Do you crave authentic local favorites when you travel? If so, you’re in good company. On a recent trip to Florida’s Historic Coast, I learned where to eat in Ponte Vedra like a local. Here’s how it happened…
Ponte Vedra epitomizes coastal charm and sophistication that blends seamlessly with its history. The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club built in 1928, pictured here, provided an anchor for the seaside community. ©Dawn Damico
We sat at the bar at Nona Blue after driving several hours to Ponte Vedra, Florida. You can learn a lot at a bar. I couldn’t resist ordering a bowl of their Shrimp and Fire Roasted Corn Chowder and a glass of Tuscan red wine.
“Good choice!” said the man next to me. His name was Tom.
“You come here a lot?” I asked. I know it sounded like a cheesy pickup line, but I was curious about what qualified him to know what was good.
A Local Shares His Favorite Restaurants
He shared that he moved to Ponte Vedra Beach (aka PVB) about seven years ago, loves good food, works at a local restaurant, and was happy to share where he goes to eat and where he takes friends who visit. He gave me a great tip on what to do in Ponte Vedra when you’re interested in history.
It was my first time in Ponte Vedra (although we were in St. Augustine about a month earlier), and I found myself captivated by this coastal gem. This is my kind of beach town.
In this article, I’ll give you an overview of Ponte Vedra, where we stayed, and then I’ll share the recommendations for where to eat in Ponte Vedra like a local and what we thought of them. Let’s get started!
*See the map below for all locations mentioned
About Ponte Vedra Beach
Ponte Vedra epitomizes coastal charm and sophistication. It is home to the PGA TOUR and miles of pristine beaches. ©Dawn Damico
Nestled between the vibrant hub of Jacksonville and historic St. Augustine along scenic A1A, Ponte Vedra epitomizes coastal charm and sophistication. It is home to the PGA TOUR and miles of pristine beaches. However,long before golf courses and luxury homes graced its shores, it was a mining town.
Titanium, zircon, and rutile (a form of titanium) were coaxed from the sand. However, as demand for the metals decreased, a new type of treasure was revealed. A visionary shifted his focus from the sand to the beauty of the coastline. The seeds of Ponte Vedra’s transformation were planted and this stretch of prime beachfront property blossomed into a premier resort community.
Fun Fact: The first nine-hole golf course in Ponte Vedra was built in 1922 by the National Lead Company for its workers to use in what was then called Mineral City. This rugged outpost, teeming with rattlesnakes, alligators, and mosquitoes, has since evolved into a picturesque seaside destination.
Wide, Pet-Friendly Beaches
Its beaches are wide, flat, and dog-friendly for leashed pets. You’ll enjoy looking at the idyllic cottages and luxury beach box homes lining the coastline along the dunes. If you’re like me, you’ll dream of your own beach getaway or perhaps your next beach home. It’s easy to imagine creating family seaside memories, playing on the sand, in the water, and looking for treasures.
One of our servers had a tattoo of a shark’s tooth on her forearm. When I asked about it, she said that she enjoyed combing the beaches for shells and teeth.
The town is pretty. It’s upscale, relaxed, and inviting. Thankfully, the rattlesnakes, alligators, and mosquitoes that plagued early residents in Mineral City have subsided. What remains is a rich history blended with modern luxury and the everpresent allure of seaside living.
Culture in Ponte Vedra
Ponte Vedra Concert Hall hosts over 140 concerts and events each year. Once the site of a Baptist Church, the venue can transform from 450 seated theater guests into a 900-person standing-room-only concert.
Art lovers will enjoy the First Coast Cultural Center. They have events, art programs and workshops, and revolving exhibits from local artists.
Shopping in Ponte Vedra
From our hotel, shopping was just a short walk across the street at Sawgrass Village. This outdoor shopping center has a “town square” feel to it. For morning coffee, you have Foxtail Coffee company, which has a cozy atmosphere for some morning work or meeting with friends. There are boutique shops, specialty stores, restaurants, a taproom, and places and events where the community gathers.
Where to Eat in Ponte Vedra Like a Local
Fresh seafood, farm-to-fork options, served in beautiful restaurants throughout Ponte Vedra Beach. This is a dining area at Valley Smoke BBQ that overlooks the Intracoastal Watersay. ©Dawn Damico
Besides being within walking distance from the Marriott, the best part of Nona Blue is that you can sit outside at the bar overlooking the pond. When Florida nights are perfect, or you have the bonus of a full moon in the sky as we did, it simply adds to the ambiance. The soup was delicious (as promised), and we also ordered the mussels. It was a generous serving enjoyed with glasses of red wine.
