We had a blast building this tour and collaborating with the people who make the 10 extraordinary destinations you’ll find here so magical. The destinations are listed geographically (from north to south) and without exception, we hope you’ll find there is something truly unique, authentic, and fantastical about each of the locations you’ll explore.
Get your passport stamped at all 10 locations and we’ll send you a super-cool SOUVENIR to commemorate your trip. There’s no time limit to complete the tour just grab a PASSPORT, choose a destination and start exploring.
Hours vary at each location so please check before you go!
Share your adventures with us and other A1A kindred spirits by using #ExploreA1A and @ExploreA1A when you post your pics; cheers to the places you’ll go, stories you’ll tell, and the A1A-mazing memories you’ll create that will last a lifetime…
THE PALACE SALOON
We’ll kick things off with a little bit of magical history on Amelia Island in historic Fernandina Beach with a stop at The Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest continuously operated drinking establishment and according to local lore, it was the last bar in Florida to close on the eve of Prohibition.
Originally constructed as a haberdashery in 1878, Louis G. Hirth bought the Prescott building in 1903 and replaced shoes with booze and named it the Palace Saloon. Hirth called upon his old friend Adolphus Bush, founder of Anheuser-Busch to assist him with the design of the elegant Bar, and Busch reportedly traveled from St. Louis to oversee the installation of the now famous fixture. The saloon still has the elegant features that made it famous for over a century: inlaid mosaic floors, embossed tin ceilings, hand-carved mahogany caryatids (undraped female fixtures), a 40-foot bar lit with gas lamps, and walls painted with six commissioned murals.
The Palace survived the Prohibition years by selling Texaco gasoline, ice cream, special wines, 3 percent near-beer, and cigars. And for those strong enough to try it, legend says Hirth made available his signature Cumberland whiskey. Go ahead, belly up to the bar, and as the bartender slides a mug of suds to you, the ghosts from ten decades past join in drinking to your health.
The Palace Saloon is open seven days a week from Noon until 2 a.m. with specials and live music most nights. Located at 117 Centre Street, Fernandina Beach, 32034. Call (844) 441-2444 or visit ThePalaceSaloon.com for more information.
A1A Explorers: Present your un-stamped passport and take home a free souvenir Pirate’s Punch cup!
ST. AUGUSTINE PIRATE & TREASURE MUSEUM
Next, explorers will head to the City of St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest, permanently occupied European settlement, to explore the magic and history of our pirating past with a visit to St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum.
The early years in Florida were unimaginably difficult and in addition to the heat, bugs, and snake-infested swamps filled with disease the early settlers had to deal with, this town was constantly under attack from pirates and privateers (sort of legal pirates). The notorious Sir Francis Drake led the attack on St. Augustine that burned down the town more than thirty years before the pilgrims ever stepped foot on Plymouth Rock!
Here, explorers will find one of the world’s largest collections of authentic pirate artifacts dating back to the 16th century including rarely-seen shipwreck treasures from the vault of the Florida Division of Historical Resources. It’s an interactive historical experience where explorers get to see, hear, touch, and smell the past and that includes artifacts such as Blackbeard’s blunderbuss (a wide-muzzled forerunner of the shotgun that was capable of firing a spray of anything you could cram into it), one of the three remaining “Jolly Roger” pirate flags, perhaps the only known authentic pirate chest in existence, and pieces of gold, gold bars and silver recovered from pirate shipwrecks including Blackbeard’s “Queen Anne’s Revenge”.
We spent hours exploring this museum and strongly suggest 2 special features we enjoyed the heck out of. First, make sure to find out when the pirate-guided tours are scheduled for the day because there’s really something quite magical about having a pirate explain and guide you through history and second, don’t bypass “Blackbeard’s Last Battle” (sorry, no spoiler). This destination is so much more than a museum, it’s an immersive and emotional high seas adventure you’ll never forget and one that explorers of every age will undoubtedly enjoy!
