Not far from the market, I stop to climb the 165-foot-tall St. Augustine Lighthouse (pictured). The hefty climb up 219 steps isn't all that takes my breath away when I get to the top. The view is incredible. Down below I can see the long sweep of wave-washed beach at Anastasia State Recreation Area. To the north, the old town of St. Augustine hunkers beneath the greenery of ancient live oaks.
Back on the highway again, I ride a shuttle boat across the Matanzas River to see the ancient Spanish outpost at Fort Matanzas and stroll the beach at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. There, low tide exposes huge formations of coquina rock rising out of the sand.
Along this stretch of coast, travelers are rediscovering one of Florida's oldest tourist attractions, Marineland. Visitors can take part in dolphin encounters and dive into the 450,000-gallon oceanarium.
Down the highway from Marineland sits Ocean Hammock Golf Club. Here, the waves come almost close enough to the fairway to let you feel the spray of the surf. Eight holes--including No. 9--have ocean views on this beautiful but challenging new course, which some call the Pebble Beach of the East.
South of Ocean Hammock, centerpiece of the bustling Palm Coast Golf Resort, A1A ambles along like a beachcomber through Flagler Beach. Residents have worked hard to keep the town's old Florida flavor. There aren't any lodging chains, and most buildings are low-rise. An ordinance limits height to 35 feet. "I like to call it country ocean. To me it's a little bit of heaven," says businessman Charles Helm, who helped lead efforts to get scenic highway status for A1A in Flagler Beach and Beverly Beach.