Summertime is every day in the tropical state of Florida, but it isn’t just about the magical experience of Walt Disney World or the retro art deco stylings of South Beach; there’s a castaway vibe sitting off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The Palm Coast is a picturesque getaway nestled between the historic, oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, and the energetic city of Daytona Beach.
Secluded and breathtaking, the Hammock Beach Resort is located only a 40-minute drive from the Daytona Beach International Airport. Each room is designed so the sliding glass doors face the breezy coast—no Instagram filter needed. After watching the sunrise, the fam will have their schedules jam-packed with golfing lessons, beach lounging with a good book, or bicycling on the designated bike paths. Not to mention, the hotel features a multitude of pools to splash about, like a winding lazy river or a waterslide pool.
If you’re in the mood for a memorable wine tasting, the resort has just what you need to satisfy your palate. At the regional and authentic Italian restaurant, Delfino’s, there’s an extensive selection of expertly crafted wines for any connoisseur. You can also grab lunch at the award-winning Atlantic Grille restaurant, where the seafood comes from the ocean to the table. Right down the street from the resort is Captain’s BBQ—let’s just say, it’s no wonder they were rated one of the top 10 BBQ joints in the nation for three consecutive years by TripAdvisor.
You’ll feel like you’ve ripped a page out of a romance novel when you take horseback riding lessons on the beach; trot along the shore taking in the salty air on one of the three horses. It doesn’t stop there: If you’re more into the surfing scene, there are instructors eager to teach you the ropes (or oars!) of paddleboarding. You can also hop onto the tennis courts—there are rackets available—to refresh your skills!
If you’re looking for relaxation, there’s plenty to be had at Hammock Beach’s spa. For a facial, the esthetician massaged my face first to get the blood flowing and then gently rubbed hot rocks across my chest. Not only are there facials, massages, salons, and waxing, but the spa also offers three rooms dedicated to different needs like an aromatherapy room, sauna, and heat room.
Just 30 minutes away is St. Augustine. Known for its scenic cobblestone streets and old-fashioned buildings, the city has a rich history of war and the paranormal. Attention to any paranormal enthusiast whose dream is to take ghost tours: This city is perfect for you. Rumor has it, if you go to the lighthouse, you’ll see the ghosts of two children and the lighthouse keeper roaming the grounds. After successfully completing the night ghost walk, head on over to the world-renowned Spanish gem that opened in Tampa during 1905, Columbia Restaurant. I highly recommend the crema catalana, a Spanish version of creme brûlée.
Take it easy by heading on over to the world’s first oceanarium, Marineland. For the past 80 years, Marineland has been a staple in Florida, and a spot where guests get the chance to interact in the water with the dolphins. You can also take a tour of their underground museum filled with info on all things sea creatures and, of course, Nellie the dolphin. Modeled after the football team, the Miami Dolphins, Nellie was the oldest dolphin in human care and one of the most recognizable celebrity sea animals. As an added bonus, the oceanarium prides itself on educating guests about the importance of conservation through animal interaction.