~ Ponte Vedra Beach & Palm Valley, Florida ~
"With Mickler's Landing, Sawgrass & Nocatee"
Just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville sits a long barrier island containing a string of funky, laid-back and cosmopolitan beach communities known collectively as Jacksonville's Beaches. Ponte Vedra Beach lies just south of them, across the county line in St. Johns County. Despite being in a different county, the community is actually due east of Jacksonville's southernmost neighborhoods, giving argument that Ponte Vedra Beach is basically a ritzy extention of Jacksonville's Beaches.
Exclusive Ponte Vedra Beach boasts the gargantuan oceanfront mansions of millionaires, world-class resorts including the five diamond rated Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and its sister resort The Lodge & Club, and shopping villages filled with high-end boutiques. It is actually said to be the third wealthiest community in the state behind Palm Beach and Naples.
Driving down swanky Ponte Vedra Blvd, the average person will see showy oceanfront mansion after another. The road even cuts right through the center of the grounds of two luxury oceanfront spa resorts. (Just be very wary of the slow, slow speed limit).
One thing you probably won't see along this stretch are public accesses. By law, public accesses are required, however, they have become obscured by shrubbery and other creative deterrents. That makes Ponte Vedra Beach, like many other exclusive oceanfront communities, a prime battleground for public access rights. So, how can you see what these grand homes look like from the beach side?
One fantastic public access lies near the intersection of Ponte Vedra Blvd., Mickler Rd. and S.R. A1A in what the locals call Mickler's Landing. Here, ample parking and facilities are provided, allowing beachcombers to enjoy both a priceless ocean view and a multi-million dollar backdrop. In contrast to the largely whitish-gray sand with occasional shell pockets that characterizes much of Jacksonville's shoreline, the sand at Mickler's Landing is coarser and more peach in color due to the increased presence of coquina (ground up shells). On a related note, Mickler's Landing is also known as one of the best spots in the state for finding sharks' teeth. Visitors may also notice that the water here has more of a turquoise-green hue than it does at many of the other area beaches. The contrast of peach and turquoise is quite stunning.
Is it Ponte Vedra Beach, Palm Valley, Sawgrass or Nocatee?
One source of confusion for some is that the name "Ponte Vedra Beach" or "Ponte Vedra" is generally applied to the whole unincorporated northeastern corner of St. Johns County. Ponte Vedra Beach is actually just one of a few unincorporated areas whose boundaries seem to blend ambiguously.
While driving around or talking to locals you may also see or hear the names Palm Valley, Sawgrass and Nocatee. Palm Valley sits on the back side of Ponte Vedra Beach, straddling the Intracoastal Waterway. It is much less pretentious, a mish-mash of mansions, country cottages, upscale golf communities, horse ranches and smaller bungalows. It is also home to a few very casual waterfront restaurants along the Intracoastal. One of these restaurants, Barbara Jean's, happens to be one of my favorite restaurants (try the salmon). At one time the residents of Palm Valley and Ponte Vedra Beach voted on whether to incorporate together as one city. The resolution failed. Palm Valley seems proud to not be Ponte Vedra Beach -- and vise-versa.
Meanwhile, Sawgrass is another unincorporated area south of PVB and east of Palm Valley along the coast. Sawgrass is home to the Tournament Players Championship, which attracts top golfers to compete in May for the largest purse in professional golf. The TPC Course at Sawgrass is famous for its unique island green on the 17th hole. Of course, when the tournament takes place, all the credit is given to Ponte Vedra Beach as the host site. By the way, in case you are wondering, Mickler's Landing, as near as I can figure, seems to be at the south end of Sawgrass.
Finally, a newer planned development has been emerging on the mainland between the Intracoastal Waterway and US 1. It is called Nocatee, and at build-out should boast its own town center and community water park.
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