Feedback on St. Augustine FL

We’ve been having such a bleak winter – chilly, snowless, damp and grey – that I find myself craving sunshine and sand. Cheapest and quickest destination for me is Florida, but I have to admit I have not much enjoyed prior trips there. I dislike sprawl, crowds, temps over 80 and humidity. But in looking at information on the St. Augustine area, it looks pretty appealing – the historic old town, moderate temps and humidity in the winter months, many natural areas, hiking and biking trails and interesting looking beaches and coastal and inland paddling opportunities. Are there folks on here that can offer recommendations and feedback on what I might expect from a trip down there in late February or March? I already found a semi rustic cottage I could rent for a very reasonable price and airfare is under $225 right now. Was thinking of going down with a friend and a couple of my folding kayaks.

A few years back, we drove down to St. Aug mid-November to escape Michigan’s “chilly, snowless, damp and gray” days AND to try to avoid as many tourist crowds as possible. We did not paddle, but there are a number of places where you can. Obviously I can’t comment on Feb or March weather, but suspect it may be a tad warmer than we had mid-November. For us, temps were in the mid-to high 60s with beautifully clear skies most days. The Castillo de San Marcos is interesting and fun to explore. We got there as soon as it opened in the morning, because it is a big attraction. The old walled city is worth a walk-though, but is very definitely a tourist trap, with some history thrown in. You can grab a beer and some food there, but it can get pretty crowded - fast! Restaurants also get just nuts, so be willing to either eat early, or wait! Remember, there is a Ripley’s Museum north of the old city, so there is a lot of tacky stuff in the area. That being said, we had a good week, and found ourselves exploring the areas outside of St. Aug. If you enjoy architecture, the streets of private historic homes outside of the walled city make for a nice stroll and are well away from the hoards of T-shirt and hat-buying tourist. We enjoyed puttering around on Anastasia Island and Washington Oaks State Park. If you head north along the coast, there are several places worth visiting: Ft. Clinch St. Park, and we especially liked Little Talbot State Park. In November, it was empty! We walked the pristine beaches for miles and enjoyed viewing the sea birds. I suspect it will be more crowded Feb-March. Hope this helps!

February can be subject to cold fronts from the north. March is generally gorgeous. But I like warm and sunny. I’ve camped at the nearby state parks and paddled the salt marches. Very nice.

Not sure where your coming from but the temps should be conducive to paddling. I have a house in SE GA just over the FL border. The temps have been ranging from 40-80 this winter with occasional drops into the thirties.

Saturday it was 58 with 15mph winds and a water temp of 60. Today no wind, sunny and headed to 72 degrees. Might get up to 79 or 80 this weekend. That is what you can expect in Feb and early March. In march we start planting our “summer” gardens.

If you bring your boats. I suggest launching at Vilano ramp (weekend busy but doable) and paddle over to salt run where the light house is, downtown to the bridge of lions and back. Be wary of tides. Inbound is better. My favorite is launch at Matanzas (south of St Aug A1A) and paddle south to Washington Oaks SP or Princes Place. PP is on Pelicer creek. (12 - 15miles) Sand bars, oyster bars, marsh grass, etc. Tides can be interesting. Pick incoming going south and outgoing going back. St Augustine also covers west of there. Look up Trout Creek. Paddle from Trout Creek park on Hwy 16. Up to the bridge and back is around 6 miles. Go beyond the bridge for a little cypress swamp. Paddling downstream from TC park gets into a bay connecting to the St Johns River. Go south in the bay to Six Mile Creek. Outback crab shack can be good or not so good.

If you don’t bring a boat look up Kayak St Augustine, Greg Braswell. He can hook you up. There is also a contractor in the Annastasia SP that rents boats for paddling on Salt Run.

St Augustine downtown is a tourist town. Be prepared for that. Some good resturants the locals eat at… Sunset Grill, St Augustine beach on A1A, The Gypsy Cab company, St Aug Beach across from the Gator farm, Schooners US 1 north side of town across from Winn Dixie, and Aunt Kates on the ICW north of Vilano off A1A on Euclid.

St Augustine tourist places … we all take visitors to St George Street to stroll and shop. Cruisers Burgers is a good lunch there or the Gator Café. The light house and museum. Be sure to pay a little extra and climb it. There is another boat ramp just acorss the street from light house for access to salt run. Alligator farm…if you are not familiar with gators or want to do the zip line across the gators …(not me) They do have a good bird nesting area there with paths up into the trees. You’ll get closer to the birds there than in the wild. St Augustine beach…can be driven to Matanzas National park. (4x4 suggested). San Sebastion winery roof top bar. (weather permitting) World of Golf museum at the WOG north of st Augustine at International Golf drive exit on the interstate or US-1. St Augustine recently opened an aquarium. Don’t know anything about it.

