by Nan Kavanaugh | August 4, 2021
The Perfect Family Weekend Getaway is Hiding in Plain Sight
Discover the hidden beauty of Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches
“Where can we go?”
It’s a question we Floridians ask ourselves, as we try to squeeze in one more weekend of memory making with family and friends before school routines and sports schedules replace the laid-back lifestyle of summer.
The answer sometimes hides in plain sight: a destination just a short drive from home with unspoiled natural beauty, Old Florida charm, unforgettable family adventures and delicious local eateries. Tucked among hammocks and dunes, Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches are the perfect place for a late-summer weekend getaway.
As the sun peeks over the horizon at Flagler Beach, scan the shoreline for a uniquely Florida treat. Each year from May to October, hundreds of mama Loggerheads gently lay their eggs in the sand and then lumber back to the ocean. Summer is peak nesting season for this region’s sea turtles, so lucky beachgoers may catch a glimpse of the mother’s pilgrimage back to the ocean at dawn. As the dog days of summer come to a close, hatchlings are also starting to emerge from nests laid earlier in the season. Return at twilight to watch the newborns scamper out of their nests and make a break for the waves.
While catching nature’s loggerhead spectacle requires just the right timing (and a bit of luck), there is a place in Palm Coast that’s always brimming with marine life. At Marineland, located off of scenic A1A, visitors can not only watch Florida’s magnificent marine life in action, but swim alongside them, too. Channel your inner artist and paint with one of the oceanarium’s red-footed tortoises or throw on your flippers and perform stunts with one of marineland’s dolphins in the royal swim encounter. Thanks to a new partnership between the oceanarium, the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience and Ripple Effect EcoTours, ocean lovers can get a real-world look at one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the country. Kayak and boat tours of the Jordan and Mellon Islands and the Matanzas River estuary provide the opportunity to immerse yourself in true untamed Florida.
When the heatwave rolls in, escape to the lush, shady canopies of Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Stroll under the outstretched branches of a live oak hammock with exquisite flowers, native plant gardens and more than 150 hybrid tea rose bushes. Tranquil gardens burgeoning with camellias, azaleas and bird of paradise plants invite you to rest on benches surrounded by botanicals. Situated along the Intracoastal Waterway, the park’s ancient coquina rocks collect water and create little tidal pools full of sea creatures like crabs and snails.
Fuel Your Flagler Adventure
Skip the big chains while you’re frolicking Flagler and opt to eat like a local. Early risers can swing by Swillerbees Craft Donuts and Coffee for a sweet sunrise treat. This locally owned eatery debuts new flavors each month that are a far cry from your ordinary glazed. Indulge in specialty donuts like the “Honey Hit the Gym” topped with chocolate, potato chips, M&Ms, toffee, pretzels and a drizzle of caramel for a sugar-fueled Florida adventure.
After a day of kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming and strolling, unwind at Whaam Burger, a retro family burger joint that slings patties with an oceanfront view. Parents can school their kids in classic arcade games while the kitchen cooks up a heaping pile of fresh onion rings.
If Swillerbees didn’t satiate your family’s sweet tooth, cap off the day with Flagler Beach’s local favorite The Waffle Cone for dessert. This roadside ice cream shop has been serving residents and tourists alike for almost a century. Grab a soft serve swirl—and a cup of vanilla for your pup—and race to the Flagler Beach Fishing Pier before it melts.
Perched on the pier, take a moment to look out over the coastline as the sun disappears. With a keen eye and a little luck, you just might spot a little loggerhead scurrying for the sea.