St. Augustine is known for its warm winter weather, deep history, remarkable things to do, and delicious food scene. We think it’s time to add destination cycling to that list! Biking St. Augustine features over 150-miles of dedicated bike trails and bike-friendly streets. You’ll pedal on elevated boardwalks over alligator-filled wetland marshes and ride under a canopy of green on some of America’s best rail trails. You’ll feel the salt breeze as you bask in ocean views and estuary escapes. Not to mention the gemstone of this entire biking belt, the Ancient City herself – St. Augustine.
Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the contiguous United States. The Old City explodes with intriguing history, exciting things to do, delicious places to eat, and unique accommodations. For over 450 years, it’s been a safe harbor for explorers and adventures. Only now, cycling conquistadors can take to the streets searching for their own fountain of youth one ride at a time.
St. Augustine Historic Bike Routes
Our St. Augustine historic bike routes feature two loops from the central plaza: a southern loop and a northern loop. You can easily bike over the Bridge of Lions to explore Anastasia Island, detailed in the next section.
The direction you ride the St. Augustine Historic bike routes is vital. We tested these routes for rideability and optimized them for the best views. We’re not going to give turn-by-turn directions since there’s a map for that, but we will touch on the highlights you’ll see along the way for each of our downtown St. Augustine bike rides.
Here are a couple of other hints for biking in the historic district of St. Augustine:
- There is a new Gotcha bike-share which lets anybody over 18 rent e-bikes to explore the city.
- St. George Street north of Cathedral is pedestrian-only, so plan NOT to ride there.
- We tried to avoid biking on bricks, but if you’re part of the fat tire crowd, meandering down the old brick roads is a thing…just not our thing.
- Be mindful of pedestrians in the downtown Historic District.
Northern Historic St. Augustine Bike Loop
This Northern Historic St. Augustine Bike loop starts at the iconic Flagler College and takes you by most of the “must-see” highlights of the old city. As you head down King St. past the town square, you will see the Governor’s House, the Basilica de St. Augustine, and the Constitutional Monument. Here’s an interesting fact, this is the only monument to the 1812 Constitution remaining in the world. In 1812, Napoleon was toppling European monarchies with promises of nationalism and liberalism.
When King Ferdinand, the king of Spain, abdicated power the 1812 Constitution not only filled the power void, but it also defined a progressive policy towards the New World. The constitution included liberal improvements to indigenous rights and representation of the colonies in Spanish government.
When King Ferdinand returned to power in 1814, he ordered the destruction of all of the constitutional monuments that were erected around the globe. Apparently, St. Augustine didn’t comply. Perhaps they didn’t want to yield their newly found rights or they were simply tired of edicts being issued across the ocean. Either way, this is a unique monument to one of the most important doctrines for the Spanish speaking world.
Turning north at the Bridge of Lions, you pedal up to the Castillo de San Marcos. Dating back to 1695, it’s the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. Past the fortress, you find the original Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the Great Cross at the Mission Nombre de Dios, the Old Senator Tree (a 600-year-old live oak), and the oak canopy of Magnolia Ave.
You turn and head back at Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and return to town. Along the way, you’ll see the Old Jail / Oldest Store complex, the old city gate, mile marker zero of the Old Spanish Trail, and the Oldest Schoolhouse. Take Cordova Street through the historic district to avoid rough roads and pedestrian paths and you are back at Flagler College after an action-packed 3.3-mile ride.
Southern Historic St. Augustine Bike Loop
The Southern Historic St. Augustine Bike Loop takes you through the city’s remarkable civil rights history. Again starting from Flagler College, you head south on Cordova Street past the Lightner Museum. The building started as the Hotel Alcazar, a Gilded Age resort hotel commissioned by railroad magnate Henry Flagler and is now home to a world-class art museum.
When you reach Bridge Street, don’t try to find the bridge. Cordova St. was a waterway before Flagler built his hotels. He used the stream run to bring modern features like indoor plumbing and electricity which made his resorts in remote Spanish Florida the most modern in the world. In fact, the Hotel Ponce, which became Flagler College, had electricity before the White House! The bridge only exists in history and street names, but you can still imagine the scene along this once major thoroughfare.
