State Park. The park features the former location of Fort Mose, a site I know because it was a setting of a novel I used to teach: Copper Sun by Sharon Draper. Slaves used to escape to free Spanish territory when Florida still belonged to the Spanish. There was a field trip happening that day, so the place was packed with teens, but we got our first taste of how much the St. Augustine area likes to re-enact exploding weapons!
Our next stop was the Fountain of Youth, which I totally expected to be cheesy as all get out, but it actually wasn’t! The park includes multiple things to do, including a planetarium, costumed staff that teach about old St. Augustine, drinking from the fountain of youth…and of course…exploding weapons :).
That evening, we drove on to set up camp at Anastasia State Park, another lucky get! The park is right on the beach and 10 minutes from St. Augustine – but with large private spots for campers. We oriented ourselves with a bike ride around the property and a beach walk!
On our seventh day, we rose early for a sunrise run on the beach!
Next, we used the morning before a 1pm checkout to continue our explorations of the touristy old town of St. Augustine, starting with the Castillo de San Marcos. Our timing was perfect because as soon as we got there, we were ushered to view another exploding weapon display!
Next, we walked through the old town, stopping to see a few more sites, including the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse. As teachers, we felt obligated to see the old schoolhouse and it’s kitschy under the stairs “dungeon,” but honestly don’t think it’s worth the steep $10 entrance fee.
We also visited the truly informative (and free) Visitors Center.
The center is right next to the Old Spanish Trail Mile Zero, which marks the spot for an old trail that traversed the country all the way to California!
That afternoon, we continued our journey northward towards Jacksonville, where we actually just spent the next day relaxing at the recommended Hanna Park Campground while preparing for our journey into Coastal Georgia!
As always, please stay tuned for the corresponding Youtube videos that give additional life to these itineraries.