Note: This article first appeared in the March-April 2005 issue of the Gypsy Journal.
Just minutes from all of the tourist hubbub of busy St. Augustine, Florida we discovered a tranquil hideout with miles of beautiful beaches to explore, swimming, fishing, nature trails, comfortable campsites, and a chance to learn a little bit about Florida’s early history.
Anastasia State Park, located just off State Route A1A, is the perfect base from which to take in all of the activities and history St. Augustine has to offer, or just to sit back and relax as you watch the waves roll in off the Atlantic Ocean. Whatever you enjoy most; from walks along the beach to trying to catch your supper in the surf, or just relaxing around the campfire, you’ll find it at Anastasia State Park.
Anastasia is famous for its miles of wide, flat beaches. Go for a long walk along the surf line, watch osprey and numerous other species of birds, cast a line near the jetties, go for a swim, or if you are really adventurous, rent a surfboard and ride the waves. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Ask the Ranger Station about current ocean conditions, and always heed the advice and warnings posted for your protection. Swimming is allowed north of the beach ramp. Swimming is discouraged south of the beach ramp due to strong currents and the absence of lifeguards.
People from all over the world come to Anastasia State Park to enjoy the beach. But humans are not the only ones to appreciate this luscious waterfront. Many different species of birds can be seen on the island. In the summertime, loggerhead sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in nests they build on the beach. In each nest they deposit about 120 ping pong ball sized eggs. After a two-month incubation period the turtle hatchlings emerge and scramble to the ocean to begin a dangerous 25 year journey to adulthood. Predators are many, and only a tiny fraction survive.
The park features a self-guided nature trail that allows you to walk over ancient sand dunes now covered with a hardwood hammock. Brochures describing the birds and trees found in the hammock are available at the ranger station upon request.
History buffs will find the old Spanish quarry at Anastasia State Park quite interesting. More than 300 years ago Native American laborers were put to work by the Spanish, hauling blocks of rock from the quarry. Using hand tools they hewed out squares of the soft shell-stone and pried the squares loose along natural layers in the rock. They loaded the blocks onto ox-drawn carts, then barged them across Matanzas Bay to the town of St. Augustine. The blocks were used to construct the Castillo de San Marcos and many other public and private buildings.
For RVers, Anastasia State Park has a 139 site campground. Each site has a picnic table, an in-ground grill, fire ring, water, and electricity. None of the sites have sewer hookups but there is a dump station located in the campground, as well as dumpsters. There are two public telephones in the park; one is located in the camping area and one at the picnic area. Each of the campsites is located in a shady hardwood hammock, away from the blowing sand and salt spray of the beach, however most sites are within walking distance to the beach. There are also natural barriers between each site that allow for privacy. Since one of the goals in state parks is preservation, site sizes vary. There are a few sites that can accommodate camping rigs up to 40′. Reservations for campsites may be made up to eleven months in advance at this link. Nightly camping fees are $28, plus tax.
Camping supplies can be purchased at Island Joe’s, located near the entrance to the beach. This concession-operated park store offers camping supplies, ice and firewood, and has bicycles and beach/water-related and recreational equipment available for rental.
Anastasia State Park also offers the Bedtime Story Camper Lending Library of picture books for campers aged four to nine. From pelicans to insects, the Lending Library is a fun way to enhance children’s experience in the Real Florida. For a quiet afternoon or bedtime, share a story to help explain the sights and sounds of Anastasia State Park. Ask the Ranger Station about how to check out a book.
Whatever you come to Anastasia State Park for, you’re sure to have a good time. The park’s address is 300 Anastasia State Park Road, St. Augustine, Florida 32080. For more information, call (904) 461-2033.
It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time to kick off a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery novel set in a small town in Ohio in 1951. Many people tell me it’s my best book ever, and I have to agree. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – Avoid negative people, they have a problem for every solution.