The Scenic Route: Jacksonville to Daytona

Hug the coastline and sample old Florida charm along this scenic, salty road.
Andy Schrader

Day 1: Jacksonville to St. Augustine (40 miles)
Ditch the I-95 slog (and Daytona 500 traffic) for scenic State A1A, a two-lane coastal ramble that was Florida’s primary artery before the interstate. Pick it up 20 miles east of Jacksonville around Big Talbot Island State Park (floridastateparks.org/bigtalbotisland or 904/251-2320). Here, high bluffs overlook a beach strewn with smooth, bleached white skeletons of giant trees. Take the car ferry across the St. Johns River to Mayport and watch fishermen unload mackerel and snapper while you enjoy the spoils on the back porch of the Safe Harbor Seafood Market and Restaurant (safeharborseafood.com or 904/246-4911).

In St. Augustine, stop by Faver (faverpottery.com or 904/304-2310) where fifth-generation native Worley Faver creates pottery using the 5,000-year-old method passed down from ancient Egyptians: pinching and forming the vessels by hand, with prehistoric tools — red Georgia clay, a bit of coral and a Virginia walnut for texturing—plus several metal picks. Stop for dinner at O’Steen’s Restaurant (904/829-6974, closed Sunday/Monday), where local shrimp doused with sweet datil pepper sauce, made only in St. Johns County, is the reason for the long waits. End the day at the Penny Farthing Inn (pennyfarthinginn.net or 904/824-2100), an eight-room 1897 Victorian B&B with a prime location in the walkable old city.

Day 2: St. Augustine to Daytona Beach (57 miles)
Head south to Fort Matanzas National Monument (nps.gov/foma or 904/471-0116), a park with a free shuttle boat to a river island fort built by the Spanish army. Like its larger cousin, the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, this fort was built with coquina, a rock made of tiny seashells. The boat leaves hourly starting at 9:30.

Marineland Dolphin Conservation Center (marineland.net or 877/432-2317) replaced its dolphin shows with personalized “touch and feed” programs. Just before the Flagler Beach pier, visit the coolest, kookiest store on the coast: Grampa’s Uke Joint (386/439-9906), for aloha shirts and painted ukuleles. Grab chicken salad wraps at the Salty Dog Lunch Spot (386/503-0340, closed Sundays) in Flagler Beach. As the sun sinks, you’ll arrive at The Shores Resort & Spa (shoresresort.com or 386/767-7350), a revamped classic beach high-rise with a tradition of communal s’mores around fire pits at the close of day. Why fight tradition?