Foxtail Coffee Co.
Even though Foxtail Coffee Co. is a chain found throughout Florida, the service, food, and atmosphere welcome you to come in, sit, and stay awhile. ©Dawn Damico
Foxtail Coffee Co. is a familiar favorite, so seeing one in Ponte Vedra was fun. It has an inviting ambiance with wood plank flooring and rustic shiplap accents. The chai tea was perfectly complemented by creamy coconut milk. Paired with a slice of warmed banana nut bread, it is the perfect way to start the day.Beyond their signature beverages, they also serve egg sandwiches and classic bagels.
The Cabana Beach Club
Along with the heated pool and direct access to the beach, the Cabana Beach Club has several restaurants to choose from. When I arrived, they were serving breakfast; however, my goal was to walk the beach. The food looked and smelled delicious, although I didn’t eat there.
1912 Ocean Bar and Rooftop
Seafood, small plates, cocktails, and wine overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. What could be better? 1912 Ocean Bar and Rooftop is located at the Cabana Beach Club, so spending the day at the beach can make this one of your dining experiences!
Valley Smoke BBQ
A cozy corner, extensive selection of bourbon, slow-smoked BBQ, southern-inspired seafood, and a feel of authentic America ©Dawn Damico
Barbecue, bourbon, and smoke…this is southern cooking. One of the first things you’ll notice at Valley Smoke BBQ is the cozy corner with a brown leather couch and an extensive bourbon selection. The restaurant overlooks the serene waters of the Intracoastal Waterway and features slow-smoked BBQ, southern-inspired seafood, and a feel of authentic America. We followed our local’s recommendation and ordered salmon, which was served over fresh vegetables and a corn puree. The sweetness of the corn and the smoke in the salmon were a surprising combination and lick-the-plate delicious!
We asked one of the servers what his favorite dish was. Without hesitation he said, hands down, come back for brunch and order the shrimp and grits. It’s been a minute since I had that, and it sounded amazing. He also shared that he was opening a restaurant serving Poke, so watch for that in the Spring!
Eleven South Bistro Bar
The bistro is within walking distance of the sand, so be sure to take a stroll and enjoy the expansive beach views before dinner. ©Dawn Damico
I loved the patio at Eleven South Bistro Bar! It was simple, elegant, and cleverly shielded from the weather. The bistro is within walking distance of the sand, so be sure to take a stroll and enjoy the expansive beach views before dinner, or take a walk along the sand after your meal. Located in South Jacksonville Beach, it’s approachable fine dining.
Our server explained the menu’s regular items that included a rack of lamb, and a black truffle and burrata small plate. I was initially interested in ordering the rack of lamb; however, Triple Tail was one of the specials. Because that’s one of our son’s favorite fish, and he knows his fish, I ordered that. My husband ordered blackened salmon served on top of a colorful salad. The fish was cooked perfectly and the vegetables were phenomenal. The snap peas on my plate had a ton of flavor. Paired with red wine, the meal and experience were memorable.
Mr. Chubby’s Wings
When you want to see a game, head to Chubby’s. That’s where the locals are, and it’s where you’ll find walls of screens to watch your favorite teams. We were there during a football playoff game. If you love football, you know how much fun it is to cheer and shout with a bunch of like minded fans in a bar. ‘Nuff said!
Where to Stay in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
The Sawgrass Marriott Hotel provides a complimentary shuttle ride to the oceanfront Cabana Beach Club, which offers direct access to Ponte Vedra Beach. ©Dawn Damico
Although there are several great accommodations to book in Ponte Vedra Beach, we stayed at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa. You’ll feel like you are staying at a park because the property spreads over 65 acres. This includes the central hotel, an event center, a spa, restaurants, four pools, and more.
The Resort is located directly across from Sawgrass Village, and there are many places in and around the property to enjoy your morning walk. Golfers appreciate that they are next door to the TPC Sawgrass Golf Club, shoppers love the outdoor Village and Foxtail Coffee, and diners will enjoy the restaurants within walking distance. There’s also a Publix grocery store in the Village.
