It would be easy to overlook the far north-east corner of Florida as it’s not as populated, busy and, well, obvious, as the Sunshine State’s other regions. But that would be a major shame, as it would be overlooking one of the most pristine, natural and downright blissful parts of the state.
America’s First Coast
Just to start with, this is the very heart of America’s First Coast, the original European settlement areas where Spain’s conquistadors arrived in the 16th century and set up today’s city of St Augustine, which retains its Spanish colonial overtones to this day. As well as St Augustine, there is the city of Jacksonville, another of Florida’s vibrant metropolises and, further north, the gorgeous tranquility of Amelia Island, a true resort hideaway.
Venture inland and you discover the cities of Gainesville and Ocala. The former is the home of the huge University of Florida, one of America’s biggest college programmes, which infuses the whole city with a young, energetic and arts-orientated vibe, while Ocala is genuine Old Florida, a much slower-paced, down-home agglomeration of horse farms, parks and small-town America.
This is Florida, of course, so that still means great beaches, vibrant wildlife and all the natural wonders the state has to offer. There are almost 100 miles of beaches and glorious coastline to enjoy, from Palm Coast all the way north to charming Victorian Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. And, for those who enjoy a round or two, this is the epi-centre of the state’s golf culture as it includes the home of the US PGA, the World Golf Hall of Fame, and the magnificent courses of Ponte Vedra.
Travelling to the Northeast
Jacksonville is only a two-hour drive from Orlando, along motorways I-4 and I-95 and is easy to navigate. There are no direct flights from Orlando to Jacksonville International Airport, but you can also fly via Miami or Tampa.