Our itinerary called for three nights in Ormond Beach followed by three nights in St Augustine, but the longer we were in Ormond Beach, the more we wanted to leave early. Lucky us: our St Augustine campsite was available the night before our reservation began, so we escaped an hour up the coast to St Augustine.
North Beach Camp Resort across the Tolomato River in Vilano Beach is one of our very favorite campgrounds! It’s beautiful and peaceful, with private campsites, a riverfront fishing pier, and beach access across the street. Three restaurants are in walking distance, and St Augustine is a ten-minute drive away.
We loved our campsite last visit, so we booked it again this time. Pro tip: if you think you’ll return to a campground, scout out the most appealing sites and try to reserve one of those next visit.
North Beach is across A1A from a gorgeous stretch of dog-friendly beach. We took Bugsy over twice to chase waves and seagulls and saw a few other people and dogs, but mostly we were alone. The campground has a shower by the pool where you can rinse your beachy dog.
We returned to many of our favorites from last time! The only new one on the list is St Augustine Fish Camp and it was the worst place we ate.
The route from Ormond Beach took us directly past Osprey Tacos, so we ordered online for pickup and sat at our dinette for a taco lunch while parked at the Publix near the campground (and then grocery shopped after we ate). The tacos are fantastic and it was the perfect start to our St Augustine stay.
The Floridian was the best place we ate last visit, and even with the two-hour wait we were determined to eat there again. Bar seats opened up pretty quickly so we ate there and once again, it was the best place we ate in St Augustine. The food is fresh and healthy and delicious, the cocktails are fantastic, and the service is stellar.
We walked from the campground to Cap’s on the Water for dinner and wondered if there’s a better place in St Augustine to watch the sunset. The seafood, cocktails, and service are all top-notch, and it’s hard to beat the ambiance of a waterfront restaurant. Just before sunset we saw a rocket launch–a fellow patron said it was a SpaceX Falcon 9–from Cape Canaveral! Super cool.
Crave was a food truck with waterfront outdoor seating last time we were in town. Now it’s an actual restaurant, still serving healthy bowls, but the outdoor eating area is small and less scenic. It’s a good place to grab lunch, but Crave may come off the must-do list for next visit.
St Augustine Fish Camp is a newish highly-rated seafood restaurant that is supposedly very popular with the locals, which is usually a good sign. The food was tasty enough but service was SO slow and inattentive and the dining room felt like a brightly-lit factory. We won’t return.
Our drinking adventures involved mostly new spots, and mostly winners. Sadly, our favorite cocktail joint from last visit, Odd Birds, moved out of the historic downtown area, so we didn’t make it there. We also didn’t return to Beaches for a sunset drink because they don’t allow dogs on their deck.
We were drawn to the patio of a wine bar (sorry, didn’t note the name) but weren’t in the mood for wine. J asked the proprietor for a cocktailerie recommendation, which led us to Dos Gatos for a pre-dinner craft cocktail. If you’re old like us, you’ll want to go early, because they have a late-night party scene, but early evening was cool and laid-back and we really liked it there.
The bartender at Dos Gatos recommended Forgotten Tonic and it was a super recommendation! The service was great, and the workers seemed to be having a lot of fun. Cocktails were tasty and holiday-themed, and the room was still decorated for Christmas and Hanukkah, which was fun in dreary (for Florida anyway) late January. Both Dos Gatos and Forgotten Tonic are on our list to revisit.
Last trip to SA we stuck our heads in Ice Plant, a busy hipster spot, but it was packed and we skipped it. This time we went early and sat at the bar. The cocktails are creative, with unique house-made bitters, juices, and syrups, and being housed in a former ice plant, they pay special attention to the appropriate ice shape and size for each drink. The building is really neat, like an old factory or warehouse, but we’re more likely to return to Dos Gatos and Forgotten Tonic than Ice Plant.
The Reef, a beachfront restaurant just across A1A from the campground, is popular for seafood and sunsets, and we felt compelled to check it out for the convenient location. The bar area is a little dated and cheesy feeling, but our table in the window overlooked the water (it was too cold to sit outside). Unfortunately, our cocktails were basic and overly sweet, so we won’t go back. Supposedly (according to the campground) they have a great brunch.
Finally, we made a stop at Vinny’s Place, a beer and convenience store near the bridge back to Vilano Beach, to pick up beer for our next couple stops in more rural places. It was the best selection of beers we’d seen in a while, maybe in all of Florida? (We’d struggled to find a decent bottle shop through our entire trip.)
The best way to see St Augustine is to walk walk walk. We drove in on a sunny morning with Bugsy and parked in one of the many pay lots in the historic district and roamed with no real plan (last visit we stopped at the visitor center for maps and advice, and would recommend that for a first-time visitor). It’s a beautiful city.
From the campground, just hop on A1A heading north for an easy (well, flat–but the wind ups the difficulty) and not too trafficky bike ride. We felt safe in the bike lane ,and met a friendly local when we stopped in a driveway to change YET ANOTHER flat. If you’re counting, this is flat #4 for the trip, after Key West, Venice, and Dunedin.
I love the run we do when we stay at North Beach: park at the Publix in Vilano Beach, and run across the Tolomato River into SA. Turn left onto Magnolia Ave and run under the mossy live oaks on perhaps the prettiest street in St Augustine. At the end turn right, loop back to A1A and over the bridge again for a 4.5-mile lollipop.
We spotted the GTM Research Reserve from our bikes, and on the way north from St Augustine to Fort Clinch we paid the $3 entry and parked the Airstream (lots of room for a trailer on a Tuesday morning) for a little hike. The 3.5-mile Timucuan Purple Trail was uncrowded and very pleasant, but we wouldn’t call it a must-do, although it would be fun to do the longer loop on bikes.
From St Augustine we kept heading north. Next stop, Fort Clinch State Park!