Outdoor Recreation in the Old City

St. Augustine may be the nation’s oldest city, but it’s keeping up with a contemporary concept: eco-friendly tourism. April is an excellent time to get outside to enjoy our naturally beautiful surroundings. Here are three places to visit in honor of Earth Day, April 22nd.

Hiker Heaven

If you want to imagine what St. Augustine looked like before it became a popular tourist destination, hike Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve’s nine miles of woodsy trails or five miles of unspoiled beaches. With 73,352
acres, the GTM Research Reserve offers plenty of room for hikers, cyclists, fishermen, and birders.

The Reserve’s trails are mostly shaded and lead to the river where, even on warm days, you can usually catch a breeze. At the trailhead, a covered pavilion with rest rooms makes a fine post-hike picnic venue.

Just 11 miles from downtown, the woods, marshes, and waterways of the reserve feel far removed from the busy bustle in town. Perhaps the presence of 22 archaeological sites, some dating back 5,000 years, contribute to the sense of peaceful simplicity.

Kayaking Excursions

Since most of the Reserve is inaccessible on foot or by motorboat, kayaks are a wise way to approach and fully appreciate this pristine area. Bart Swab of Action Kayak Adventures specializes in kayak fishing expeditions to quiet, scenic spots many folks have never seen. A licensed and insured guide, the native Floridian is well versed in the fish, wildlife and waterways of St. Augustine.

His half-day, full-day and evening tours include kayaks and all the gear you’ll need for a memorable fishing trip. He also leads non-fishing tours for folks who want close-up views of the marshes, estuaries and wildlife. If you’re interested in seeing sites like the St. Augustine Lighthouse from the water, Bart can arrange tours of Salt Run and other areas closer to town.

Nesting Season

Even novice shutterbugs can capture amazing close-ups at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park starting in March and lasting through June. That’s when flocks of coastal birds build nests and hatch their young in the Farm’s dozens of rookery oaks, even as gators loiter beneath. Any time of year, the Park’s focus on fun (try the Crocodile Crossing Zip Line) and conservation make it a worthwhile trip.

Insider’s Tip: Avid birders and photographers begin staking out their viewing venues along the boardwalk soon after the Alligator Farm opens. Arrive early to get a good spot.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.  Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit OldCity.com when sharing. Photo credits: GTM Research Reserve; Kayaker: Bart Swab; Rookery: Nancy Moreland.