As winter approaches, now is the time to plan a trip south to Florida. There’s no better spot for a cheap warm-weather getaway than Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches. With so many inexpensive things to do and temperatures that make the rest of the country envious, the area has everything you could desire. Here are the top ways to spend your warm-weather winter vacation for less money in Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches.
1. Hit the Beach
Plenty of sunshine and fewer crowds are some of the reasons why Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches’ 19 miles of coastline are the place to be this winter. Take your pick of prime spots on the sand, with a bonus of free and easy parking. Catch some waves, build a sandcastle with the kids and keep an eye out for migrating whales. You can even go for a horseback ride on the beach. No trip is complete without a walk along the Flagler Beach Pier. Extending 800 feet out into the Atlantic Ocean, the pier has panoramic views of the sand and surf, so have your camera handy. You can also cast a line from the pier, and fishing poles are available to rent.
2. Explore Parks and Trails
Whether it is by foot, bicycle or kayak, there are many inexpensive ways to enjoy the outdoors in Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches. Scenic views abound at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, set between the Atlantic Ocean and Matanzas River. Wander through native and exotic plants, seek shade under a majestic oak tree and stop and smell the fragrant roses in the formal garden. Then follow the trail to the ocean and you’ll discover coquina rock formations. Get a glimpse of Old Florida at Princess Place Preserve where 1,500 acres offer hiking and equestrian trails, fishing and camping. Take in the peaceful surroundings from the porch of the original lodge, Flagler County’s oldest intact structure. At Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve you will feel like you have found the area’s best-kept secret. An easy stroll along a boardwalk takes you through mangroves and marshland, with a chance to spot many species of birds and wildlife.
3. Visit Art Galleries
Discover the many talented artists who call Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches home. At Bess Studio you are welcomed into the private art gallery of Helene and Eric Bess. Their work includes paintings, mixed media, intricately decorated sculptures and 3D assemblage. As you are enchanted by the whimsical designs, the husband and wife team share stories of the inspiration behind each piece. One block from the Flagler Beach Pier is the Pineapple Gallery. Here you’ll find one-of-a-kind works from 11 local artists, ranging from watercolors, oil painting and photography to jewelry, glass and ceramics.
4. Learn Local History
From the Stone Age to the Space Age, Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches has a fascinating history. You can learn all about it at the Flagler Beach Historical Museum. On display are pottery, arrowheads and prehistoric bones, plus a flag that went into space onboard the shuttle Endeavour. Farm animals are one of the draws at the Florida Agriculture Museum, dedicated to the history and importance of agriculture to the state. Imagine what life was like a century ago as you explore a restored 1890s pioneer homestead and buildings from a 1930s citrus farm. Along with horses, sheep and ducks, you can get up close with Florida Cracker cattle—the museum is active in conservation efforts for the heritage livestock. Continue back in time with a walk through the ruins of a sugar mill at Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park. Arched entryways, tall coquina rock walls and crumbling foundations are what remain from an early 1800s plantation. Owned by the Bulow family, the plantation was the largest in East Florida and largest sugar mill in the state.
5. Go Shopping
From clothing to unique collectibles, plus anything you need for the ocean, head to downtown Flagler Beach. Along Central Avenue and A1A you’ll find a variety of independently owned boutiques. Just across from the pier you can’t miss the bright blue and green awning of Bahama Mama’s. The shop sells tropical-themed clothes, jewelry and home décor. A short walk takes you to the Gallery of Local Art, a quirky shop featuring the work of local artists. Purchase a special painting, sculpture or piece of jewelry to bring Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches into your own home. The gallery also offers classes and workshops, so you can create your own vacation-inspired work of art. A trove of booty awaits at Jose Gaspar Treasure Co., where the Jolly Roger beckons you into the souvenir shop from another era. Packed full of seashells, pirate-themed gifts and beach vacation keepsakes, Jose Gaspar is sure to delight.
6. Enjoy Dining With a View
What can compare to the stunning ocean views? Delicious dining at the area’s top-rated casual and fine dining spots. You can watch the sunrise over the Atlantic while sipping some of the area’s best coffee at Java Joint. Benedicts, scrambles and breakfast classics are served daily starting at 7 a.m., along with lunch for late risers. Fresh seafood is always on the menu in Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches, and you’ll find it prepared just to your liking at the Island Grille. Try the catch of the day, blackened or grilled, juicy shrimp and tender scallops or the salmon with a wasabi crust and teriyaki glaze. Locals say to save room for dessert. The large windows of the 1920s-era building provide panoramic views so there’s not a bad seat in the restaurant. Slowly smoked meats are accompanied with river views at Captain’s BBQ. Tucked among the oak trees at Bing’s Landing, the casual restaurant earns rave reviews for its true Southern barbecue. Generous servings of smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and mouthwatering St. Louis-style ribs come with classic sides including mac and cheese, collard greens and mashed yams.
7. Check Out an Event
From music, art and food events to holiday traditions, the cooler months are a hot time to visit Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches. The Flagler Auditorium is your destination for the performing arts, with a full calendar of plays, concerts and performances by nationally renowned musicians and comedians. Every Sunday the courtyard at the European Village is buzzing with activity for the Farmers Market. Here you’ll find organic produce, fresh baked goods, handmade crafts and more set against a charming Old World backdrop.
The nighttime shines this December with tree lightings and cherished annual events that will get you in the holiday spirit. Not to miss is the Palm Coast Holiday Boat Parade, celebrating its 37th consecutive year. On December 7, boats decked out in colorful lights will cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway. With around 50 boats expected to participate, the parade is considered to be the largest in central Florida. Santa comes to Town Center in Palm Coast for the 14th annual Fantasy Lights Festival. At this free event, you can sip hot chocolate as you stroll along dozens of dazzling animated light displays. Roast marshmallows, take a ride on the holiday train and enjoy a rare snowfall in Florida, no winter clothes needed. The Fantasy Lights Festival kicks off November 30 and runs nightly through December. Click here to see what else is happening when you visit.