The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation occurred a few steps from the old bridge in what’s now the courtyard of the The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens. Since the Union captured the city early in the Civil War, this act was more than symbolic; it freed every slave who heard it.
As you snake around to St. Francis Street, you pass the more historic homes, like the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, The Llambias House Garden, and the Oldest House Museum. You pass by Maria Sanchez Lake, the vestigial remains of waterway, you enter the historically black neighborhood of Lincolnville.
St. Augustine’s Spanish heritage made it a refuge for British slaves fleeing the Georgia Colony, mostly around Fort Mose north of town. After the Civil War, Lincolnville became the epicenter of the free black population. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. came to St. Augustine to raise awareness for the Civil Rights Act, which was stalled in Congress at the time. A summer of demonstrations, arrests, and even death threats led to an incident at the Monson Motel where the manager, James Brock, poured acid into the water to force black children out. The public outcry from this act broke the legislative stalemate and led to the passing of the bill. You can learn all about the black experience in St. Augustine at The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center, which you ride by on the way to old San Sebastian Harbor.
Today, the harbor still operates on a small scale, but many historic buildings are converting into a culinary cornucopia. The old ice house is now the St. Augustine Distillery and a fabulous farm-to-market restaurant. The San Sebastian Winery occupies a part of the old railroad station, and just down the road, you’ll find the Whetstone Chocolate Tasting Tour.
On your way back to Flagler College, be on the lookout for the Markland House, a well-preserved plantation house, and Villa Zorayda Museum, a replica of the Alhambra Palace built with poured concrete.
Biking around Anastasia Island
Anastasia Island is a 14-mile barrier island just east of St. Augustine connected to the city by the Bridge of Lions. It’s home to Anastasia Island State Park, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, and St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. On the far south side of the island, you’ll find Fort Matanzas National Monument and the Matanzas Inlet.
I thought long and hard about how to present biking around Anastasia Island. The bike lanes along A1A generally provide safe but uninspiring riding. The highlights on the north and south ends of the island are pretty cool, but the middle stretch is lackluster because there aren’t ocean or river views from the road.
On the upside, biking Anastasia Island adds much-needed mileage to the historic St. Augustine rides. For this reason, this post will have five popular rides on Anastasia Island from the perspective of joining up with the historic loops. For example, riding both of the historic loops and the out-and-back to Anastasia State Park Beach is a 14-mile ride, while going all the way to Marineland and back is a 40-mile ride.
- Bridge of Lions – sidewalks on either side of the bridge allow for easy biking with great views.
- Lighthouse and Davis Shores Ride – A 4.3-mile loop to the lighthouse and back bypasses a section of A1A without bike lanes.
- Anastasia State Park – A ride that ends at the beach for a 14-mile day of riding St. Augustine. Note, there’s a $2 per rider park entrance fee.
- Scenic Anastasia Ride – A scenic bypass to A1A, but you will not get beach views unless you take Ocean Hammock Park Walkway to the beach. Doing this ride instead of Anastasia State Park is a nifty(and free) beach ride for a 20-mile day.
- Starbucks to Marineland Ride – Adding this segment gives you a 40-mile ride with remarkable views of the Matanzas inlet. If you’re the type to cycle forty miles in a day, you can power through the long middle stretches.
Cycling Ponte Vedra
Most people come to St. Johns County to see historic St. Augustine. Cyclists come to ride Ponte Vedra. It’s 30+ miles of biking bliss that feature beachfront mansions, old-growth gardens, and miles and miles of gorgeous bike lanes through the sand dunes of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Reserve.
The best riding is on the 16-mile stretch between the GTM headquarters and Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. If you don’t think you can ride a 32 miles out-and-back, park at Mickler Beach and head north first. That way, if you turn around before reaching GTM headquarters, you still have a chance to experience the sand dunes. If you can’t find a spot there, you can try the other GTM lots, usually open but with a nominal fee.
There are six more miles of perfectly serviceable bike lanes south of GTM, but the views are a step down from the preserve due to all of the vacation homes. The lanes end at North Beach Park (Vilano Beach), but it’s possible to keep riding all the way into the Historic District.
