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 5 mi (8 km) to the east. On the way to the beach, just 3 mi (4.8 km) 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, $35 and up). 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 more than 15-ft (4.6-m) 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.
Continuing south along the coast, you start to see roadside fruit stands advertising “Indian River Fruit”—something you’ll see more of as you travel south. This is a major citrus-growing region. This stretch of Hwy-A1A, around the town of Flagler Beach, is also one of the few where you can actually see the ocean from the road.
The town of Ormond Beach, about 45 mi (72 km) south of Alligator Farm, adjoins the northern fringes of more famous Daytona Beach and was also used by early speed-seekers. Prior to that, it was a winter playground of the rich and famous, richest and most famously John D. Rockefeller, who wintered here for years before his death in 1937 at age 97. His mansion, called The Casements (25 Riverside Dr., 386/676-3216), is now a museum along the east bank of the Halifax River. The beachfront park in Ormond Beach, midway along the town’s four-lane stretch of Hwy-A1A, is as nice as any in Florida.