Florida’s East Coast presents a tremendously built-up mix of hotels, resorts, beaches and affluent developments north of Miami all the way to St Augustine. This is not to say this section of Florida is without merit, but it’s a lot less laidback than the state’s western Gulf Coast. Fort Lauderdale, no longer the party town of popular imagination, is today a sophisticated cultural centre with a bubbling, increasingly upmarket social scene. To the north, Boca Raton and Palm Beach are quiet, exclusive communities, their Mediterranean Revival mansions inhabited almost entirely by multimillionaires. Beyond Palm Beach, the coast is less developed; even the Space Coast, anchored by the extremely popular Kennedy Space Center, is smack in the middle of a nature preserve. Just north, Daytona Beach attracts race car- and motorcycle-enthusiasts with its festivals and the Daytona International Speedway. Just south of the Georgia state line, St Augustine is the spot where Spanish settlers established the first permanent European foothold in North America.
By car, the scenic route along the coast is Hwy-A1A, which sticks to the ocean side of the Intracoastal Waterway, formed when the rivers dividing the mainland from the barrier islands were joined and deepened during World War II. When necessary, Hwy-A1A turns inland and links with the much less picturesque US-1. The speediest road in the region, I-95, runs about ten miles west of the coastline, and is only worthwhile if you’re in a hurry.