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is open daily from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. and is located at 12 S. Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, 32084. Call (877) 467-5863 or visit ThePirateMuseum.com for more information.
A1A Explorers: Present your un-stamped passport and take home a free souvenir 3-D postcard!
JACKIE ROBINSON BALLPARK
Next, explorers will head to Daytona Beach to relive history in the ballpark where ground-breaking player Jackie Robinson made history.
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1998, this historic ballpark opened on June 4, 1914 as the Daytona City Island Ballpark and at the time, consisted of a baseball field and set of wooden bleachers. On March 17, 1946, City Island Ballpark hosted more than just a baseball game. On that day, Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson played in the first integrated, professional baseball game.
We’re thrilled to include this destination on the tour as it’s the ballpark where Jackie Robinson first broke the color barrier in baseball in 1946, a year before his Major League Baseball debut. After Sanford and Jacksonville cancelled games, Daytona proudly let Jackie play. In honor of the legend, the park was renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark in 1989 as the stadium served as host to the first racially integrated game in baseball history.
Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson was well known for his trademark steals of home plate and explorers can not only learn more about how he did it, they can try for themselves on the base path. Similar interactive displays allow explorers to compare their skills in basketball and track and field, sports in which Jackie Robinson competed and excelled in while attending Pasadena Junior College and UCLA.
Grab your passport and head to Daytona Beach to relive history in the ballpark where ground-breaking player Jackie Robinson made history and as the ballpark is now the home of the Daytona Tortugas, be sure to check out the schedule before you go and enjoy America’s favorite pastime with a baseball-filled day at this historic destination.
The Jackie Robinson Ballpark Museum is free to explorers and open M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weekend hours only when there’s a home game) and located at 105 E. Orange Avenue, Daytona Beach, 32114. Call (386) 257-3172 or visit the MiLB.com website for more information.
A1A Explorers: Present your un-stamped passport at the merchandise store/gift shop and take 10% off all purchases!
I DREAM OF JEANNIE
Next, explorers will make their way to Cocoa Beach to reach back more than half a century to the entertainment industry and an aerospace era when NASA was the forerunner of technology.
Starting in the 1950s when the Air Force developed the Eastern Test Range at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to modern day Kennedy Space Center, nearly all the important milestones of the space program started here on the Space Coast. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy began a dramatic expansion of the U.S. space program and committed the nation to the ambitious goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
As so often happens in the entertainment industry that art imitates life, in 1965 during the popularity of the space program and in an effort to compete with the 1964 success of ABC’s fantasy sitcom “Bewitched”, the following season NBC aired “I Dream of Jeannie”.
The show’s plot stranded NASA astronaut Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman pre-Dynasty days) on a deserted island after his spacecraft malfunctioned. While on the island, Tony happens across an unusual bottle and ultimately releases a 2000 year-old genie from ancient Babylon called “Jeannie” (Barbara Eden) who can materialize objects or control any situation with the blink of an eye and who as a result of her release, becomes permanently indebted to Major Nelson. Overly eager to please her new master, Jeannie routinely gets Tony into improbable dilemmas when he takes her back to Florida.
In 2012 in honor of the iconic TV hit series that ran for 139 episodes, the Brevard County Historical Commission dedicated a special historical sign (in addition to the street naming) to celebrate the show’s link to Cocoa Beach and because there was no way to get a passport stamp at this location, we’re sending explorers about a mile and a half north of the street sign to I Dream of Yogurt, where explorers can experience this theme-based shop, get their passports stamped and watch I Dream of Jeannie reruns on perpetual loop.
I Dream of Jeannie Lane is located near 1500 N. Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, 32931. It’s next to the dog park in Lori Wilson Park. The park is free to explorers and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The passport stamp is available at I Dream of Yogurt located at 4295 N. Atlantic Avenue and is open daily from 11:30 a.m to 10 p.m.
A1A Explorers: Present your un-stamped passport at I Dream of Yogurt and get 20% off your entire purchase!
