There’s nothing like the peace and quiet of a St. Augustine beach vacation! St. Augustine has so much history and culture, it’s easy to forget that we also have 42 miles of beaches in St. Johns County. There are beaches for everyone–some with kid-friendly splash parks (like St. Augustine Beach), some with lots of sand and wide beaches great for sunbathing (Crescent Beach), a good number of surfing beaches, as well as beaches where you can relax and enjoy nature (Anastasia Island National Park). First, a couple of notes about St. Augustine beaches and the geography of our city. The downtown historic district is on the water, but there is no beach. Downtown is next to the Matanzas Bay, and while it’s a great place for boating, there isn’t a place for swimming or sunbathing. When you’re at our St. Augustine inn, you have a great view of the bay, and you can easily see the Bridge of Lions and St. Augustine Lighthouse. But if you’d like to get on sand, you’ll want to visit one of our barrier islands.
Barrier Islands: Anastasia and Vilano
There are two barrier islands next to the Matanzas Bay–Anastasia Island and Vilano Beach (little known fact–Vilano Beach is actually Vilano Island). Anastasia is the larger of the two, and you access it by driving across the Bridge of Lions. Anastasia has a large number of beaches: all of the beaches listed above–kid-friendly St. Augustine Beach, pristine Crescent Beach and the National Park–are located on Anastasia Island. The Island feels more like a “traditional” beach town to me–there are lots of big hotels, and tons of restaurants. It also has more chain restaurants–like Salt Life, and Rita’s Ice–which is probably why I consider it more of a traditional beach town. Some of our favorite “local” restaurants on Anasastia Island include Mango Mangos (get the coconut shrimp and coconut sauce!) and the Beachcomber.
Anastasia Island History
Anastasia has plenty of history. The St. Augustine lighthouse was built in the 1870s and has great exhibits on the lighthouse keepers over the years, as well as the marine exploration that the lighthouse staff of underwater divers do to this day. Fort Matanzas is to the south of the island and is a well-preserved fort. To get to it, there’s a free boat ride, making it a great place to visit during your St. Augustine beach vacation.
Our Favorite Beach: Vilano Beach (Island)
Of course, our favorite beach in St. Augustine is Vilano Beach. It’s a very private beach, it’s quiet, and it’s the best place in the area for searching for shells and shark’s teeth. Vilano Beach used to have a drawbridge that connected it to downtown St. Augustine. That bridge was destroyed, and the remaining section of it was turned into a beautiful pier. The pier is great for fishing, walking, even just sitting and watching the water! Plus, the pier is guarded by the Bluebird of Happiness, a kitschy little piece of roadside Florida from the 50s. Consider the Bluebird of Happiness a must for your Instagram.
Things to Do in Vilano
If you go to the main entrance to Vilano beach, you can drive directly on the sand. But we prefer to go to the section of beach in front of our St. Augustine beach cottages–the Beachcomber Cottages on Vilano!! It’s a little quieter in our section because there are no cars allowed on the beach, and there are very few houses there (and no hotels or motels). We provide all of our guests access to beach towels, umbrellas, and chairs–everything you need for a St. Augustine beach vacation! Vilano is also one of our favorite places to eat–we love Cap’s on the Water, Aunt Kates (my favorite Minorcan chowder), and The Reef. And if you want to know where locals hang out, try the 180 Grill just down from the Publix shopping center. We love the blackened fish sandwich, the hamburger (it’s our favorite hamburger in St. Augustine), and their pizza is great as well. Vilano is definitely heating up as a great beach destination. We have two new dining experiences coming soon–and we can hardly wait! The first is a diner, located inside the Holiday Inn Express (right next to the Publix). It will be a great place for families. It has been scheduled to open for the last several months, but has been hung up with supply chain issues. We’ll keep this space updated as to the most current timeline. The second coming-soon restaurant is Pesca, which will be helmed by chef Michael Lugo (of Michael’s fame, downtown). Michael is bringing his skills to a beautiful, upscale restaurant located at the new Hyatt Hotel. He hopes to have it open in the third quarter. We’ve seen drawings of the space (rooftop dining!) and a sample menu, and our mouth is already watering. We’ll keep this space updated as to his timeline.
Insider’s Tip for Beaches: There is a wonderful app in the Apple Store or Android Marketplace that lists information on all the beaches, including directions, hours, maps, rules, and information on vehicle access. Search for ‘St Johns County Beaches’ to find it and download.
