Looking for a broad, shimmering beach with waves big enough to surf but small enough to comfortably swim? Or a tidal salt marsh filled with wading birds and sea life? Or an ancient rock quarry where most of the stone making up the Spanish colonial buildings in St. Augustine was mined? Well, my friend, Anastasia State Park has all that and more.
The 1,600 acre park sits on Anastasia Island, right in between downtown St. Augustine and the Atlantic. The park encompasses four miles of white sand beach, a tidal estuary and ancient sand dunes shaded by coastal hammocks. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun rise, swim, hike, kayak, camp, picnic and more.
Know Before You Go
$8 per vehicle with 2-8 people per vehicle. $4 for single-occupant vehicles. $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Camping is $28 per night plus tax and a $6.70 reservation fee.
There are three restrooms in the beach day-use area. Most have outdoor showers for rinsing off.
There are two stores in the park – Island Joe’s and Anastasia Watersports. Island Joe’s sells souvenirs, camp sundries and beach supplies, and rents beach chairs, umbrellas, bikes and more. They also have a restaurant that sells snacks, sandwiches and drinks with an outdoor patio right on the beach. Anastasia Watersports rents canoes, paddleboards, kayaks and more. They also offer summer camp programs for kids featuring activities like hikes through the salt marsh, scavenger hunts and aquatic activities.
Anastasia State Park Beach
Four miles of pristine, gorgeous sand stretch along the glittering Atlantic at Anastasia State Park. There’s a designated swimming area near Island Joe’s, where a lifeguard is present from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The beach is known for hosting a variety of wading birds, sea turtles and other wildlife. No pets or motor vehicles are allowed on the beach.
Combing for seashells is a favorite pastime for Anastasia visitors. You’ll find plenty of clam, oyster and scallop shells and, if you’re lucky, a few sharks teeth. The best time for beach combing is at low tide, when more of the beach is exposed. Be careful not to take any shells that still contain living sea creatures!
Anastasia State Park is a popular spot for beginner and intermediate surfers. The waves are small enough to not be intimidating, but large enough for some decent breaks. The water is warm enough not to need a wetsuit in the summer, but it can get a bit chilly in winter. Boards are available to rent in the park.
Hiking & Biking & Paddling
The Ancient Dunes Nature Trail is a 0.7 mile loop through a shady maritime hammock covering ancient sand dunes. It’s mostly flat, but there are a few ups and downs over the dunes. You’ll see gnarly, windswept live oaks, blooming magnolias, pines, palms and other salt-loving plants. You’ll also spot plenty of wildlife. Interpretive markers provide info on the flora and fauna of the area.
You can bike along the four miles of hard packed sand when the tide is out, or along the park roads, many of which have bike lanes. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent one in the park.
Canoes and kayaks are available to rent in the park. You can paddle through the Salt Run, the park’s tidal lagoon, which is a safe, easy spot for beginners and intermediate kayakers to spend an afternoon. If you’re a more serious kayaker, head out to the Intracoastal Waterway.
A total of 139 campsites sit nestled under the trees of a beautiful maritime hammock, just a short walk from the beach. Some sites are paved, and all have electric, water, a picnic table, grill and fire ring. The coastal vegetation provides excellent privacy, but it also makes some spots a little tight for bigger RVs.
There are four bathhouses with hot showers, washers and dryers. Both RV and tent campers are welcome, and pets are permitted (though not on the beach). The maximum RV length is 40 feet, and there’s a free dump station.
If you’re camping with little ones, check out the Bedtime Story Camper Lending Library at the ranger station where you can check out a picture book for campers aged four to nine.
There are three picnic areas in the park. Sea Turtle Picnic Pavilion is near the beach, Watersports Picnic Pavilion is close to the marsh and Hilltop Picnic area is in between. The Hilltop Picnic area has a restroom nearby.
Check out the weekly farmer’s market every Saturday from 8:30-12:00. You’ll find everything from local produce to handmade crafts to live music. The amphitheater also hosts art shows, concerts and other events year round.
The Spanish Coquina Quarries, located right at the park’s entrance, is a historic archaeological site where coquina rock was mined in the 1600s to help build the Castillo de San Marcos, a National Monument in nearby St. Augustine. Coquina is similar to limestone, and made up of sand and mollusk shells. It’s prized for its durability since many of the colonial buildings constructed out of it are still standing today.
You like birds? Anastasia’s got birds. It’s located on the Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, so you’re likely to spot tons of birds while you’re there. Along the shore, you’ll find gulls, terns, skimmers and pelicans. In the salt marsh, you’ll see herons, storks and spoonbills. And throughout the coastal hammock, you’ll hear songbirds, owls and woodpeckers. If you’re lucky, you might spot a bald eagle soaring above the trees.
There’s plenty of sea life, too. The marsh and ocean are often teeming with fish, crabs, sea turtles, dolphins and manatees. And the endangered Anastasia Island Beach Mouse can be found scurrying along the sand dunes.