Jacksonville Beach vs St. Augustine: On Florida’s northeast coast, stretching from the Florida-Georgia border down to Flagler County, is an area known as the First Coast. Famous for its beautiful beaches, great weather, natural beauty, and historical sites, the First Coast region is the home of two of Florida’s best vacation destinations, Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine. Both cities are popular vacation spots for people from all over the US, and around the world. But which city is better? Which one should you plan to visit for your next vacation? Here are the factors you should take into account when trying to decide between Jacksonville Beach vs St. Augustine for your next trip.
Florida’s northeastern coast is the site of some of the oldest European settlements in the Americas. St. Augustine in particular lays claim to the title of oldest continuously-inhabited European-established settlement in the United States. Founded in 1565 by the Spanish, the city changed hands from Spain to Britain, back to Spain again, to the United States, and briefly to the Confederacy. Today, the architecture, neighborhoods, and historical sites in St. Augustine reflect its rich history.
The Jacksonville Beach area was also settled by the Spanish, who began establishing missions there in the 1500s. Ownership of the city was transferred to the United States in 1821, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area developed into a resort city with the construction of an amusement park and boardwalk known as Little Coney Island. Today, Jacksonville Beach remains a popular resort city, with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine are both famous for their beautiful beaches. Vast and sandy, with refreshing Atlantic waters, and excellent conditions for swimming, surfing, jogging, fishing, boating, relaxing in the sun, and much more, the beaches in both cities are excellent. Here are some of the best beaches in each city, and the differences between the beaches.
Ponte Vedra Beach – A beautiful beach that can get crowded, but has plenty of space to accommodate all travelers. Popular activities on Ponte Vedra Beach include swimming, shell collecting, surfing, fishing, walking, and jogging.
St. Augustine Beach – A wide beach in the southern part of the city, with white sands, a beachfront park, and St. Johns County Ocean Pier, which is perfect for fishing or enjoying the sights and sounds of the ocean.
Butler Beach – A pristine beach south of St. Augustine Beach. Less crowded than most of the other beaches in the area.
Jacksonville Beach – A beautiful beach with plenty of space, a boardwalk, and a pier. Rarely overcrowded with great water for swimming and surfing.
Neptune Beach – Smaller and more secluded than Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach is generally less crowded, and is also a great place for swimming, surfing, fishing, or just relaxing in the sun.
Attractions and Activities
Aside from the beaches, both St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach have plenty to do. Historic districts, parks, restaurants, bars and clubs, amusement parks, distilleries, and more are among the most popular attractions in the two cities. If you are considering Jacksonville Beach vs St. Augustine for your next vacation, here are some of the attractions you should look at before making your decision.
St. Augustine Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour – Explore St. Augustine’s major landmarks and historic sites on a hop-on hop-off tour of the city. Visit the Ponce de Leon Hotel, the Old Jail Museum, Sims Silversmith Shop, the Blacksmith Shop, the Fountain of Youth National Archeological Park and the various historic homes in St. Augustine. The hop-on hop-off trolley tour is the best way to explore and experience the city.
St. Augustine Distillery – The St. Augustine Distillery is located in a 1907 ice plant that has been restored and remodeled into a modern distillery. The distillery’s tours and tastings give visitors a sample of some of the best bourbon whiskey, gin, and vodka Florida has to offer.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument – One of the oldest forts in the Americas, construction on Castillo de San Marcos began in 1672 by the Spanish. It survived multiple sieges, and changed hands from Spain to Britain, to the United States. Today the fort is open for tours.
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum – St. Augustine was the site of much pirate activity during the Golden Age of Piracy. The city was even sacked and burned down in a raid by privateer Sir Francis Drake in 1586. Today, the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum documents the long history of piracy in the city.
St. Augustine Colonial Quarter – Experience St. Augustine as it was in colonial times. Re-enactors bring the colonial quarter to life, and the authentic colonial buildings, shops, and dining make a visit to the colonial quarter an unforgettable experience.
Anastasia State Park – A pristine natural park in St. Augustine, Anastasia State Park features over 1,600 acres of beaches and marshes, which are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including rare birds and fish. The state part is excellent for hiking, jogging, cycling, picnicking, and more.
Shipwreck Island Water Park – A great waterpark that is fun for the whole family, Shipwreck Island Water Park is the perfect place to spend a day, especially if you need a break from the beach. With great rides, slides, and pools, you can easily spend hours at the park.
Beaches Museum – The history of the Jacksonville Beaches area is on full display at the Beaches Museum and History Park. The museum’s exhibits feature art and artifacts from all over the Jacksonville Beaches area. It also features a historic chapel and an old steam train.
Cradle Creek Preserve – A 36-acre preserve in Jacksonville Beach, Cradle Creek Preserve features excellent trails for hiking, cycling, and jog, and has plenty of creeks and marshes for kayaking and canoeing. The area is home to a wide variety of birds, mammals, and reptile species.
BrewHound – A bar and dog park in nearby Neptune Beach, BrewHound is the perfect place for dog lovers to relax, enjoy the park, and have a drink.
Jax Beach Golf Club – A golfer’s paradise for over 50 years, Jax Beach Golf Club is an excellent 18-hole course with a new bar and grill and a pro shop on site.
Both St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach have an abundance of rental houses, condos, and apartments that can be found on rental listings. For a great beach experience, renting a house or beachfront condo is hard to beat, but those rentals can be very expensive, and don’t come with all the amenities you’ll get in a hotel. Both cities have plenty of great hotels and resorts along the beach that make for a great stay. Here are some of the best accommodations in each city.
Embassy Suites by Hilton St Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort – An upscale hotel located right on the beach. The hotel has an outdoor pool, fitness center, business center, and five different restaurants and bars.
Ocean Sands Beach Inn – A nice beachfront inn that has its own private beach, Ocean Sands Beach Inn is perfect for a romantic getaway for a family vacation.
Hampton Inn St. Augustine Beach – Steps from the ocean, the Hampton Inn St. Augustine Beach features an outdoor pool, fitness center, and luxury suites with balconies and beach views.
One Ocean Resort and Spa – A stunning beachfront resort in Jacksonville Beaches’ Atlantic Beach. The four-star resort has luxury suites with ocean view balconies and terraces, a spa, outdoor pool, and fitness center.
Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville Beachfront – A beautiful hotel right on the beach, the Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville Beachfront has ocean views, an outdoor pool, and excellent dining.
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club – A luxury, five-star beachfront hotel, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club has a golf course, tennis courts, four pools, and multiple fine dining establishments. Oceanfront suites with balconies and terraces are available.