The history of Florida’s north Atlantic coast  is inexorably intertwined with the history of the country itself. The founding of the St. Augustine  colony in 1565 marked the beginning of continuous settlement by Europeans in what became the United States. Although other Florida  colonies had been established by explorers in the decade beforehand, it wasn’t until Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés successfully established St. Augustine that the Europeans gained a permanent foothold in the area.
Within a year, the first child of European ancestry was born in St. Augustine, and decades of Spanish dominance over the area began. Despite being burned by Francis Drake in 1586, nearly destroyed by pirates in 1668, and attacked by the English in the 1740 “Siege of St. Augustine,” St. Augustine was the nexus of the colonizers’ power until 1763, when Florida was acquired by the English under the Treaty of Paris.
As with much of the eastern part of Florida, however, a substantial amount of the area’s growth can be traced to one man: Henry Flagler. Jacksonville was where Flagler first began to realize Florida’s potential as a tourist destination, and a visit to St. Augustine in 1883 helped him crystallize his vision for the state as a mecca for warmth-seeking northerners.
In 1885 he began construction on his first Florida venture, the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, the site of which is now Flagler College , and began buying up local and regional rail lines to form his Florida East Coast Railway. Soon Flagler was staking claims to real estate up and down Florida’s east coast, from the St. Johns River near Jacksonville  south to Miami  and the Florida Keys . For much of that time—1885–1901—Flagler managed his Florida operations out of St. Augustine, and built a palatial residence there called Kirkwood. As Flagler’s vision of Florida blossomed, so did St. Augustine, and again the city was the locus of the state’s evolution.
As the state began to grow, so did the rest of the area, but it was rather slow going. Jacksonville was established in 1791 as Cowford, named for the nearby narrowing of the St. Johns River, which allowed farmers to get their cattle across, and though the city rode on St. Augustine ’s tourism coattails for a while, yellow fever outbreaks in the 1890s and a massive fire in 1901 greatly hindered the city’s progress.
In the 1910s, however, multiple banks began to open operations in the city, a development that still defines Jacksonville’s identity. Ironically, due to a notorious “consolidation referendum” in 1967, Jacksonville became the largest and most populous city in Florida, jump-starting a wave of growth that continues to this day.
Daytona  wasn’t founded until 1870, and until vacationers began arriving in droves in the 1950s and 1960s, it was little more than a sleepy coastal village. The area around Titusville  experienced expansion of an altogether different sort; what was once a region of endless citrus groves and uninhabitable mosquito-infested marshes was transformed by the arrival of NASA in the 1950s into a hub of scientists, engineers, and astronauts.
More than any other part of Florida , the north Atlantic coast area  is deeply aware of its history, and more possessed of remnants of “Old Florida” than you are likely to find elsewhere. Thanks to rather sparse population densities and a substantial amount of acreage removed from development due to government activities—as well as the area’s primary role in the colonial history of the United States—it’s still incredibly easy to step back in time in this part of the state.