Ponte Vedra Beach is an unincorporated seaside community in St. Johns County, Florida, United States, 18 miles (29 km) southeast of downtown Jacksonville and 26 miles north of St. Augustine. It is an upmarket tourist resort best known for its association with golf. It is the home of the ATP Tour, the PGA Tour, and The Players Championship, is played at The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass. The area is known for its resorts including the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club (a AAA five diamond resort), the Lodge and Club (four diamonds), and the Marriott at Sawgrass (three diamonds). It also lies in the fourth wealthiest county in Florida, ranking just behind the Palm Beach and Naples areas. Most of the beaches have limited public access, with the exception of Mickler's Landing and Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. Golf, tennis, boating and surfing are other popular activities.
Ponte Vedra Beach may have been first sighted by Juan Ponce de Leon on his search for the Fountain of Youth in 1513. Since Leon's precise landfall is unknown, this claim may be made by many communities on the east coast of Florida.
In 1916 the community was known as Mineral City, and titanium (ilmenite) extraction was significant, as well as that of zircon and rutile. These minerals were recovered from beach sands by the commercial firm of the National Lead Company, under the leadership of Henry Holland Buckman and George A. Pritchard. During the First World War titanium was a component of poison gas, and therefore a strategic mineral. The golf courses created for recreational purposes by their company became the root of the present golf industry.
The present name of the place appears to be in honor of the city of Pontevedra (Ponte Vedra), capital city of the province of the same name in the region (province) of Galicia in Spain. In the Galician language (one of the four official languages of Spain, which language in fact more nearly resembles the Portuguese language), Ponte Vedra means "Pontus Veteri" (think "veteran pont"). The Santa Maria, flagship of Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage of discovery, was built in that town.
Submarines and saboteurs
During World War II the German submarine U-584 debarked four saboteurs at Ponte Vedra as part of the failed Operation Pastorius. The four German spies, all of whom had previously lived in the United States, came ashore on the night of June 16, 1942 carrying explosives and American money. After landing they strolled up the beach to Jacksonville Beach, where they caught a city bus to Jacksonville and departed by train for Cincinnati. The invaders were captured before they could do any damage. They were tried by a military tribunal and executed.
Ponte Vedra Beach is also the site of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, a large nature preserve that includes miles of protected beaches, wetlands, and near-pristine woods.