Avoid traffic, see Nights of Lights from water

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St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights will continue through Feb. 2, and now that many of the tourists have left the area, it’s a great time for locals to experience one of the top 10 best places to see holiday lights in the world according to National Geographic. Ponte Vedra Beach and Beaches residents can avoid traffic and parking hassles by taking State Road A1A to the Vilano Pier, where several boat tours cruise the bay to view the lights from the water.

Fins Up Tours has nightly boat tours through Feb. 2, weather permitting, leaving from floating docks attached to the south side of the Vilano Beach Fishing Pier. It may feel cooler on the water after sunset, so dress accordingly or bring a blanket to stay warm. An insulated mug filled with coffee or hot chocolate warms from the inside out. Passengers can bring beverages or snacks aboard if they like.

The Sun Down-Lights Up Nights of Lights Combo Tour leaves the dock in a pontoon boat at 5:10 p.m. for a 90-minute cruise. Guests might see Atlantic bottlenose dolphins along the shore of aptly named Porpoise Point. As the sun slips below the horizon, the lights turn on along the Bayfront. When the sky darkens, the lights seem brighter, reflecting in Matanzas Bay. Tickets are $39 per person — use code SAVE5 online for a $5 discount.

On Jan. 2, Captain Jimmy Hill welcomed guests aboard the pontoon boat just before 5 p.m. Dondi Foster, who lives in New Smyrna Beach, headed north with her friend Lu-Anne Blankenship from Daytona. It was the first time both ladies would see the lights from the water.

“It’s on my bucket list,” Foster said before the cruise. “I want to see the lights from the water and watch the lights come alive.”

The tour lived up to expectations. They saw dolphins on the way to the Bayfront and later watched the Bridge of Lions open for the Schooner Freedom. Blankenship summed it up in one word, “Amazing.”

Roseanna Ovington from Ormond By The Sea concurred. She said it was a great tour with a knowledgeable captain that she will recommend to friends.

“We learned some history and there were photo ‘opps’ galore — dolphins, sunset, the lights,” Ovington said. “It was so much fun.”

Another nightly option is a 60-minute Nights of Lights cruise departing from the same dock at 7:10 or 8:40 p.m. Tickets are $29 per person — use code SAVE5 online for a $5 discount.

For a more intimate experience, Fins Up has discounted private charter rates for Nights of Lights tours with advance reservations. Invite friends, family or coworkers for a 60- or 90-minute charter on a 13- or 30-passenger vessel. Prices range from $229 to $699 depending on number of guests and duration.

There is free parking along Vilano Road, and several restaurants in the area are open in the evening for a bite to eat or favorite beverage after the tour.

For information, call Fins Up Tours at (833) 365-3467, email staugustinetours@gmail.com or visit www.finsuptours.com.

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