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North Florida, home to St. Augustine, America's oldest city, lives up to its moniker as "The First Coast" with a plethora of historical sites. But for seafood lovers, it's also known for its coveted Mayport shrimp, named for the 150-year-old fishing village where the shrimp are abundant.
These wild Atlantic shrimp are the perfect balance of sweet and savory, with thick meat similar to the texture of lobster. They are available year round but November and December yield the biggest and sweetest shrimp.
Early morning risers driving the coastal highway can spot the dozens of trawlers headed out for their daily catch. These shellfish are so beloved among the locals, Jacksonville's Minor League Baseball team is called "The Jumbo Shrimp."
So pack your jorts (we're casual here in Florida) and a hearty appetite, because we're taking you on a road trip along Florida's Shrimp Coast.
Where to Eat on Florida's Shrimp Coast
Your trip starts in Fernandina Beach, the northernmost city in Florida, a charming historic fishing village that is home to the region's annual shrimp festival.
The waterfront's Salty Pelican Bar & Grill is the place to get your first bite of Mayport shrimp while watching a spectacular sunset. Start with the Blackened Shrimp Poutine, French fries, and shrimp topped with andouille sausage gravy and cheese curds, but save room for the shrimp tacos, arguably the best along your journey.
Get some rest overnight at one of Amelia Island's charming B&Bs because there's an adventurous day ahead tracking down some of the top spots to eat Mayport shrimp.
As you head out for day two, don't skip shopping in Amelia Island's quaint boutique district. Then, drive south on A1A Coastal Highway towards Ft. George Dock, where you'll travel over the waters where the shrimp are harvested on the St. Johns River Ferry.
From there, you'll be right where you need to be, arriving in Mayport itself. Don your flip flops and pop into Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant for lunch where you can watch shrimpers unloading their bounty for the day.
Start with the Shrimp Nachos, served fried, grilled, or blackened with the usual chips, cheese, and pico, and topped with the region's iconic Datil Pepper hot sauce. (Buy a jar to take home! Trust us on this one!)
This is where you'll want to splurge on a fried shrimp basket to enjoy these little guys in the style that made them famous. For a healthier option, the Kona bowl filled with shrimp and veggies does not disappoint.
Let your belly settle and then prepare for a truly scenic drive south along A1A to Jacksonville Beach. This part of North Florida is known for its vibrant microbrewery scene, so if time allows, spend the afternoon tasting some of the regional specialties. Most serve shrimp on their menus, and Intuition Ale Works even has a shrimp-themed Kölsch, Shrimp Boat.
Florida is known for its uber-casual fish camps, and they never disappoint for their combination of amazing seafood with a side of people watching. Dinner tonight is at North Beach Fish Camp, which offers a bit more elevated ambience than the traditional camp's outdoor picnic tables. The signature Fish Camp Shrimp and Grits with White Wine Butter Sauce celebrates the sweetness and meatiness of Mayport shrimp.
Jacksonville Beach has a number of oceanfront hotels where you can recharge for your next dining day with a morning stroll along the white sand beach.
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No directions are necessary as you continue your drive south along A1A to St. Augustine. You'll want to spend several days exploring this historic city rich with Spanish influence, but stay on task: You're here to eat.
Cross the historic Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island and enjoy lunch (and a cocktail) at Conch House Marina Resort, and dine in a Jamaican-style grass hut sitting out over the water.
In your quest to eat Mayports in every possible combination, order the Shrimp Anastasia with mushrooms, tomatoes, prosciutto, white wine butter sauce, and Parmesan over pasta. It's a hearty lunch but you'll need it to explore some of the historic sites in this walkable city.
Wind down your trip at The Ice Plant, a 1927-era building that was once just what it sounds like, with some tapas and cocktails (also a great brunch spot). Order the Local Lemon Cured Shrimp served with fried baby artichokes and olive tapenade. Be sure to pop downstairs for a tour and whisky tasting at St. Augustine Distillery.
There's much more to eat and explore so spend the night at The Collector Inn, a unique collection of nine historic houses turned B&Bs. But get out and do some more walking and sightseeing because guess what—you're headed home back up A1A and there's a dozen more shrimp spots to hit on your drive home.