South Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Vilano Beach


A quiet coastal community, Vilano Beach is known for its sandy Atlantic shoreline and a fishing pier stretching into the Tolomato River. Casual beach grills, pizza places, and a marina surround the pier, which is marked by the Bluebird of Happiness, a restored vintage statue. The Vilano Beach Nature Boardwalk, running through wetlands near the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge, features mosaic art of local wildlife.


Vilano, ‘villain’ in Spanish, may once have been an area known for pirates, marauders and ship-wreckers. So goes the rumor of its name. Its reputation changed towards the end of the 19th Century, when area tycoon Henry Flagler started inviting his rich and famous friends here for beach R&R while staying at his two hotels.

Today Vilano remains a local’s secret, particularly popular with surfers and skim-boarders – or just about anyone wanting to combine a little athleticism with time on the water. With the Atlantic on one side and the Tolomato River opposite, you’re well-placed for boats, birds and all the beach you want.

Historic highlights

  • 1920s – The area thrives during an era known as the Florida Land Boom.
  • 1926 –  the Grand Vilano Casino opens, drawing big-name bands and hosting extravagant parties of the Roaring Twenties. Vilano Beach is the place to be on this coast.
  • 1928 – Coastal Highway A1A is built, allowing people to drive to Vilano.
  • 1937 – Hurricane winds irreparably damage the casino.
  • 1946 – As tourism resumes post-war and car travel gains popularity, the ‘motor court’ motel industry rolls into Vilano and development begins in earnest.
  • 2012  The brand new Publix Grocery Store and Vilano Town Center open with new eateries.
  • 2012 – A new floating, public dock opens making Vilano accessible to yachts and boats. (See page {X} for details and to try it yourself).

Beach basics


Vilano Beach is popular with those looking for a quiet beach with few interruptions from spotting wildlife or looking for shark’s teeth. Its popularity as a surfing destination will suggest that the waves can be rough for swimming, though by no means an absolute.  With the opening of the brand new Publix in May 2012, Vilano may be the perfect location.


As a coquina (crushed shell) beach, shoes are recommended when going for a walk. You’ll have great luck looking for sharks’ teeth and shells. Yet more good news: sand castles build themselves on a coquina beach.

Cars on the beach

You can have it both ways on Vilano. Cars and car parking are only allowed on the southern end of Vilano. The rest of Vilano is car-free.

Vilano highlights

Sunset celebration at Vilano Beach Pier

Live music and a farmers’ market-style array of arts and crafts, set to a Vilano Beach sunset. The first Saturday of every month, from 3 p.m. through dusk.

Annual Vilano Bridge 5k run and walk

Annual Florida Skim-boarding Pro-Am Championship

Things to do

Seaside Horseback Riding

Saddle up and head down the shore. By reservation, enjoy an hour’s horse ride along Vilano Beach – whether with your spouse or partner, or in a group. A sedate but beautiful way to enjoy the beach – wind in your hair and all.

  • Website:
  • Address: 6 Surfside Ave, St. Augustine, FL 32084
  • Keep in mind: Walking only (no galloping), and wear closed-toed shoes.

Shark Teeth Hunting – walking Tour

A novel way to enjoy the beach together. Learn the pre-history of the St. Augustine area, as you hone your eagle-eye and discover fossilized sharks’ teeth, as well as sea glass and all manner of shells. The tour includes a bag to keep your treasures, as well as bottled water.

Vilano Beach Fishing Pier

Free fishing access and all the pelicans you could want.

  • Website:
  • Address: 250 Vilano Rd, St. Augustine , FL 32084
  • Keep in mind: Publix supermarket is close if you’d like to picnic.

Vilano’s floating boat dock

Brand new in 2012, the dock floats just besides Vilano Beach Pier and allows boaters free docking for four hours. Plenty of time to grab a beer and something to eat, as well as stock up on groceries at the nearby Publix.

Surfside Park

Many charters (boats, jet-skis, fishing, etc) operate from here – else you can stay on dry land and enjoy the public beach access with picnic areas and outdoor showers.

