From the heart of St. Augustine, Hwy-A1A crosses over the Matanzas River on the lovely historic Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island, bound for the Atlantic beaches three miles to the east. On the way to the beach, just two miles southeast of Old Town St. Augustine on Anastasia Boulevard (Hwy-A1A), sits one of the greatest of Florida’s many tourist traps, Alligator Farm (904/824-3337, daily, $25 adults). Touted as the world’s only complete collection of crocodilians, this was the first and is now one of the last of many such roadside menageries. A legitimate historical landmark, Alligator Farm is also a fun and informative place to spend some time—great for kids and anyone who finds gators and crocs (and turtles, iguanas, lemurs, and tropical birds, all of which are here) to be captivating creatures. Start at the mossy pond seething with gators (which you can feed), and be sure to pay your respects to Gomek, the Alligator Farm’s massive taxidermied mascot, and to Maximo, a 15-foot Aussie crocodile.
Across from Alligator Farm, a road turns east from Hwy-A1A to Anastasia State Park, the site where the stone for Castillo de San Marcos was quarried, and where in addition to beaches there’s an inlet set aside for surfing, hiking trails through coastal hammock forests, and a nice campground (904/461-2033) amid stately live oaks and magnolia trees.