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1994, this next stop takes explorers to Vero Beach to explore Waldo’s at the Historic Driftwood Resort and the legend of Waldo E. Sexton (1885-1967).
Waldo Sexton arrived in Vero Beach in the 1920’s and proceeded to build the Driftwood Inn, one of the most extraordinary structures in the South. Sexton built his sprawling dream of cypress logs and pecky-cypress paneling from the swamps around the Blue Cypress Lake about 26 miles away. Waldo built the two buildings which comprise the Driftwood Inn and Restaurant in 1935.
Townspeople who remembered the 1930’s describe Sexton pacing up and down the beach shouting verbal instructions to the crews, who worked by voice command only, without plans. The result was a two-story hotel with balconies everywhere surrounded by pole railings with turned or peeled-log supports. Once Sexton finished the inn, he began to fill it, inside and out, with a mish-mash of objects ranging from ships’ wheels to cannons and from early Italian chests to plush sofas, gleaned from every corner of the state and around the globe.
The Driftwood affectionately calls this the “Menagerie of Monstrosities.” Certainly the most famous part of this menagerie is the vast collection of bells. Some were purchased from missions in Mexico, others once graced such proud locomotives as Old 97 of Virginia or the local line that ran to Key West. One of the bells belonged to Harriet Beecher Stowe. Anyone is free to ring a bell or two when the spirit moves them. Waldo has been called “one of the most colorful persons that Florida has ever known,” an “imaginative entrepreneur,” and an “outrageous, old time eccentric” and when you visit this fantastical property you’ll undoubtedly know why.
As an added bonus, from the extraordinary outdoor space at Waldo’s you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Vero Beach and if you’re out on the patio at low tide, you might also catch a glimpse of 1894 shipwrecked SS Beconshire which rests about 150 yards off shore in 15-20 feet of water and if you watch the surface of the water carefully from shore at low tide, you can still see the ship peeking out from the surf.
Waldo’s is open daily from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and located at 3150 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach, 32963. Call (772) 231-7091 or visit WaldosVero.com for more information.
A1A Explorers: Present your un-stamped passport and get 10% off your entire check!
Next, explorers will head to Peanut Island in West Palm Beach to explore an artifact of the Cold War – the JFK Bunker.
This fantastical destination made our list of featured destinations partly because it’s located on an island and to get there, our brave community of explorers will need access to some type of watercraft which in our opinion, makes the adventure that much more epic!
At this stop, you’ll visit Peanut Island and the internationally important artifact of the Cold War, the JFK Bunker; a bomb shelter built and made available to President John F. Kennedy and his entourage during the Cuban Missile Crisis as a last resort in case of a nuclear attack.
In late December 1961, the Secret Service and a contingent of Navy Seabees spent two weeks on Peanut Island at the mouth of the Lake Worth Inlet. Deep in the island’s man-made dune, they built a worse-case scenario bunker for the leader of the free world in the event the worst case happened while Kennedy vacationed at his family’s Palm Beach estate. In that event, the president had a radiation-proof (it really wasn’t) shelter a short boat ride away and more than 55 years later, has created a blast from the past (no pun intended) that’s an extraordinary place to explore.
Pack a picnic lunch, bring your beach and snorkel gear and prepare to spend the entire day here (there’s a campsite on the island too if you’d prefer to spend the night) because after you’re done visiting the Bunker, explorers can enjoy the perimeter of the island as it’s been made available to the public as a park. With crystal clear water that practically begs you to jump in, explorers are sure to find a spot that’s a good fit either in the life guarded swimming areas or the more secluded areas off the beaten path. We recommend you explore the entire perimeter of the island because there’s no danger of getting lost (it’s a big circle) and you’ll likely find your perfect spot. Here’s a link to a really helpful island brochure.
Tours of the JFK Bunker are given Thursday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (561) 832-7428 or visit the Palm Beach Maritime Museum for more information.
