“This place is like Swiss Family Robinson,” Five of Hearts observed as we pulled into our site at Anastasia State Park, just south of St. Augustine, Florida. While we didn’t quite find an elaborate treehouse complex with all the comforts of home, we were still thrilled with the private site that definitely had the feel of a secluded jungle clearing. We set up our tent and screen house among the palms and palmettoes, and puzzled over the strange fruit falling from the canopy above (turns out it was kumquats). Unable to resist the call of the nearby ocean any longer, we promptly took a short drive down to the park beach and braved the “Rough Surf and Dangerous Currents” (red warning flag) and hoped not to encounter the “Dangerous Marine Animals“ (purple warning flag).
The next day was eaten up by the reality of our nearly empty food bins and the challenges of finding vegan and allergy friendly groceries on the fly. When we returned to the campground the trucks parked all along the side of the camp roads told us the weekend had arrived. Several tents had sprouted up on the surrounding sites, each one taking advantage of the electrical hookup to run an air conditioner poking through the tent wall. Nonetheless, the dense vegetation and plentiful chrous of frogs and insects still gave us the feeling of being far away from our fellow man. We returned to the beach, this time at low tide, and discovered some calm pools behind the sandbar that did not threaten to sweep us away at any moment. As the waves became less feisty, Five Spice gave Five Ball and Five of Hearts some body surfing lessons. In no time at all they were riding the surf like pros.
A day later we finally pulled ourselves away from the beach to explore the famed St. Augustine. Although we had always pictured this to be a great place to spend the day, the combination of pricey historical attractions, numerous gift shops, and the overall feeling of walking down a theme park street soon changed our minds. We took in the fortifications of the Castillo de San Marcos from the perimeter, thus avoiding the admission fee, then wandered through the gift shop of the nearby Pirate and Treasure Museum. After strolling a few blocks of the pedestrian streets in the Old Quarter and seeing enough alligator heads to last a lifetime, we hit the road for a quick drive to the Present Day Cafe, recommended by the Will Travel for Vegan Food blog. We haven’t had many opportunities to dine out, so we weren’t shy about sampling from many sections of the menu. Some delicious muffins started off the meal, then we moved to smoothies and pancakes. From there we still found room for some amazing chips and guacamole, delectible zucchini pasta with pesto and white truffle oil, and a satisfying Sunbelt burger. All the Fives agreed that our money was better spent on the great meal rather than on the multitude of pirate trinkets that the kids had eyed earlier that morning. However, Five Ball is still determined not to leave Florida without a sword or a gun or both. Our next stop is the site of an actual pirate shipwreck so maybe he will get his wish.