When looking at a map of Florida, Anastasia Island is a 14-mile-long little barrier island just off the east coast, looking out towards the northeast Atlantic. However, this is no ordinary stretch of the American coastline and offers far more than just sandy beaches and a place to lie in the sun. What makes Anastasia Island, so truly unique is its natural beauty, in which a fantastic variety of wildlife exists in a natural habitat. Along Salt Run, you can expect to see wading birds hunting for food, and the sea is teeming with dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, crabs, and fish. This park is protected, and all 14 miles are unspoiled and pristine, with thriving ecosystems.
So with this in mind, what are the best things to do on Anastasia Island to ensure that you genuinely make the most of your trip and get the most out of your stay? We’ve compiled a few ideas that show off the best that Anastasia Island has to offer.
- Rent a paddle board. Renting your paddle board is one of the best ways to feel a part of nature without interrupting it. Manatees and dolphins are known to approach paddleboarders in Florida because the disruption caused to the water by this activity is so minimal. Since it emits no fumes and no license or confusing paperwork is required, renting a board from a local shop is a hassle-free and convenient way to enjoy everything that this place has to offer. You can enjoy views of lighthouses, dunes, stunning narrow waterways, and more. The weather in Florida is reliably sunny, which is ideal for paddle boarders. However, always check the weather on apps such as Magic Seaweed, or check with your local paddle board rental shop, in case there is anything that you ought to be aware of.
- Go bird watching on Anastasia Island. Even if you are not a bird-watching fanatic, you don’t want to miss out on the wide range of rare wildlife available in this area. Anastasia State Park is an absolute bird-watching paradise, with 195 identified species. Guided bird walks are available monthly for those wanting to learn in-depth from knowledgeable and engaging staff members. Alternatively, sitting back in a popular bird-watching spot can be an ideal daytime activity, with a picnic or some beers (depending on your preference), and relax. Always clean up after yourselves, and never disturb a nesting bird or chase any birds, as this can upset them.
- The St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park opened in 1893; this is the oldest attraction in the area. While Florida is not lacking Alligator farms, this is the only place in the world where you can see all living species of alligators, crocodiles, caiman, and gharial. This is a staple activity for anyone visiting Anastasia Island.
- Visit the St Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. It has been with the town since it was only a wooden watchtower. The original structure dates back to Spanish colonial times and is splashed with blood from these days before it was rebuilt as a lighthouse. Standing 165 feet above sea level and overlooking Matanzas bay, you can get a private tour to imagine how others had surveyed the oceans below them.
- Take a trip to Fort Matanzas National Monument. Another suggestion for our history lovers is the Fort Matanzas monument, which documents the Spanish colonial presence that dominates St Augustine’s past. Like the Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine, this monument is made from coquina: a naturally occurring stone made of shells, giving it a rustic feel. Not only are there guided tours available, but events such as cannon firing day, close-up looks at what Spanish soldiers used to carry in their backpacks, bullet-making, and much more offer a fantastic insight into the Anastasia Island history.
- Take a stroll down the Ancient Dunes Nature Trail. Now, this is truly one for the history books. Spanish explorers first claimed this trail in 1565, but before then, it was trodden by the Timucua people who explored these coastlines in their canoes. There are three potential hikes in this park. The Ancient Dunes trail is the official nature trail to go with, providing a loop through sandy bowls within the dunes, past a streak of southern magnolias and American beauty. If you are lucky, you might spot the Anastasia Island beach mouse, which inhabits this area only.
- Wander down St John’s County Ocean and Fishing Pier. This is a popular gathering point for anglers, photographers, artists, and anyone who wants to simply sit back and enjoy the view. Running 400 feet into the Atlantic, the pier is a classic spot to catch the sunset, observe the island's beauty from further afield, or even enjoy the sea away from the sandy beach.
- Grab some delicious food and drink on Anastasia Island. Without a doubt, nothing on this list will allow you to truly enjoy your trip unless you have had the chance to enjoy some great food along the way. Anastasia Island is a fantastic place to eat and boasts such a range of cuisines that even the pickiest eaters will be satisfied. From the Italian food at Violas to the Caribbean eats in Back 40 A1A or the Baitong Thai and Sushi restaurant, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Alternatively, the Oasis Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner before providing fantastic live music for the evening, which makes it an ideal place to come down, grab a drink, and enjoy.