Tucked amidst several popular tourist meccas, the little town of Vilano Beach is considered one of North Florida’s “best kept secrets.” The area was hugely popular in the 1920s and 30, but has since become somewhat overshadowed by neighboring St. Augustine. Still, the beach town is a comfortable seaside escape from the city, noteworthy for its prime location near the inlet and optimal conditions for surfing.
Vilano Beach, both the town and its namesake beach, are great locations to enjoy the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is the primary attraction of Vilano Beach, and even considered a top destination for visitors to St. Augustine. The National Skimboarders Championship is held at Vilano Beach each August, so if there’s a time of year the town becomes a tourist hub—this is it. The world’s greatest skimboarders flock to Vilano Beach for the competition, and visitors come to mingle with the athletes and enjoy the festivities. The town hosts several events throughout the year, including the Sunset Celebration in December, a holiday celebration with music, food and special guest appearances. The Coastal Highway through Vilano Beach is great for a drive, offering stunning views of the ocean and coast. The town also has several top stops for fresh, local fare. Caps on the Water is perfect for enjoying a meal while watching the sunset, and Vilano Grill & Pizza serves up a mean crab cake.
Cross the Vilano Beach Bridge to St. Augustine for a jaunt in the self-proclaimed oldest city of the United States. The city may feel a world away from Vilano Beach, despite being just four miles away. St. Augustine abounds with attractions from stately castles and military forts to scenic nature trails and tranquil beaches. The diverse history of town lends itself to a rich tapestry of sights, memorabilia and experiences that makes up St. Augustine. Take a trolley tour to see the tourist highlights, such as the Old Jail or the Castillo de San Marcos. Or, schedule your own visits to popular attractions including the Whetstone Chocolate Factory and the Fountain of Youth. Head over to Anastasia Island, located east of St. Augustine, to see the protected wildlife at Anastasia State Park. The island is also home to Fort Matanzas National Monument, a Spanish colonial era fort built in the 1700s. Jacksonville, Florida is also close enough for a day trip, at a little over 40 miles away. This seaport city where the St. John’s River meets the Atlantic Ocean is a culture center full of eclectic neighborhoods, museums and recreational opportunities. Orlando is another large tourist hub, though over 100 miles away. At Orlando, visitors will find more than a dozen theme parks, including the infamous Walt Disney World, as well as Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Vilano Beach accommodations are what visitors might expect from a beach town: casual and colorful, with ocean views. Stay at a kitschy art deco motel with bright rooms and a heated outdoor pool. Book a room at a low-key beachfront hotel that offers breakfast, but also has kitchenettes in the rooms for guests’ use. Consider a laid back lodge with an outdoor pool and a sundeck for lounging about in the afternoons. Rent a cottage on Vilano Road for a cozy experience by the beach. If traveling with pets, head for the hotel on Vilano Road with the fenced dog run and garden.
The closest airports to Vilano Beach are Jacksonville International Airport, The Daytona Beach International Airport and The Northeast Florida Regional Airport at St. Augustine. Both Jacksonville and Daytona Beach international airports are a little over an hour’s drive from Vilano Beach. There are private car services such as taxis or rentals at the airports. From St. Augustine, it’s possible to get to Vilano Beach via public transportation. The Green Line of the Sunshine Bus Company serves the Vilano Beach area, and costs $1 per one way trip. Driving into town on the A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway is another option. Once in Vilano Beach, a total area of just 1.8 square miles, it’s easy to get around on foot.
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