Where to Stay
If you haven’t picked a place to stay yet, you know we’re going to suggest our Beachcomber Cottages! I know we’re biased, but I really do think it’s the best place for a beach vacation in St. Augustine. They work well for families as well as couples, and even work for large family reunions. (To see how many people sleep in each unit, see our blog about family friendly beach vacations in St. Augustine).
Here are a few reasons to stay at our Beachcomber Cottages for your St. Augustine Beach Vacation:
The Best of Both Worlds
Maybe you love the sound of the ocean, but your SO wants to stay downtown. You both win!! (And you can do it without separate vacations!) You can stay at the beach, enjoying the calming sound of the waves, but you ALSO get the benefits of downtown–including a parking space in one of our lots, which lets you come and enjoy the city whenever you would like.
Breakfast & Happy Hour
If you prefer to hang out at the cottage, we also offer a beach basket option, delivered right to your door. Wake up, have a cup of coffee (each of our beach rooms has a Keurig coffee maker and we restock the pods daily), and enjoy some yummy homemade treats. Breakfast baskets include the entree of the day (chilled for safety and easily reheated in your microwave), sides, a fruit option (like cut fresh fruit or a salad like our summer delicious grape salad), and something baked (like our best blueberry muffins or Sandy’s shoo fly pie muffins.)
Rooms with a View
Sometimes beach rooms are just that–they’re near the beach and they have beachy décor. Not here! You can see the ocean from all of our rooms except the Saltwater Suite, and we’ve made up for that by providing a small private pool. All of our rooms have been freshly renovated, and we’ve used lots of luxury touches in designing them–tiled showers with body jets, hardwood floors (some reclaimed from an old warehouse in Georgia), jetted tubs. Each room is different, and all are sophisticated–see the amenities in each room here.
Great Staff & Daily Housekeeping
We have a friendly innkeeper on the property from 8:00 am til at least 2:00 pm (and usually to 5:00 pm). If you need anything in the off hours, you can simply call the front desk at the Bayfront Marin House. We’re happy to help with anything you need!
Our largest suites are at the beach: like the Lagoon Cottage, which sleeps 5. If you have two couples in your group, consider the Atlantic Suite and the Lookout Suite–they are separated by a staircase that can be reopened for your stay. And if you’re traveling with your pup, let us know. The Oceanview Cottage is dog friendly–and it sleeps up to 4 humans as well!
Enjoy the Beach
As we said earlier, Vilano is a nice quiet beach. What we didn’t say earlier is that we have very deep dunes at our section of beach, and very high dunes that drop down to the water. What’s the benefit of that? When you’re in some of our units, and you look out at the water, you don’t see anyone! If someone is very tall, or they’re walking near the dunes, you might see them. But a lot of times it seems like you’re all alone.
Vilano is a shell-filled beach. It is our favorite place to find shark teeth. And even if you don’t find any treasures, it’s a great place to listen to the waves!
The Possibility of a Pool
Both the Lagoon Cottage and the Saltwater Suite have private pools, reserved just for your room. These are the only pool options at any of our properties.
Why Our St. Augustine Beach Rentals Might Not Be the Best Choice for You
Before you book our beach rentals, keep these topics in mind.
Most of our beach cottages are raised to protect them from the surf (and to give you the very best views!!) If mobility is an issue for you, check out our Sandpiper Suite. It has some features that can help with accessibility–including a first floor entrance, a roll under sink, a tilting mirror, and a roll in shower. If you use a scooter or a wheelchair, please call us so we can give you the dimensions of all the doors in the unit, and make sure the room will work for you. Our Saltwater Suite is also on the ground floor, although there is one step into the unit. It does not have a roll under sink or a roll in shower, so it’s best for folks with mild mobility needs.
Using Your Car
The reason that our beach is so quiet is because there aren’t a lot of commercial businesses. While you can walk to about 80 restaurants from our downtown location, you can walk to 4 on Vilano Beach. (Note: that number will go to 6 when Pesce and the diner open, as mentioned above). You will need a car to come downtown–it’s about 3 miles to our inn from the beach cottages. And the trip can take 15-20 minutes somedays when there’s a lot of traffic. (The worst traffic is Friday and Saturday–and of course any holiday period).
Our beach cottages are in a quiet, residential area. Our neighbor has several outdoor cats. Obviously, they are never in our rooms, but they are occasionally on our outdoor furniture (the warm sun, a view of the water–actually, I can’t really blame them!) We clean the outdoor furniture between each guest, but if you have an extreme allergy to cats, you may want to be aware of our four-legged friends. If you don’t have an allergy, just ask us about the kitties–we can introduce you to all of them!Book Now