If you need water transportation, you can reach Peanut Island from either the Riviera Beach Marina or Sailfish Marina. Either marina you choose, you’ll find drinking and dining options and live music on select days. The Peanut Island Shuttle from Riviera Beach is a quicker ride and drops explorers off directly in front of the JFK Bunker. The Sailfish Marina water taxi takes explorers to the opposite side of the island from the JFK Bunker near the entrance to the campsite. Here are the contact numbers – Peanut Island Shuttle (561) 723-2028 and Sailfish Marina Water Taxi (561) 683-8294.
Our next stop takes explorers to a Polynesian Village in the heart of Fort Lauderdale.
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2014, Mai-Kai opened its doors in 1956 and when we first started to research this destination we thought it might be a quirky cool place for a happy hour destination but what we found was a Polynesian themed restaurant steeped in history and tradition.
When the Thornton brothers opened their restaurant in 1956, it was the most expensive ($400,000) restaurant construction project anywhere that year. It consisted of four rooms that could accommodate 150 guests and had a small gift stand by the front door. Within their first year of operation, the brothers recouped their building costs and turned a small profit. The next year, the restaurant introduced the Polynesian Revue which to this day, remains the Mai-Kai’s main attraction.
About a decade later, the restaurant underwent a massive expansion and today it seats more than 700 and while much of the original wide-ranging menu remains the same, they are perhaps most well known for their tiki-cocktails whose recipes have been a closely held secret. Only the Head Mixologist knows the recipes and he or she is obligated to sign a paper stating that the recipes will not be given away. Many of the recipes have remained the same since 1956.
The Mai-Kai authentically recreates a Polynesian Village complete with tiki torches, a thatch roof, tropical gardens with an orchid collection, giant tiki sculptures, lagoons and waterfalls. And whether you choose to marvel as costumed warriors and maidens perform dances from the South Pacific, dine on tropical dishes, sip exotic drinks from an award winning menu, or enjoy live ukulele music (yes please!) from their South Seas saloon called the Molokai Lounge, we hope you’ll find the Mai-Kai a great place to celebrate life.
Since the Mai-Kai opened in 1956 the restaurant has received considerable acclaim including Best Dining Entertainment, Best Unique Dining Experience, recognized by Restaurants and Institutions as one of Americas Top 100 Independent Restaurants, and is home to the nation’s longest running Polynesian Dance Revue.
Mai-Kai is open 6 days a week (closed Mondays) Tuesday-Thursday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 11:45 p.m.; Sunday 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is located at 3599 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, 33308. Call (954) 563-3272 or visit MaiKai.com for more information.
A1A Explorers: Present your un-stamped passport and get 25% off all gift-shop purchases!
THE AFRICAN QUEEN
The next stop takes explorers to Key Largo to explore a historic steamboat called The African Queen.
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1992, the iconic vessel The African Queen has been the pride and joy of Key Largo since 1982.
The African Queen was built in Lytham, England in 1912 for service in Africa for the East Africa British Railways company and used to shuttle cargo, missionaries and hunting parties across the Victoria Nile and Lake Albert. In 1951, John Huston saw the vessel and commissioned her for the movie he was directing “The African Queen” and renamed the steamboat after her starring role. Humphrey Bogart won the only Oscar of his career for this movie and the movie gave Katharine Hepburn her fifth Academy Award nomination.
17 years after the film, the vessel was purchased by a restaurant owner in San Francisco, then in 1970 a man from Oregon purchased her for charter operation and brought her to Florida. In 1982 she was discovered languishing in a Ocala cow pasture when she was purchased and moved to Key Largo. In 2001 the engine broke yet she remained on display for tourists, locals, and film buffs to view until 2012 when she was lovingly restored as she had appeared in the film in time for her centennial-year celebration.
