(Photo courtesy of Joe in DC via Flickr)

I'm mighty partial to this 6-mile stretch of bronze-tinged sand between the thrills of Daytona and the quiet beauty of St. Augustine. I lived here not too long ago. I got sand in my shoes everyday—something I've yet to shake. These days, when I want to go somewhere out of the way yet near all sorts of interesting side trips, I pick this place.

The laid-back nature of Flagler Beach is generally quiet. That changes during Bike Weeks in Daytona when the roar of Harley Davidsons takes over the roads. The other 50 weeks of the year are punctuated by the rhythmic pounding of the Atlantic washing upon these shores and the cries of ospreys as they grab fish from the ocean. In the winter, manatees swim in the Tomoka River, while right whales calve offshore. In spite of the developments to the north and south, Flagler remains a sleepy beach town. Old Florida is alive and well here and I like it that way.

Flagler, unlike every other beach on the east coast, has almost no development on the ocean side. Instead, A1A snakes alongside the dunes, giving drivers a clear view of sunrise and moonrise. On the Fourth of July, fireworks shoot up from the city pier. One year, I watched the local pyrotechnic show while Mother Nature matched it with horizontal heat lightening in the background.

Best Dive:
Snack Jack's sits in a crusty screened shack on the south end of Flagler Beach. Known for great fried oysters with a sea breeze and a cold beer, it's my favorite spot to end the day. (Map)

Best Breakfast:
The scenery hasn't changed from the salty windows inside the Pier Restaurant. Neither has the hearty cooking that brings in the locals for a plate of eggs and sausage each day. Afterwards, take a walk along the beach to see what the fishermen reel in and to watch the morning surfers turn smooth Atlantic curling waves into exciting rides.(Map)

Don't Miss:
Growers from across Central Florida fill the square every Friday for the farmers market. This time of year look for Zellwood corn—the sweetest, freshest corn grown in the state.

Best Drive:
Follow A1A past Snack Jacks, and turn right on Highbridge Road. Cross the Tomoka River, and follow its marsh to Walter Boardman Highway. Turn left and drive under a live oak canopy to Old Dixie Highway, a couple of blocks east of I-95. Turn left and drive a half-mile to see Fairchild Oak in Bulow Creek State Park—the largest live oak in the state.

Most Surprising Beach in Florida:
While I adore Flagler's sands, a surprise awaits just 20 minutes north. Drive A1A past Palm Coast's Hammock Dunes development to Washington Oaks State Park. On the Atlantic side you'll discover coquina rocks reaching from the high-tide line out into the ocean. At low tide, it's the most unusual picnic spot I've found on Florida's East Coast.