The hotel provides a complimentary shuttle ride to the oceanfront Cabana Beach Club, which offers direct access to Ponte Vedra Beach. This is a convenient way to get to the beach without having to drive or find parking. Just pack what you need for the day and enjoy the heated pool at the Club or miles of beach! When you’re hungry, they have restaurant options and a rooftop bar.
You’ll feel like you are staying at a park because the Sawgrass Marriott spreads over 65 acres. This includes the central hotel, an event center, a spa, restaurants, four pools, and more ©Dawn Damico
We didn’t have our pup with us, but the hotel is pet-friendly. I believe pets are allowed in the “Villa” section of the hotel. Although we stayed in the main hotel, we toured one of the villas. It was a one-bedroom apartment-style room with a small kitchen and dining area, living room, and a large balcony overlooking the greenbelts and trees. That was nice; however, it is set apart from the main hotel and pools. They are are two to three stories, with stucco on the exterior.
The villas looks like what you might find in a suburban apartment or condo unit. Inside, the room itself was nice. Consider the extra distance from the main hotel if you’re there for a conference. If you have a family, being away from the main area may suit you, as might the kitchen and extra living room area. You can ask to see one of those rooms when you arrive and decide if it’s right for your stay.
Ponte Vedra Inn and Club
The Inn and Club made a name for itself because of its hospitality and service. I noticed this immediately when I walked in the front door. ©Dawn Damico
No matter where you decide to stay, The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club deserves your attention. Ponte Vedra was built around the clubhouse, which became Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. What started as a log cabin and clubhouse on the beach in 1928 is now a sprawling luxury resort that retains its historic charm. Areas of the first floor and some surrounding buildings are available for non-guests to view.
The guy we met at the bar on our first night suggested that I take a walk to the Inn and Club. I’m glad I did.
Visiting the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club
The Inn and Club made a name for itself because of its hospitality and service. I noticed this immediately when I walked in the front door. Although the staff was having their morning meaning, one man broke away to greet me. I appreciated that! I told him that someone recommended that I see their hotel. He was happy to share a brief history, directed me to the rooms open to the public, which included a history hall, and extended the invitation to enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine on the patio.
After you peruse the history hall, be sure to enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine on the patio. ©Dawn Damico
The Club opened in 1928. According to the shuttle driver who dropped me off at the Cabana Beach Club, it will undergo some significant renovations in the near future. However, from the looks of things, The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club has aged well.
Walking through the lobby and adjacent rooms was like stepping back in time. Photos and news articles on the walls told the story of the hotel, the people, and the Ponte Vedra area. From their articles and artifacts, I learned:
- The first structure erected was a log cabin and clubhouse…on the beach, mind you!
- They caught 4 Nazi saboteurs during WWII at Ponte Vedra, who were sent by Hitler to take out American industrial plants and transportation centers;
- The SS Gulfamerica, loaded with 90,000 barrels of fuel oil, was sunk by a German U-boat off Ponte Vedra Beach in 1942…the sunken ship is still out there;
- They had a photo to honor a staff member who served as Seafoam Dining Room Captain for nearly four decades. Robert Van Marsh touched the lives of three generations of Ponte Vedra members with “graceful service, quiet sophistication and sparkling humor.”
Herb Peyton’s Influence at Ponte Vedra Inn
How Herb Peyton, who acquired the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club in 1983, influenced the direction of the Inn. He delivered papers when he was just a boy, grew up around the oil business, penned the autobiography “Newboy,” and was president of Gate Petroleum. His motto: Make the best use of your time and energy. His story (very short version) went something like this:
After serving in the military, Peyton bought a gas station in a rough part of town. He was shot at, whipped, and robbed several times, but that didn’t stop him. He transformed that little gas station into one of Florida’s largest privately held corporations.
Health and wellness were an important theme in his life. He ran marathons and helped bring Mayo [Cinic] to Jacksonville. In an interview, he said, “Exercise is a good reminder of the need to stay disciplined…. there’s no compound interest with exercise – you have to do it regularly, or you’ll lose your benefits.”
Could Ponte Vedra Be Your Florida Favorite?
The culinary options are just the beginning of what to do in Ponte Vedra and the Historic Coast. ©Dawn Damico
Although my time in Ponte Vedra was short, and we only scratched the surface of things to do, I would be happy to return. The beaches are inviting, and there are other trails and nature parks I would love to explore. Florida’s historic coast should be added to your list of places to visit.
Have you been here? I would love to hear what you loved about it! I keep an ongoing list of destination highlights to explore and am happy to add your recommendations to my list…
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