12 Authentic Things to Do in the Palm Coast and Flagler Beaches
South of St. Augustine on Florida’s east coast, Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches offers miles of pristine honey-colored beaches, dolphin adventures, parks, preserves and trails for hiking and biking.
Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches stretch 19 miles along the coastline
Palm Coast and the Flagler Beach area stretches 19 miles along the shimmering Atlantic Ocean and is perfect for cruising Florida’s coastline, playing on the beach, swimming with dolphins and paddling through aquatic preserves. You may chance upon a migrating whale swimming along the coast, or a sea turtle laying her eggs in a sandy nest. And of course, while enjoying this salty getaway, don’t miss some tasty cuisine from seafood to barbecue, and even an adult beverage with a waterfront vista.
From chill time to adventure, the area provides many delightful excursions. Here are some ideas to make your trip truly memorable:
Hang Ten on Flagler Beach
Flagler Beach is where locals meet at the pier
Start in the charming community of Flagler Beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, where this cozy beach town meets at the central pier. Locals gather with friends to watch surfers ride some of the best waves on the east coast. The laid-back beach vibe coupled with vast unimpeded ocean views is an inspiring backdrop to charming eateries, retro motels, surf and eclectic gift shops. If you want to catch a wave, the local surf shops will help you with equipment and lessons. If hungry, enjoy a meal at Flagler Fish Company, known for its creative dishes and fresh seafood. For a cocktail, visit the oceanfront The Island Grille and try a thirst quenching Rum Shark Bite or its signature Bloody Mary. If you want to picnic at the beach, try Kokomo’s Café for a fresh takeout sandwich or a delicious wrap.
Hit the Farmer’s Market & Flagler Surf Art & Stuff
The Flagler Beach Farmer’s Market is open Fridays and Saturdays from 7am to 4pm, however, since this has such a laid-back beach vibe, know that various vendors setting up at different times and closing when they sell out. If you go on a Friday, walk over to 211 S. Third St. and stop by Flagler Surf Art & Stuff. They open 11am to 5pm on Thursdays and Fridays (and by appointment on the weekend). The fun store features over 15 local artists and crafters and is home of the famous “Please don’t make me cross the bridge!” T-shirt.
Transport into a Cruisin’ State of Mind
Cruise A1A the coastal scenic route through Flagler County
Cruise from Flagler Beach to Marineland along A1A, the scenic coastal route that parallels the Atlantic Ocean. Pull off the road to admire views of the sea-foam green waters and watch the waves roll to shore. Highway A1A continues through upscale Palm Coast and the oak tree covered community of the Hammock, reminiscent of “old Florida.” Locally owned motels, restaurants and art galleries are tucked among the mossy oaks. Cruise on to the county’s northern end and you’ll be at Marineland (population 16), which is both a town and home of a marine park spanning nearly 80 years of history.
Smell the Roses & Hike the Coquina
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Keep cruising north to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, once a plantation dating to the early 1800’s named by a former owner who was a distant relative of George Washington.
Sprawling oak trees cover the Washington Oaks Garden State Park
The park offers formal gardens with azaleas, camellias and roses situated amongst acres of sprawling, shady oak trees with a view of the Matanzas River.
Washington Oaks Garden State Park, oceanside
The ocean side gives visitors the opportunity to hike extensive coquina rock formations stretching along the Atlantic shoreline. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy either the quiet gardens or the rocky shore.
Swim With a Dolphin
Marineland Dolphin Adventure
Along the Atlantic at Flagler County’s northern tip is Marineland Dolphin Adventure, the world’s first oceanarium dating to 1938 and to this day, still one of Florida’s original roadside attractions. Movies and television shows from The Creature of the Black Lagoon to Seahunt were filmed here while spectacular dolphin shows thrilled visitors. Today, Marineland Dolphin Adventure is focused on marine animal conservation and research, but dolphins are still the stars.
Meet a dolphin at Marineland’s Dolphin Encounter
Marineland’s Dolphin Encounter programs range from observing bottlenose dolphins, a Dolphin Touch and Feed experience or the popular Swim with the Dolphins experience. Across the street consider a tour of the Whitney Lab Sea Turtle Hospital, a rehabilitation center for sick and injured sea turtles.
