Thursday, June 6, 2013

Exploring Northeast Florida

You may have been wondering where I've been these past few weeks as I haven't posted recently. Well, I've been exploring Northeast Florida; making lots of amazing memories and taking photos to scrapbook! My husband and I have tried to spend our free time seeing, experiencing and learning about our new home. So nearly every free day off, we hop in the car and go off galavanting around the state looking for new things to visit.  

Jacksonville, FL

The past six months of living here have been amazing!  We have really enjoyed the weather, people and food of Florida.  We are 15 minutes from the coast and surrounded by a surprising amount of history and culture.

Recently, we headed north to Amelia Island.  The historic town of Fernandina Beach is a must see while on the island.  The downtown area has many shops, restaurants and galleries to explore.  We spent time walking the main street, window shopping and admiring the architecture and flowers.

We then drove to the Fort Clinch State Park where we walked the half mile fishing pier out over the Atlantic Ocean, walked along the beach trail and explored the historic fort that housed American soldiers in both the Civil and the Spanish-American wars.

Fort Clinch, Amelia Island, FL

On the recommendation of a fisherman that we chatted with on the Fort Clinch pier, we headed south for lunch at Chowder Ted's.  I'm so glad that we listened to that man!  The seafood shack sits right on the waters edge and the fish was fantastic.  We tried something new that we had never had before; a smoked seafood spread.  Served with crackers, it was mayonnaise based and contained chunks of several kinds of smoked fish.  We each had different kinds of fish sandwiches for our entree.  My husband had blackened grouper and I had the Cajun Shrimp.  We both ordered fries on the side, of which the portions were so generous we couldn't finish.  Next time we know to share only one side of fries.

Our next adventure was to the south.  St. Augustine is about a half hour away from us and is such a great city.  There is so much to see and do there you can't do it in one day.  We've actually been back a few weekends and still haven't seen nearly all of it.  Some of our favorite things so far have been the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in North America started by the Spanish in 1672.  

Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, FL

We even loved St. Augustine from the water!  We took the Scenic Cruise of St. Augustine, one hour and fifteen minute narrated sightseeing cruise along the Matanzas and Tolomato rivers where we explored the coastline of St. Augustine and Anastasia State Park.  It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and a light breeze.  We saw dolphins, birds, the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse and sailed under the Bridge of Lions.

St. Augustine Lighthouse

We've wandered the streets of St. Augustine, seeing amazing homes, churches and historical buildings that are hundreds of years old.  My favorite street, so far, is Aviles Street. I loved its flowering trees, sidewalk eateries and cobblestone paving.  Speaking of sidewalk eateries, we had lunch on this very street at the La Herencia Cafe', a restaurant featured on the PBS show "Breakfast Special".  It serves breakfast all day, but we were there for the Cuban American cuisine, specifically the Cuban Sandwich.  We had it with a side of black beans and rice.  Yum!

Aviles Street, St. Augustine

Last weekend we went even further south to Crescent and Flagler Beaches along the Palm Coast area. Our original plan was to see the Washington Oaks Garden State Park, but we got side tracked along the way by Fort Matanzas.  As you may have noticed, we enjoy forts and when we saw the sign for Fort Matanzas we just had to pull over to take a look!  To our surprise and excitement, we got to take a boat ride (free!) to get to the fort.  The structure was built along the banks of the Matanzas River about a mile in from the Atlantic Ocean to guard against enemy troops trying to sneak into St. Augustine from the south. We had a great time exploring this important piece of history.

Fort Matanzas, Crescent Beach, FL

After spending so much time on and near the water we decided that seafood was what we wanted for dinner, so we headed down A1A to Flagler Beach and found a fun place called the Golden Lion Cafe' to try. It is across the road from the beach, had live music and two story open air dining.  According to their website, it is one of the Top 10 Beach Bars in Florida. The coconut shrimp with pina colada dipping sauce was fantastic and the beer battered giant fish sandwich was wonderful.  

I can't wait to scrapbook all the amazing pictures and memories from our recent road trips.  I'll be posting layouts very soon.  

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