Off the north-eastern Atlantic coast in St John’s County in Florida is Anastasia Island. This tiny barrier island is only 15 miles long and 3 miles wide. Although Anastasia Island is very small in size, it truly packs a punch in the beauty department. In fact, this island is known to be one of the most romantic destinations in Florida.
The closest city on the mainland is St. Augustine. In fact, downtown St Augustine is just across the Matzanas river and over the Bridge of Lions from Anastasia Island. Surprisingly, even though this island is tiny, there are actually 5 communities living on this island – St. Augustine Beach, Coquina Gables, Butler Beach, Crescent Beach, and Anastasia. St. Augustine Beach is located in the middle of Anastasia Island, where as both Crescent Beach and Butler Beach are located on the southern end.
If you decide to stay at one of the communities along the beach, the best mode of transportation other than walking and cycling is to use the Red Trains and the Old Town Trolleys (also known as the Green Trolleys). These trains and trolleys roam around most of Anastasia Island and stops off at restaurants, shops, and even accommodation. So, if you want to have a great vacation without having to worry about driving and parking, then take advantage of this mode of transport and leave the driving to the experts.
History of Anastasia Island
It is thought that in 1514, Juan Ponce de Leon landed on this island. However, Pedro Menendez de Aviles who was a Spanish Admiral founded St. Augustine and moved his settlement to the island when the Timucuan Indians led a revolt against them in 1566. This makes it the oldest city in the United States of America. However, this move was quite short as it eventually moved back to what is now known as the downtown area of St. Augustine.
The Spanish settlers built a watch tower made out of wood on Anastasia Island. However, unfortunately for the Spanish settlers, it was spotted in 1586 by Sir Francis Drake who proceeded to come onto shore and attack the city. This was the first lighthouse ever built in the USA, and was described as a ‘beacon’. Today, a more modern-day lighthouse in the form of St. Augustine Light has replaced this building.
Between 1926 and 1927, the Bridge of Lions was constructed by the David Shores neighborhood as it was trying to fill in extensive wetlands. During World War II, the Lighthouse was occupied by the Coast Guard. and the residences at Davis Shores were used as a barracks for soldiers. The Bridge of Lions remains the only way to get across from St. Augustine to Anastasia Island today.
Underneath the island lies coquina, which is a material made out of coarse, compressed shell. Anastasia Island is only one of the very few places in the world where coquina can be found. This was used by the Spanish and the British colonialists to construct buildings in St. Augustine and Castillo de San Marcos (also known as Fort St. Mark) as this was the only source of local stone. Amazingly, both of these buildings are still standing in perfect condition today.
In addition to the lighthouse, other tourist attractions include the Anastasia State Park, Fort Matanzas National Monument, and the Anastasia Island Alligator House.