The campground at Anastasia State Park is among the best Florida has to offer: a back-to-nature experience with a high level of privacy afforded by dense vegetation around virtually every campsite I observed.
The beach stretches four miles along the Atlantic coast, wrapping around the northern point of Anastasia Island at the St. Augustine Inlet.
Broad and beautiful, you can ride your bicycle on hard sand below the tide line when the tide is out.
The park has a sheltered tidal lagoon behind the beach dunes where you can paddle your kayaks and canoes, and there’s a concession on the main park road where you can rent Hobie 16 catamaran sailboats in addition to kayaks, paddleboards and sail boards.
I’m an old Hobie sailor and really liked that availability. You don’t often find Hobies in state parks, and the hourly price is reasonable at $35 (rate subject to change). The lagoon is wide and long, offering plenty of room to play.
The boats are set up and ready to go, and the concession staff will give you lessons if you need them.
St. Augustine history
You cannot visit St. Augustine without tasting history in every corner, and Anastasia is no exception. At the entrance to the park, before you arrive at the park gate, you’ll find a short nature trail that goes back to a coquina quarry that served early Spanish settlers with blocks they needed to build homes and the fort that protected the harbor.
With hand tools, Indian and African slaves and prisoners from other European nations were put to work carving the soft shellstone out of the quarry for transport to the settlement across the river.
The Spaniards learned to waterproof the coquina blocks with water and plaster, strengthening their defenses against enemies and weather that tore into and destroyed early efforts to build structures from pinewood and palmetto forests inland.
From the 16th Century to the 19th Century, coquina mined on Anastasia Island continued to be a prized building material, and you’ll find many of those historic structures in St. Augustine still standing, including Castillo de San Marcos, the historic fort that is now a national monument.
The fort, as well as Historic St. Augustine, are a fun bike ride away, across the nearby Bridge of Lions. Just go north on A1A and cross the bridge.
The campground at Anastasia State Park
The campground’s 139 campsites break out into seven loops in a heavily wooded coastal forest, just steps away fromthe shimmering sand of a sprawling beach.
All of the camp sites accommodate either RVs or tents and have connections for water and electricity, a picnic table, in-ground grill and fire ring. There are no sewer hookups, but there is a dump station as you leave the campground.
The campground has four full-service bathhouses, each serving two loops, with hot showers and laundry facilities.
The first thing I noticed was how tight most of the sites are for RVs – and how private they are. I checked several sites for privacy, and the low-growing vegetation was thick with scrub, creating a dense screen.
Even the deepest RV sites are narrow, leaving scant room to fully roll out your awning. On the other hand, the forest is so thick and shady, you don’t need an awning for shade.
There are a few sites that are wider than the norm, so look at the photos for each individual site on the reservations website before you book it. The maximum RV length is 40 feet, but only five sites can take a rig that large.
The Coquina Loop is closest to the beach and appeared to be the most appealing for RVers.
Pets are allowed in all areas of the park, including the campground loops, but not in the restrooms or the beach.
The overnight rate is $28, plus tax and a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. The rate includes water and electric. Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older or who hold a social security disability award certificate or a 100 percent disability award certificate from the Federal Government are permitted to receive a 50 percent discount on current base campsite fees. Be prepared to prove it.
Reservations can be made by phone at (800) 326-3521or online up to 11 months in advance. Advanced reservations are not accepted by park rangers, although you can book sites in person if they are available on your day of arrival . (Don’t count on it. There are not many vacancies at this park.)
Amenities for Anastasia State Park campers
I was surprised to find Wi-fi available at the park’s beach concession, The Island Beach Shop and Grill, a nice touch not often found in state parks.
The shop is your typical campground store with basic camping supplies, a few food stuffs, bait for fishing and souvenirs. Beyond the basics, you’ll have to go outside the park. There is an Ace Hardware store and a Publix Supermarket south of the park entrance on State Road A1A.
I’ve generally found Ace stores to be a reliable source of camping supplies on my many trips around the state.
For nearby eats, try Jack’s BBQ on Beach Boulevard (SR A1A) at A Street. I enjoyed their tasty mojo pork hoagie, but this venerable beachside eatery is best known for its barbecue ribs.
Kayaking at Anastasia State Park
The park’s concession, Anastasia Water Sports, offers rentals of kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards and sailboats for use on the park’s lagoon, known as Salt Run..
The lagoon is excellent for less-experienced boaters and would be fine for an afternoon on the water, but serious kayakers will want to venture out of the lagoon into the Intracoastal Waterway.
When I arrived at the park, a park ranger, by all indications an experienced paddler, suggested I would find some ideal kayaking territory by driving about south on State Road A1A and put in my kayaks at the boat launch at Matanzas Inlet, or further south at the Marineland Marina complex.
Although I didn’t have time for kayaking that day, I did drive south on A1A to check out his recommendation, and I found some excellent launch areas and inviting inland waterways that will surely be on my agenda for my next trip to the area.
Both launches provide access to the expansive Pellicer Creek Aquatic Preserve with ample opportunities for exploring backcountry waterways and pristine marshes that transition from saltwater to freshwater. (For you fishers, that creates a prime environment for game fish.)
When paddling this area, the authors of Canoeing and Kayaking in Florida recommend that you maintain a high awareness of the weather, particularly tides and winds, before venturing into these vast marshes. If possible, I’d also make an effort to tap local knowledge about areas you expect to explore.