The newly restored African Queen is again plying the waters of beautiful Key Largo offering daily canal cruises which depart from the Marina Del Mar marina which is part of the Holiday Inn Complex at Mile Marker 100. So get comfortable and watch her steam pressure build to take you on a sightseeing cruise along the Port Largo Canals to the ocean where you’ll do an about turn and head back (ask the Captain for a turn at the helm) and enjoy her whistle blowing along the way.
The African Queen offers explorers daily canal and dinner cruises. Explorers are also welcome to see and photograph her while she’s docked in Marina Del Mar located 99701 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo, 33037 where you can purchase cruise tickets and/or get your passport stamped. Call (305) 451-8080 or visit AfricanQueenFLKeys.com for more information.
A1A Explorers: Present your un-stamped passport and enjoy a 10% discount on all daily canal cruises!
The next stop takes explorers to Marathon to explore the extraordinary history of Pigeon Key.
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1990, on early Spanish charts Pigeon Key was known as Cayo Paloma (dove or pigeon key). Most believe it was likely named after the Keys white-crowned pigeon that migrated to the area from Cuba.
There was little use for the 5+ acre island until Henry Flagler needed it to complete his Overseas Highway and the island served as a base camp for workers during construction. From 1908 to 1912, more than 400 workers lived in the railroad village on Pigeon Key, which had a post office, commissary, and one-room school.
Today, explorers can spend the entire day on the island exploring the fully restored turn-of-the-century buildings, soaking up subtropical sun on a picnic, and snorkeling the tidal shoreline.
Tickets can be purchased to access Pigeon Key by ferry near Mile Marker 47 at the Visitor Center & Gift Shop located inside the railroad car. According to the local historian we met inside, this is an original railroad car from Flagler’s railroad that actually served as his personal dining car (the ceiling inside is super cool).
Pigeon Key is open daily (weather permitting) and tickets can be purchased from the Visitor’s Center located at 1 Knights Key Blvd., Marathon, 33050. Call (305) 743-5999 or visit PigeonKey.net for more information.
A1A Explorers: Present your un-stamped passport and receive $10 tickets to explore Pigeon Key!
EXPLORERS’ NOTE: The railroad car Visitor Center is relocating locating! Please call (305) 743-5999 before you go to make sure you’ve got the most current information; here’s a link to an August update regarding the changes.
The next stop takes explorers to the southern-most destination on the tour, Key West to explore the quirky coolness of Blue Heaven.
An ancient range, a stainless steel sink and a century-old history of entertaining the islanders sat inside the shuttered blue building on Petronia Street in the heart of old Key West until 1992 when Suanne the artist and Richard the writer cooked and served black beans, rice, and fish to their first lunch customers on the painted picnic tables under the tropical almond tree in the fine outdoor dining area.
One hundred years earlier, the owners of the Dade County Pine structure sold spirits to Key West and Florida Keys residents. Through the years the property has hosted cock fighting, gambling and Friday night boxing matches refereed by Ernest Hemingway. And when we found out there was a rooster graveyard on the property (yes, really) we knew all this quirky, cool history meant only one thing; a great fit for our community of explorers.
The outdoor courtyard is paved with the slate pool table tops from the days the downstairs operated as a billiard hall and ice cream parlor. A dance hall, a bordello and a playhouse have occupied the second floor. Today inside the Bordello Gallery above the restaurant, one can still peek through the sliding peep holes into the tiny rooms.
Blue Heaven is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10:30ish p.m. It’s located at 729 Thomas Street, Key West, 33040. Call (305) 296-8666 or visit BlueHeavenKW.com for more information.
A1A Explorers: Get your passport stamped in the gift shop and receive a seriously-cool free Blue Heaven bumper sticker as a keepsake souvenir!
EXPLORERS’ NOTE: Blue Heaven closes each year from the beginning of September until the middle of October; the 2017 schedule is September 5 through October 12!
Explorers Ready? Just grab a passport and start exploring; cheers to the places you’ll go, stories you’ll tell, and the A1A-mazing memories you’ll create that will last a lifetime!