North Atlantic Coast
This stretch of Florida’s coast—from Amelia Island south to Cocoa Beach—includes Florida’s largest city (Jacksonville) and its oldest city (St. Augustine), as well as its most famous beach (Daytona Beach) and the home of the country’s space program. Despite the variety of sights on offer, the area is remarkably consistent in its attitude.
More Southern in outlook than the cities on Florida’s south Atlantic coast, these beach towns are decidedly low-key, with friendliness and a laissez-faire parochialism taking precedence over big-city aspirations. True, there’s plenty of gaudiness, seediness, and even a good bit of capitalism-fueled madness, but even these are executed with a bit of folksy flair. (And truthfully, much of the tackiness is concentrated in Daytona Beach.)
In contrast with the way that towns in the Panhandle have turned their beautiful white-sand beaches into craven tourist trailer parks, despite occasional neon blasts, the cities along the north Atlantic coast of Florida have largely managed to respect much of its natural beauty.
Maybe it’s the moss-draped oaks along U.S. 1, the vast stretches of undeveloped coast around the Kennedy Space Center, the sight of a heron alighting on a branch in the St. Johns River, or the 17th-century architecture on display in St. Augustine, but this part of the state is a reminder of what Florida may have looked like had cigarette boats and mouse ears never become part of its cultural definition. Easily being able to look backward at the state’s Spanish history and forward to its space-exploration future is what makes this part of Florida so appealing.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition