A sophisticated city on Florida’s northeast coast, Ponte Vedra is synonymous with luxury. You can indulge at upscale resorts, perfect your tan on picturesque beaches or hit the links at world-class golf courses. But look closer and you’ll discover that this seaside community holds even more allure – including a rich, little-known history and diverse activities that will take you beyond its coastline. On your next vacation, discover these five secrets of Ponte Vedra.
Now a prominent resort town, Ponte Vedra was little more than pristine wilderness in the early 1900s. But valuable minerals were discovered in 1912, transforming the site into a frontier mining town called “Mineral City.”
Mining eventually gave way to resort life, and the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club sprung up in 1928. The wealthy elite flocked to this stylish oceanfront playground, which today is one of Florida’s rare AAA Five Diamond Properties. At the resort, pamper yourself at the spa or play a round of golf. To this day, the resort maintains a “quiet opulence” that is difficult to find at many resorts, making it a true retreat for guests.
Discover Florida at its natural best while exploring 73,000 protected acres of forests, tidal lagoons and coastal dunes at Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Reserve).
You can kayak through saltwater marsh and mangrove tidal wetlands to witness the abundance of wildlife – 44 mammal, 358 bird and 580 plant species – at what Folio Weekly called the “Best Place to Kayak.” At low tide, hunt for seashells along the shore and keep an eye out for sharks teeth – the area is well-known for this. Explore 10 miles of hiking trails before visiting the Environmental Education Center, which features interactive displays and aquariums.
If golf is your forte, tee off at TPC Sawgrass, one of the world’s most famous golf courses. This is where Tiger Woods’ “Better Than Most” putt was heard ‘round the world in 2001.
Opened in 1980, the mega-golf resort is the headquarters for the PGA Tour. Interestingly, the 415 acres that became TPC was sold to the Tour for just $1.
In May, watch the biggest names in golf compete in THE PLAYERS Championship, which boasts the largest purse on the tour. Then it’s your turn with the clubs. Take a swing at one of two championship courses designed by master architect Pete Dye.
For an unforgettable evening, listen to celebrated artists from across the world perform at the intimate new Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. This modern performing arts facility, housed in a former church building in Ponte Vedra Beach, features top-notch acoustics. Past performers include Travis Tritt, Matisyahu, Sister Hazel, Art Garfunkel, the Goo Goo Dolls, Lucinda Williams, Roger McGuinn, Richard Marx, Gillian Welch, Ani DiFranco and Shovels & Rope.
At the hall, you also can catch an array of other events, from film series like the WJCT 3X5 Classic Film Festival to classical music performances by the Florida Chamber Music Project.
Did you know that Ponce de Leon first set foot on Florida just south of Ponte Vedra Beach? According to navigational records, the famous explorer came ashore at 30 degrees, 8 minutes north latitude and claimed “La Florida” for Spain on April 3, 1513. View the spot where he reportedly arrived from the GTM Reserve parking area and snap a pic with the bronze statue marking the location.
Afterward, visit Ponte Vedra Beach, where towering sand dunes lead to immaculate beaches. CNN named it one of “22 Can’t-Miss Beaches.”
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