POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

Catch waves, whales at the pier in Flagler Beach

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When someone at the next table is re-enacting a Corona TV ad — the ones where a beer bottle is the silent centerpiece in some idyllic beach scene — you know you've found a laid-back spot.

You could do a series of those ads at the rustic High Tide at Snack Jack's, a surfer-friendly beachfront institution about a mile south of the Flagler Pier on State Road A1A in Flagler Beach. The place has been around for 60 years, a well-worn old shack that's all weathered wood, creaky screen doors and picnic tables.

It was next to one of those picnic tables on the tiny, open-air back patio that my new friends at the table next to me propped that beer bottle on a wooden railing and snapped the bottle with the ocean in the background.

A good idea.

A stop at Snack Jack's is a good idea for a jumping-off point to the unspoiled charms of Flagler Beach. Compared with its flashier neighbors in St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, this stretch of shops, houses and unspoiled landscape can easily go unnoticed. It had been years since I ventured out there, but I found a lot to like, especially the secluded dunes next to the restaurant.

It was high tide on my late-afternoon visit, a reminder that the surfing theme at Snack Jack's isn't something dreamed up by a corporate marketing department. This stretch of beach is favored among surfers and there were plenty testing the waves up the road at the pier. There's a wooden deck that makes a good observation point or you could pay $1.50 to stroll out over the water on the 800-foot pier. (For $6, you can fish from it.)

Less than a mile south of Snack Jack's, there are other diversions at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area (floridastateparks.org), the state park named after the iconic Florida folk singer. The park offers fishing on the beach or in the Intracoastal Waterway, canoe and kayak rentals, bicycle and hiking trails, and bird-watching.

It's also the season for whale-watching in the Atlantic and we spotted one at lunch. It's somewhere in the background in that picture of a beer bottle.
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