More than 300 years ago, sites like the coquina quarries located within Anastasia State Park were busy with workers hauling out blocks of rock. With hand tools, they hewed out blocks of the soft shellstone and pried the squares loose along natural layers in the rock. The blocks were loaded onto ox-drawn carts then barged across Matanzas Bay to the town of St. Augustine. The blocks were used to construct the Castillo de San Marcos and many other buildings. The beach at Anastasia Island became a state park in 1949.
Anastasia State Park has long been a favorite vacation and recreational site for both locals and tourists. Originally known as South Beach, today's Anastasia State Park was once home to several distinctive local tourist attractions. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm was located here from the late 1800s to 1921 and was known as the South Beach Alligator Farm. In 1893, during a boring for an artesian well a mineral flow was discovered. After two years, the mineral and burning qualities of the spring were placed on exhibit and it became known as "The Burning Spring" - another popular tourist stop. Visitors also enjoyed a ride on horseback along the area now known as Conch Island, a parcel of land which became connected to Anastasia Island and the park after Hurricane Dora in 1964. The alligator farm and spring are now gone and horseback riding is no longer allowed at the park, but the natural beauty that has always attracted folks to Anastasia Island remains.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged a new inlet linking Matanzas Bay with the Atlantic Ocean in the early 1940s, the tip of the peninsula they bisected, called North Point, grew into what is known today as Conch Island. The island is named for fisherman Florence D. Edge, known locally as "Conch." Over the years, tides and currents carried sand from the vicinity of Jacksonville Beach to the shores of the peninsula tip and caused it to more than double in size. As the island grew, it engulfed a shoal called Crazy Bank and tied into Bird Island. In 1964, after Hurricane Dora deposited even more sand, Conch Island was linked to Anastasia Island and what is now Anastasia State Park.
More than 300 years ago, the Old Spanish Quarry was busy with workmen hauling out blocks of coquina, much like men in the photo from 1939. The word coquina means "tiny shell" in Spanish. It is relatively soft and easy to cut while in the ground and hardens when exposed to air. It also had a unique feature that made it ideal for fort construction. When ships bombarded the Castillo de San Marcos, built of coquina, the walls simply absorbed the cannonballs. The fort was never captured in battle. Coquina rock is part of a sedimentary formation that underlies much of the Atlantic shore of Florida. The rock is a mixture of shell fragments and quartz grains bound together by calcium carbonate. The quarry, located within the park, is a protected historic site on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1969, a photographer captured the striking beauty of Anastasia's wilderness overlooking Salt Run. Much has changed in the thirty years since. The 70-site campground existing then has expanded to include 139 sites. Historic State Road A1A, once running through the park, was re-routed in the 1970s following destructive storms and erosion. Today, the old A1A serves as a park road, while the newer highway skirts the the park boundary. Even with these man-made and natural changes, one thing has not changed at Anastasia: the opportunity for visitors to come, relax and enjoy the natural beauty Florida has to offer.
Known as South Beach to locals, and acquired by the state of Florida in 1949, Anastasia State Park is located near historic St. Augustine on Anastasia Island. The park boasts a broad beach and lagoon bordered by rich tidal marshes. Anastasia has long been a favorite playground for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Camping, beachcombing, swimming, picnicking, windsurfing, hiking, wildlife viewing and boating are all popular activities. A self-guided nature trail guides visitors through a maritime hammock on ancient sand dunes. Anglers can haul in the big catch at Anastasia. The park's campground is in a wooded area within easy walking distance of the beach. The park also offers many recreational opportunities to visitors with disabilities.