The Vacation Gals contributor Sandra Foyt learned all about golf and The Players Championship on her visit to Ponte Verde, Florida, last spring. Here, she shares a few more things to do in and around the area.
Every year, golf fans return to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for the most highly anticipated golf tournament, the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. This year is no exception. Now through May 10, Tiger Woods is facing competition for the biggest purse—$10 million–on the PGA Tour. The thrill of seeing the best of the best compete is reason enough to plan a visit to St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach, but the excitement doesn’t end on the green in Florida’s Historic Coast.
1) Rev up your game with lessons at a world-class golf academy and put what you learn to the test at some of the most challenging golf courses in the country. Two of the best include the Slammer and Squire Course and the King and Bear Course named for the first ever design collaboration between legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
2) Leap over gators at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Daredevils make their way along a treetop adventure course that winds through the park and ventures through ziplines hovering 20 feet above native alligators and just about every species of crocodile in the world.
3) Scare up ghosts. The nation’s oldest city is, not surprisingly, chock full of specters. On a recent visit to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, I met a frequent visitor who insisted she could see the ghosts of two little girls, the lightkeeper’s daughters, who died in a tragic accident. More than one Ghost Hunters episodes have been shot here, and now the lighthouse even offers a Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour. If you find that ghost hunting is thirsty work, check out the Paranormal Pub Crawl.
4.) Shock your mind. The original Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is housed in a historic mansion in St. Augustine that was once Castle Warden hotel, owned by Norton Baskin and The Yearling author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Today, this Ripley’s museum has its own share of ghosts—a pair of females who died in a suspicious fire—but there’s more. Among the oddities on display are a spinning vortex, a bone motorcycle, and possibly the most frightening of all, a collection of real shrunken human heads.
5.) Smile at dolphins. Get up close and personal with dolphins, herons, ruby spoonbills, and other aquatic life aboard a St. Augustine Eco Tour boat or kayak excursions. Owner and marine researcher, Zach McKenna, ensures that all guides are enthusiastic about sharing a love of the ecosystem, as well as local lore.
6.) Soak in the sun. With 42 miles of coastline, there’s a variety of options for chasing off chills at the seashore. In Ponte Vedra Beach, sunbathers enjoy the white sand beaches of luxury resorts such as Sawgrass Marriott’s Cabana Beach Club and also the more rugged adventures found in the natural setting of the GTM Reserve. Heading south, St. Augustine Beach boasts a family-friendly fishing pier, with splash park and playground, as well as kiteboarding and paddle board lessons and rentals.
7.) Sip of the Fountain of Youth. When Juan Ponce de Leon and his crew came ashore in “La Florida” in 1513, they were the first Europeans to see the Timucua, a society of Native Americans who prospered from hunting, fishing, and farming. In 1904, “Diamond Lil” McConnell bought the land where Ponce was said to have landed, and created a tourist attraction around the legend of the Fountain of Youth. Today, the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park weaves in myth and history, presenting findings from Smithsonian archeological digs as well as a living history exhibit of a Timucuan village.
The park encompasses 15 beautifully landscaped acres along the coast. In addition to the Timucuan Village, there are indigo fields, free-roaming peacocks, a Spanish watchtower and weapons demonstrations, and a reconstruction of the first Spanish mission in the continental United States. Before exploring the grounds, visitors are encouraged to visit the Spring House for a refreshing cup of water direct from Floridian aquifer.
The Fountain of Youth spring water is known to contain over 30 minerals, whether or not it was the legendary source of rejuvenation remains a mystery.
Author Sandra Foyt makes her home in New York and writes about family travel at AlbanyKid.com and all sorts of vacations at GetawayMavens.com.