The perfect weekend in St. Augustine

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By Sarah Sekula, published in Where Traveler

Many travelers flock to St. Augustine purely for its rich history—it is the oldest city in the nation, after all. However, just as many come specifically for the 43 miles of beaches, which works out well because this city is a haven for the water-loving crowd. Likewise, it’s easy to become completely immersed in the laid-back vibe because everything centers around the ocean, from the glorious seafood eateries to the marine-themed artwork. Here’s a weekend itinerary of things to enjoy at and around the seashore.

Saturday

7 a.m. Breakfast on the Beach Start by filling your tummy at The Beachcomber (2 A Street; 904-471-3744), a crowd-pleaser among locals and visitors alike. Sit outside under the large umbrellas for a dreamy view of the Atlantic Ocean and chow down on oversized pancakes with all the right toppings.

8 a.m. Reel Therapy

Try your hand at snagging snapper, amberjack, billfish and cobia by booking a private boating session with Sea Love Charters (220 Nix Boat Yard Road; 904-824-3328; sealovefishing.com). (Note: Night swordfishing and shark-fishing trips can be arranged.) If boating isn’t your thing, rent a pole and fish from one of the many piers.

Noon Food and Fish
For a quick lunch, it’s hard to beat the Santa Maria Restaurant and Fishermans Wharf Lounge (135 Avenida Menendez; 904-829-6578; santamariarestaurant.com), where feeding the fish is encouraged (there’s actually a trapdoor by each table so you may drop crumbs into the water). Located directly on the Intracoastal Waterway, the view is pretty darn perfect.

2 p.m. Walk on Water

Continue the nature overload by skimming the surface of the water via a standup paddleboard. The pros at Ocean Extreme Sports (3930 A1A South; 866-790-7873; oceanextremesports.com) provide all the gear and lessons, too. With paddles in hand, guests take off through scenic waterways where it’s not uncommon to spot pods of dolphins, black skimmers flying overhead and even manatees.

6 p.m. Time to Unwind

When you are completely worn out, unwind with a lava-shell massage at Debbie’s Day Spa & Salon (403 Anastasia Blvd; 904-825 -0569; debbiesdayspasalon.com). This trendy hideaway provides of all the amenities that you know you need (facials, pressure peels, a Swedish massage) and some you didn’t (pressotherapy, a process that improves oxygen flow through the body).

6:30 p.m. Spanish Flair

Come dinnertime, The Columbia Restaurant (98 St. George Street; 904-824-3341; columbiarestaurant.com), which has been around since 1905, cooks up scrumptious favorites like Paella Campesina, a luscious combination of Valencia rice with tender bits of beef, pork chicken and chorizo and the 1905 salad, which is mixed tableside.

Sunday

9 a.m. Carbs Galore Each morning in the heart of the historic district the aroma of pastries and fresh breads fill the air thanks to The Bunnery Bakery and Cafe (121 St. George Street.; 904-829-6166; bunnerybakeryandcafe.com) where chocolate croissants and cinnamon rolls top the menu.

10:30 a.m. Kayak Among Mangroves Head over the southwest side of the Bridge of Lions and, chances are, you’ll meet Zach McKenna. You can’t miss him; he’s the owner of St. Augustine Eco Tours (111 Avienida Menendez; 904-377-7245; staugustineecotours.com) who has morphed his Schwinn adult tricycle into a kayak-mobile. Paddles stick out from the handle bars and the kayak is chock full of bumper stickers. More often, though, you’ll find him on the water. He takes guests via kayak through the GTMNERR-Guana River. During the course of each excursion there’s always something  incredible to witness, like a bottlenose dolphin with a newborn calf.

Noon Hamburger Heaven

If you’ve got a hankering for an all-American meal, consider Cruisers Grill (3 St. George Street; 904-824-6993). It’s budget friendly and portions are out of control; some burgers are a half pound.

1:30 p.m. Invest to Impress The fashion-focused crowd shouldn’t skip Rochelle’s (104 Anastasia Blvd.; 904-810-2208). It’s edgy clothing lines range from Free People to French Connection. Other stops worth making are the boutiques along King Street where you’ll find unique jewelry, stationery and hand-made soaps.

5 p.m. Killer Views If you have energy left, climb the steps of the St. Augustine Lighthouse (81 Lighthouse Avenue, 904-829-0745) for some dreamy views of the Matanzas River and the city.

7:30 p.m. Chow Down The

Gypsy Cab Company (828 Anastasia Blvd., 904-824-8244) serves up an extensive menu that borrows from Italian, Cajun, Mediterranean and German. Be prepared. It’s so popular that you will likely have a long wait.

Where to sip

If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to experience an 1888 Moorish revival castle, here’s your chance. The Casa Monica Hotel (95 Cordova St; 904-827-1888; casamonica.com), part of the Kessler Collection, boasts eclectic interiors, two restaurants and an eyeful of artwork. For hibiscus martinis and Mediterranean- and Moroccan-inspired dishes, hit 95 Cordova and Cobalt Lounge, the hotel’s own glamorous eatery.

Or stop by the Casablanca Inn (24 Avenida Menendez; 904-829-0928; casablancainn.com), a restored 1914 Mediterranean revival bed and breakfast with sweeping views of Matanzas Bay, just minutes from the beach. Conveniently attached to the hotel is the The Tini Martini Bar where there are 32 vintages by the glass and 28 distinctive brews. Grab a seat on the porch for some prime people-watching.

Other Coastal Treasures

Amelia Island is full of kayaking and fishing adventures.  In fact, the 13-mile long barrier island is the perfect spot to explore salt marshes.

If it’s 20 miles of diverse shoreline you seek, look no further than Jacksonville’s beaches. A weekend here could mean fishing at the Jacksonville Pier, tackling the surf at Atlantic Beach or grabbing a bite to eat at a unique eatery in Beaches Town Center, which sits beautifully between Atlantic and Neptune beaches.

Fishing, for sport or fun, is plausible in seemingly every town along the coast. If a guided tour is more for you, show up at a dock and pick your poison. Spend your weekend surf-fishing in Little Talbot or hop aboard a party boat and try to nab a sea bass near the offshore reefs.