As a Jacksonville Beach local, I was thrilled to learn Convention 2018 would be held practically on my doorstep. Here are a few of the must-see (and must-eat) options in and around Ponte Vedra Beach.
330 A1A North, Suite 300, Ponte Vedra Beach
A box of delicious, freshly made macarons used to require a drive down to St. Augustine to visit Le Macaron by the cathedral, but no longer! The new Le Macaron shop is just a few minutes from the convention hotel and offers a range of French pastries including over a dozen macaron flavors.
Mickler’s Landing Beach Park
County Rd 203, Sawgrass
Mickler Beach (pronounced MIKE-ler) is a stone’s throw from the convention hotel and also happens to be the local shark tooth hunting hot spot. Come at low tide and bring home a handful of fossilized shark teeth as Florida souvenirs. The black shark teeth you find on the beach are over 10,000 years old, so the sharks who lost them aren’t still out there looking for them. Their descendants are, though, so be cautious in the water. Sharks are most active at dawn and dusk.
340 Front Street, Suite 700, Ponte Vedra Beach
Their slogan is “Where The Locals Eat,” and it’s not wrong. Metro is my favorite place for brunch, with offerings like French toast made from croissants and chocolate chip pancakes the size of your head. They’re now open for dinner, too, and for those who aren’t carb fans, there are plenty of protein options. The staff is friendly and the service is fast – and the restaurant is so close to the convention hotel, you could forego the Uber and hike it.
Publix at Sawgrass Village
220 Front Street, Ponte Vedra Beach
If you aren’t a Southerner, you might wonder why a grocery store would make the must-see list. If you are a Southerner, you’re already planning to stop at Publix. Four words: Pub subs and nugs. Publix deli platters with popcorn chicken and Boar’s Head subs are a perennial favorite for all kinds of events (sorority recruitment included!). Add a few gallons of sweet tea and a Publix bakery sheet cake to get the full Florida experience.
Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
1860 Starratt Road, Jacksonville
For all of the cat lovers out there (guilty), consider a trip up to Catty Shack, a big cat sanctuary featuring tigers, cougars, lions, and an assortment of other endangered species. Their hours are funky and vary from week to week, but if you’re lucky, you could grab tickets to a night feeding or an enrichment tour. The organization is entirely volunteer-run and gives endangered cats a lifelong home.
14 W 3rd Street, Atlantic Beach
Fitness buffs, rejoice! The beaches now have our very own rock climbing gym. Boulder by the sea as you try out their new routes, ranging from beginner to expert level. Rental equipment is available on-site.
Half an hour south of Ponte Vedra Beach is St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, St. Augustine is a popular destination for shopping, dining, and arts and culture. Weekend features include three different farmers markets, cannons firing at Castillo de San Marcos, and walking or trolley tours of historic sites around town. Climb the lighthouse, drop in for a wine tasting, and check out the original Tiffany stained glass at Flagler College.
I hope you have a wonderful time exploring the First Coast! See you at convention!