12 Authentic Things to Do on 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 also 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 the 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 7 am to 4 pm, 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 from 11 am to 5 pm on Thursdays and Fridays (and by appointment on the weekend). The fun store features over 15 local artists and crafters and is home to 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 Flagler Beaches and the oak tree covered the 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 1800s 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 a historical glimpse of a Florida sugar plantation. During the 1830s, 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 also ocean scrub.

 


Mala Compra Trail, Hammock

 

Or choose to mountain bike the more advanced, technical 5.5-mile trail. Or if you also 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 also 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 also 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 also furniture. You will also likely gain an 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 late 1800s. 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 also 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 shells 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 also wind through pine and hardwood forests offering a scenic backdrop of “old Florida.”

 

Paddle Your Heart to Serenity

 


Guana 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 also salt marshes. Enjoy the serenity of this coastal estuary and admire the wildlife. Watch closely and dolphins and also 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, also 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 also 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 also golf.

 

 
Palm Coast Hammock Beach Resort, photo courtesy Visit Flagler

 

No matter what you choose to do in Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches, there is a little something for everyone who seeks a memorable experience to get away from it all.

 

Check out even more things to do in the St. Augustine area here!

 


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