The beach…the Canadians will be swimming. Surf temp was 64 this weekend. St Aug beach is wide and shallow. Washington Oaks SP beach is narrow, rocks and coquina shell. Matanzas is current swept and better fishing.

Tides winter tides are lower than “normal”. I’ve had 8 ft of beach at the bulkhead that is normally calf deep at low tide. Don’t underestimate tide effect on your paddle. An opposing tide and wind situation can kick up a wave condition. Normally “sheltered” waters, ie rivers and lakes can get sea like conditions, sheeps in the field, white caps. Tides wind and boat traffic often make the Matanzas river a “washing machine”.

State parks and camp grounds…make reservations early they fill up in winter fast. Snow birds and nice weather put higher loads on the parks. Tent sites are normally available. RV sites not so much.

Rails to trails… look up the Palatka to Lake butler trail. It is a nice 8ft wide trail not so used.

World of Golf also has a …???..k one of those big movie screens …Omni Max. Check programing.

Trout Creek

St Augustine… cannon firing at the fort

Wow, thanks so much! A lot of extremely useful information.

If you can travel inland as your post suggest you might wish to drive to Juniper springs on a weekday or if that is too tight of a water way for your taste try the Silver Spring run from Rays wayside to the spring head. Right now the swamp maples are just starting to get their leaf buds and the cypress are still bare. Azaleas are blooming though. My advice would be to wait till early march. much of the trees are still bare.

The east coast of Florida is nice but I would far rather paddle the clear springs and rivers further west. I have not paddled the St. Augustine area, but I have paddled other east coast streams, rivers, and bays, and I just think further west the springs and rivers are far nicer (Juniper and Silver, for example)

There are a couple of really good vegetarian restaurants in St. Augustine. You’ll be hard pressed to match those in the small communities further west. But, I know you can get over that!


One reason I do not care for inland Florida is the humidity. I would rather be near the coast where there is at least an occasional breeze. I don’t tolerate close, humid heat well. A trip in the near future may all be moot anyway, as I am in limbo at the moment awaiting my reassignment to jury duty after having to get a postponement due to having the flu two weeks ago when my previous call up occurred.

Humidity…well, it is Florida. All that water has to go somewhere. Winter isn’t near as bad as summer. There are plenty of good paddling opportunities. You will note that most outfitters will want you to use their boats on their trips, or their water. So you might have to find an outfitter at that location of the paddle. Not likely a problem. Just post if you need any more leads.

If and when I go, I plan to bring my own folding kayak.

Florida is narrow enough, you can get to many different places without too much driving. Among the locations mentioned, Silver Springs/ Silver River are beautiful and the Suwannee is special.

The monkey is at Silver Springs.

@willowleaf said:
One reason I do not care for inland Florida is the humidity. I would rather be near the coast where there is at least an occasional breeze. I don’t tolerate close, humid heat well. A trip in the near future may all be moot anyway, as I am in limbo at the moment awaiting my reassignment to jury duty after having to get a postponement due to having the flu two weeks ago when my previous call up occurred.

I too strongly suggest running over to Juniper and Silver Springs. The water is about 70F year round and this moderates the temp and humidity at the waters surface. At least half of Juniper run is in the shade of the trees, I always prefered the springs to the beach in summer as they feel naturally air conditioned.

Anastasia SP is a nice place to camp, but it has been a long time since i was there.

Washington Oaks beach is neat with the ocean sculpted coquina shell conglomerate rock on the beach.

One other place of interest is the St Mary river on the state line. Last spring on our way home we paddled a section from St Mary’s Shoal St park to Hwy 121. This is a black water stream with snow white sugar sand banks.,%202014/stmarys_guide.pdf

Juniper springs run

Silver Springs

St Mary River

Wow, that looks more like snow to me than sand. What’s the rusty colored stuff along the shore?

Think tea…that is very shallow tannin stained water. When it gets deep it gets dark but the water has clarity like tea.

Or perhaps you want to see the standing cypress of Santa Fe Lake…

This is winter and the cypress shed their leaves/needles.

Inland there is beauty in the inland areas.

Seconds after the latest moon eclipse, I missed it.