Address: 3070 Coastal Highway

Jet-skis on Vilano Intracoastal

Rules and regs

Born on or after January 1, 1988? Before you hope on a jet-ski in Florida, you’ll need to spend a half hour taking a Safe Boater test. Jet-ski rental providers will offer this on-site or you can take it online now and not lose a minute of vacation time.

Jet-ski areas

If renting a jet-ski, your provider will let you know the legal areas for their use on the water. Basically it’s a three-mile stretch from Vilano Bridge up the intracoastal.

Bay boat rentals

Offers new Kawasaki model jet-skis that accommodate up to three people. Life jackets are provided and rental periods range from 30 minutes to four hours.


Cap’s On The Water

A perfect location with a sunset oyster bar, Cap’s serves up “new coastal cuisine in an old Florida setting”. Popular with both locals and tourists for unparalleled views and an unbeatable wine list. Save room for: Dulce De Leche Chocolate Cake.

  • Cuisine: Seafood
  • Website:
  • Address: 4325 Myrtle St., Saint Augustine, FL 32084
  • Children: Kid’s Menu and a tire swing!
  • Keep in mind: Lunch on Fridays/weekends, dinner daily. “First come, first serve” policy.

The Reef Restaurant

For great ocean views in a more upscale environment, the Reef’s main dining area is indoors, so you’ll stay cool in the summer and comfortable in the winter.  The dress code isn’t T-shirts, so pack something dressier for a Sunday brunch. Save room for: Florida Orange Sunshine Cheesecake

  • Cuisine: Seafood
  • Website:
  • Address: 4100 Coastal Highway, St. Augustine, FL 32084
  • Children: Yes, child-friendly
  • Pets: Pet-friendly deck
  • Keep in mind: Happy hour and Sunday brunch also available.

Aunt Kate’s on the River

This gem is riverside and with calmer waters come the chance to see birds fishing on the banks and manatees swimming slowly by. If you head inside, the large main dining room or the Victory Bar both offer a relaxed ambiance. Giving points for effort, while the menu won’t change your life, the BBQ is smoked in-house. Why not try: Baby Back Ribs.

  • Cuisine: Florida camp cooking
  • Website:
  • Address: 612 Euclid Ave., St. Augustine, FL 32084
  • Children: Kids’ menu available
  • Keep in mind: Lunch and dinner only – early bird specials

Tropicana Cuban

A third-generation Cuban restauranteur, Armando and his wife Ana offer a new menu for 2012 with tantalizing mention of “secret sauce” (bottled and sold if you’d like to take some home). Eat in or take out, and maybe pick a home-made pizza to devour later. Save room for: Cuban Rum Cake.

  • Cuisine: Cuban
  • Website:
  • Address: 165 Vilano Road  St. Augustine, FL 32084
  • Keep in mind: Dinner only Mon-Thurs. Lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Beaches at Vilano

Just off Vilano Beach Pier, this is a great stop for sunset – whether you’ve timed your dinner right or just want an end-of-day drink and snack. The fun never ends with an outdoor tiki bar, long happy hour and even imported white sand near the water to create a tropical atmosphere. Save room for: Homemade Apple Cobbler.

  • Cuisine: Seafood, salads, sandwiches
  • Website:
  • Address: 254 Vilano Rd, Vilano Beach, FL 32084
  • Children: Kids’ menu available. They can play on the beach while you relax.
  • Keep in mind: Lunch, dinner and live music
  • See also – Publix Supermarket at 55 Ava Way, St. Augustine, FL

For pets

Vilano Mobile Vet

Anastasia State Park

A beloved Florida park for good reason – there are 1,600 acres of pristine natural beauty with days’ worth of family-friendly activity on offer: beach, hiking trails, salt marshes and water-sports galore.


You’ll love this natural beach for its lack of cars – total serenity. However, you can’t bring your dog on the beach. While you pay a day-rate for access, the sand here is as soft as can be. Plus, the further you walk from the parking lot, the more you’ll have the beach to yourself. When you tire of sun-bathing and sand castles there’s a rental shop, Anastasia Watersports, with bikes and kayaks and all kinds of boards.

Watersports and the outdoors

Anastasia State Park is extremely on-the-ball when it comes to helping you best plan and enjoy your visit. Their website offers great details about upcoming events and ranger programs, such as photography contests and birding lectures.