The state of Florida used some wisdom in acquiring what it took to create Guana River State Park. It covers some 2,400 acres stretching from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean offering public access to five miles of the finest beach in northern Florida. And if you’re into nature, you’re in luck. Programs are offered year-round and there’s a nice visitor center. What a jewel.
There is plenty of unrestricted beach access at Guana River in great contrast to Ponte Vedra and South Ponte Vedra Beaches. Tons of lush vegetation, covering some of the beautiful dunes near a long, primeval beach, Guana River State Park has a rich variety of differing habitats which attract a myriad of wildlife, including more than 240 species of birds.
The Guana and Tolomato Rivers‘ tidal waters are full of fish – redfish, bluefish, black drum, and flounder, as well as shrimp and black crab. And you may have to search a bit to find your perfect spot to fish among the people with lines in the water. (It’s good along the Guana Dam as well!)
Guana River State Park has two official beach “use” areas – the North Beach and the South Beach. These beaches are three miles apart and the entrance to the park is right in the middle. You can find the entrances off Highway A1A. But to start we suggest going in the main entrance and snag a park brochure. You’ll pay $2 per car (honor system) and can figure out where you want to go next.
There is ample parking at all lots with a few porta-potties. We didn’t see any permanent facilities. There is one challenge which is a bit dangerous. To reach the beaches from the parking lots you have to cross Highway A1A. From there, there is a wooden dune crossover which will take you right to the sand. Watch out for traffic, but it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
This beach is stunning and has everything a natural beach should have: three separate shelves of sand leading to a veritable mountain range of dunes, everything held in place by sea oats, grasses and vines, sea grape trees and a handful of palm trees. And though there are no lifeguards here, the water gets packed with swimmers. There is an observation tower next to the boardwalk at the South Beach area where you can see some awesome views of the wetlands. To the north and south you’ll see miles of undeveloped beach. Simply magnificent.
And if that isn’t enough, Guana River State Park marks the approximate location of Ponce de Leon’s first landing and exploration. According to a newly found account, written in 1592 by a Spanish historian, this just might have been where he put his feet in search for that fountain of youth.
Location: between Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine on Highway A1A
Parking: $2 per vehicle entrance fee
Hours: 8 AM till sundown
Contact: Guana River State Park, 1-904-825-5071