GTM Preserve Bike Trails
The GTM preserve has a collection of off-road bike trails that are loads of fun with the right bike. There’s nothing technical, just some relatively packed sand that any fat tire ride could handle, even a beach cruiser. In return, you get to explore the preserve from your saddle with a chance to see ospreys, tortoises, alligators, wild pigs, turkeys, deer, and even the Tolomato River. If you don’t have the right wheels, you can rent bikes at the GTM Outpost, just inside the park.
Navigating the GTM Preserve trails is relatively easy. You could always download our interactive map to your device. If you do this, you’ll notice that we have color-coded the trails. Not only are the trail junctions signed and blazed to match this convention, but there are color-coordinated park benches throughout the trail system. They give you a place to rest and enjoy nature and keep you from getting lost.
Palatka to St. Augustine Trail
When Henry Flagler built the Ponce De Leon Hotel in 1888, he brought fresh vegetables to his tables from the farm fields of Hastings, a small community just west of St. Augustine. Today, you’ll find the Potato Capital of Florida and an award-winning Rail-Trail that’s only getting better. Currently, the Palatka to St. Augustine Trail runs approximately 20 miles from Vermont Heights to Palatka. There are projects in the works to complete the trail into St. Augustine, connect with the Palatka to Lake Butler Trail, and create a 260-mile St. John River to Sea Loop.
The best 20 miles of riding is between the Vermont Blvd Trailhead to Bulls-Hit Ranch & Farm. It’s a well-shaded trail with several bridges over scenic wetlands and creeks. You get a little peek at the farm fields that built this community, but you don’t have to make that long, exposed ride into town.
If you keep going, the north side of the St. Johns River Bridge has a decent bike lane and good views. You might also want to check out Angel’s Dining Car, the oldest diner in Florida. Also, look for Capital City Bank, so you know where the trail turns off Hwy 100.
Flagler Beach to Marineland Trail
- Fort Matanzas to Marineland (3.75 miles) – Park at the Fort Matanzas National Monument, take the ferry over to see the fort, then enjoy the ride to Marineland with outstanding river views.
- North Flagler Beach (1.25 miles) – Park as far north as you can in Flagler Beach and bike north to the northernmost beach access. It’s a short ride but the only place around St. Augustine to bike with ocean views. Consider taking Central Ave back if there’s too much traffic on A1A.
- Gamble Rogers (2.6 miles) – Either park in south Flagler Beach or at North Peninsula State Park and ride the roadside path through Gamble Rogers Recreation Area. The revegetation project here was so successful that you don’t have ocean views, but you do have a dedicated trail through a natural area. Side note, Gamble Rogers was a Florida singer (and St. Augustine resident), and his wife were taking a bike/camping stay-cation at Flagler Beach State Recreation Area. Upon returning to their campsite after a full day of cycling, he was approached by a child whose parents were struggling in the ocean. He paddled out to the rescue without hesitation, but unfortunately, he never made it back to shore.
Lehigh Greenway Trail
Checking in at 7-miles, the Lehigh Greenway Trail is short and sweet. It’s a well-shaded path through Graham Swamp and the surrounding wetlands. You’ll see classic Florida flora and fauna, including wading birds, waterfowl, deer, otters, foxes, and alligators. If you love gators, pay close attention to the long wooden boardwalk at the east end of the trail.
It’s hard to have a 14-mile out-and-back qualify as destination riding, especially without any particular highlights. However, if you combine the Lehigh Greenway with the rides around Flagler Beach and a trip to Fort Matanzas, and you’ll have an enjoyable day of riding and sightseeing.
Final Thoughts on Cycling in St. Augustine
Are you ready to add St. Augustine to your destination biking wish list? Better yet, are you ready to book a trip? There are at least four, 20-50 mile days to make any rider happy:
- Ponte Vedra / GTM
- Historic St. Augustine / Anastasia Island
- Palatka to St. Augustine Trail
- Assorted rides around Flagler Beach
If you’re a serious rider, you could put in some hundred-mile days riding north, south, and west of St. Augustine and not touch your car all week. When you include St. Augustine’s collection of boutique hotels, you’ll have a biking vacation to remember.
Remember to ride safely and read our bike disclaimer before you go
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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