Plan Your NTDA Convention Trip to Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine Area
On Florida's Historic Coast, some of the most memorable natural wonders, historic sites and adventures are free (or nearly free).
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL and the surrounding area of St. Augustine, FL have it all — including outstanding golf and the seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra as well as area’s 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches.
Just south of St. Augustine, take a free ferry ride to Fort Matanzas National Monument and tour the almost 300-year-old outpost. See the fort’s sleeping quarters, gun deck and observation deck, and explore the uninhabited barrier island it rests on. Admission is free. Then admire the divine side of St. Augustine with visits to historic churches including the Memorial Presbyterian Church (where famous Floridian Henry Flagler is buried), the Mission Nombre de Dios and the St. Augustine Cathedral Basilica.
St. Augustine is rich with history, art and culture and features attractions like the St. Augustine Lighthouse. The city's brick-lined streets, horse carriages, forts and grand hotels have charmed me at every stage of my life. Pass through the coquina stone pillars that mark the historic city gates. The ancient street is closed to vehicles, leaving you to walk easily between shops.
Sample artisanal spirits at the St. Augustine Distillery and Museum or try one of the daily tours and tastings at the San Sebastian Winery — both are free and within walking distance of the historic district. Time it right and enjoy the Friday Art Walk, which departs from the San Sebastian Winery on a free trolley. Other free tours and events to seek out include: the Pup Walk Historic Walking tour; the African American Heritage Tour (every Saturday); and the hoppin’ Uptown Saturday Night, with music and entertainment at the galleries and shops along San Marco Avenue open late the fourth Saturday of each month.
Beyond the historic city, find wallet-friendly fun as you go beach-hopping along the coast.
Check out the Oldest Wooden School House where the cedar and cypress planks of the more-than-200-year-old building is weathered. The structure's history is fascinating. Learn how the schoolmaster and his wife lived above the classroom and see some of the textbooks kids would have used centuries ago.
Visit the Colonial Quarter where blacksmiths and woodworkers roamed about the 18th-century courtyard giving demonstrations and entertaining groups.
Take a short walk from St. George Street to the bay front where you will find the Oldest House — the oldest surviving Spanish Colonial dwelling in St. Augustine. Evidence exists that the house site has been occupied since the 1600s, the current house has been standing since the early 1700s.
Venture to the Castillo de San Marcos was built by the Spanish from 1672 to 1695 and is the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. Take a tour of Flagler College, the former 1887 Hotel Ponce de Leon, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Take a ride on one of the Old Town Trolleys and experience the Ghosts and Gravestones “Frightseeing” Tour of nighttime St. Augustine. Aboard the trolley of the doomed, you may encounter “ghosts” — especially at the Old Jail, which will make you a believer in this city's ancient mystique.
Consider taking a sunset cruise on the Schooner Freedom, a 72-foot sailboat complete with hors d'oeuvres and wine.
Dine at the velvet-draped Sultan's Room at Costa Brava — an elegant restaurant located in the beautiful Casa Monica Hotel. Built in 1888, the Casa Monica was restored to its former glory and re-opened in 1999. Visit the impressively-lit Lightner Museum. It is another of Henry Flagler's former grand hotels (this one, the Alcazar) that holds a wonderful “collection of collections” featuring one of the world’s largest displays of cut glass — as well as Victorian art and furniture.
For some of the most spectacular views of nature, head for the windswept Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine or the GTM Research Reserve in Ponte Vedra. The St. Johns County Pier Park offers amazing views of the beach and the Atlantic Ocean and you might see an angler make a catch right before your eyes.