Visit an Old Sugar Mill Plantation
Sugar mill, Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park
Savor a stunning scenic drive through a 150-acre Florida hammock to the Palm Coast Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park for an historical glimpse of a Florida sugar plantation. During the 1830’s, the Bulow family grew sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo using slave labor.
Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park
Ruins of the antebellum plantation, a sugar mill, a springhouse and the home’s foundation and slave cabins remain after the family abandoned the homestead during Florida’s Second Seminole War.
Hike or Ride the Mala Compra Trail
Mala Compra Trail, Hammock
Outdoor travelers will enjoy the Mala Compra trail. Park at Hammock’s Bing’s Landing on the west side of A1A (one of several access points). Hike or bike the 1.5-mile trail to the beach through the maritime oak hammock and ocean scrub.
Mala Compra Trail, Hammock
Or choose to mountain bike the more advanced, technical 5.5-mile trail. Or if you only wish to visit the beach, drive the Mala Compra Beach road directly to the beach. Whether hiking or driving, the serenity of the beach and coquina rock formations is your reward.
Get Your Barbecue Fix
Captain’s BBQ, photo courtesy, Visit Flagler
After the beach, follow your nose to Captain’s BBQ located at Bing’s Landing. According to locals, and anyone who has dined here, Captain’s is one of the best barbecue joints around. Pulled pork sandwiches, beef brisket and smoked turkey sandwiches coupled with collard greens, cucumber salad, mac & cheese and smoked baked beans make it finger lickin’ good. Chase the meal with a homemade cheesecake while overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
Become a Florida Cracker
Florida Agricultural Museum
Become a Florida Cracker at the Florida Agricultural Museum. Take a walking tour of the state’s “ag” heritage spanning the 1880s to the 1940s. Explore a pioneer homestead, visit a turn of the century store, admire horses and farm animals, or take a guided trail ride (call for reservations) in the surrounding countryside. Peer into barns, a sawmill, the granary and a commissary stocked with goods, tools and furniture. You will likely gain appreciation for the challenges of Florida’s rural living.
Meet a Princess
Princess Place Preserve
Well, you won’t meet a real princess at the 1500-acre Princess Estate, an Adirondack-style hunting lodge dating to the late1800’s. But once upon a time royalty did call this place home. Purchased by Henry Cutting in 1886 and passed on to his widow who then married an exiled Russian prince, the property originally named Cherokee Grove, was eventually renamed Princess Place Preserve. The lodge is the oldest homestead in Flagler County with the first in-ground swimming pool (fed by an artesian spring). Overlooking the Matanzas River, the lodge is composed of coquina shell and the outdoor sitting porch is notably supported by Florida cedar and cabbage palm trunks. Tours of the lodge are available. Hiking and equestrian trails wind through pine and hardwood forests offering a scenic backdrop of “old Florida.”
Paddle Your Heart to Serenity
Gauna Tolomato Matanzas Reserve (GTM) with Ripple Effect Ecotours
Get on the water in one of the area’s most stunning preserves, known as the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve (GTM). Paddle through mangrove lined backwaters and salt marshes. Enjoy the serenity of this coastal estuary and admire the wildlife. Watch closely and dolphins and manatees may swim by. Tour this stunning natural environment with a paddling excursion with a master naturalist from Ripple Effect Ecotours.
Stay in Flagler Style
Si Como No Inn, Flagler Beach
There are many places to stay in Flagler County depending on your taste and preference. For nostalgic charm, consider Si Como No Inn, a colorful updated motel in Flagler Beach offering direct beach access.
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area
How about an Atlantic sunrise? Consider beach camping at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, where you can enjoy surf fishing, swimming, sunbathing and endless beachcombing.
Palm Coast Hammock Beach Resort, photo courtesy, Visit Flagler
For luxury accommodations try the Palm Coast Hammock Beach Resort overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It provides full amenities including spacious waterfront rooms, on-site restaurants, pools, a water park, spa, fitness center and golf.
Palm Coast Hammock Beach Resort, photo courtesy Visit Flagler
No matter what you choose to do in Flagler County, there is a little something for everyone who seeks a memorable experience to get away from it all.
To receive Authentic Florida’s free ENEWs, featuring travel and living updates, delivered weekly, sign up on the home page Authentic Florida, voted Blog of the Year and Best Travel Blog at the Orlando Sunshine Awards.