America's Scenic Byways

A1A River to Sea Trail

12 miles - 20 minutes.

The story of the A1A River to Sea Trail Scenic Highway is the story of man's existence with nature and the importance of the river and the sea.

Along this byway, evidence has been discovered of the earliest inhabitants of the corridor: prehistoric animals such as the mastodon, camel, tapir and sloth. The native inhabitants of Central Florida migrated seasonally to enjoy this area's variety of resources, as evidenced by the shell middens and sand burial mounds. Remnants remain in sites along the corridor. The Spanish (1565-1763) were interested in the area as a military outpost and a point of departure for missionaries to establish missions among the native inhabitants.

The English (1763-1783) were quick to recognize the importance of the area for its naval stores (tar, pitch, turpentine and resin used for caulking and rigging wooden ships), the availability of oak for shipbuilding, and the transportation accessibility because of the river to sea link.

During the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821) there was a renewed interest in the corridor, with Spain seeking to turn the area into a profitable agricultural complex. Several Spanish plantations were built in the area and the archaeological remains of General Joseph Hernandez's MalaCompra Plantation is located at Bings Landing Park. In this area they grew sea island cotton, sugar, and oranges.

An oceanarium was constructed in 1938 as the world's first underwater motion picture studio. From its opening, the oceanarium drew interested visitors and became one of Florida's leading tourist attractions. Now known as Marineland, the oceanarium is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. After World War II, Marineland became a "watering hole" for literary icons such as Ernest Hemingway, Thornton Wilder and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, whose husband, Norton Baskin, operated the Dolphin Restaurant. Marineland is still being enjoyed by visitors today.

The A1A River & Sea Trail Scenic Highway still reflects many images of "Old Florida" which are rapidly becoming extinct and should be preserved.