August 29, 2020
Espanola, Florida is a little old crossroads community in Flagler County about 5 miles northwest of Bunnell on County Road 13.
When you get to Espanola, take a right on the paved road. After about 1/4 mile the asphalt paving ends and the road turns into brick. It is brick for the next 9 miles all the way north to County Road 204.
It's a rough ride best made on a 4 wheel drive vehicle or a solid pickup truck. It's only 9 feet wide, so if you meet another vehicle one of you will have to pull off the road for a bit.
I have driven it in both my Toyota Corolla and Honda HRV, but very slowly.
This red brick is the original pavement of the Dixie Highway. Construction began in 1915 on the highway. The bricks were manufactured by the Graves Company of Birmingham, Alabama.
This segment was part of a road designed to connect Jacksonville with the area around Flagler Beach east of Bunnell.
The Dixie Highway was a system that connected Chicago to Miami. You can see vestiges of this system all over the eastern part of Florida in the name "Old Dixie Highway". In fact, this stretch of the "Old Brick Road" is still known by locals as Old Dixie Highway.
On its way south from Jacksonville, the road passed through some communities that are nearly ghost towns now, but whose names remain on the maps and roadway signs: Spuds up near Hastings and Dupont Center south of St. Augustine come to mind.
Timber, turpentine, potatoes and other vegetables were trucked to these little communities and transported by rail to markets up north. Old Dixie Highway paralleled the railroad for a large portion of its route.
Most of Old Dixie Highway was torn out and paved over with asphalt in the 1920s and 1930s. The old brick road that ran from Bunnell to Flagler Beach was torn out and repaved and became State Road 100.
A lot of bricks from the old road were given to local settlers who used them for their own paving projects, fireplaces or patios.
Espanola's heyday was a long time ago. When the highway was new, the little town boasted of a hotel, restaurant, barber shop and post office.
When what is now U.S. Highway 1 was completed from St. Augustine to Bunnell in 1926, people stopped using the Old Brick Road and Espanola faded away to its present condition of a few old homes and small farms.
The quiet settlement remains authentic Old Florida. A longtime friend of mine, the late Howard Hunter, was from this area and chose to retire here after a career working for an engineering firm in Orlando.
The Flagler County Historical Society has an informative article about the Old Brick Road.
COMMENTS FROM SOME OF OUR TRAVELERS
Apr 12, 2020
Stir crazy on Easter Sunday
Thanks for the article. I've been a Florida resident for 16 years now and love exploring all the history and forgotten places. This is now one of my favorites.
We headed out of Jacksonville this morning looking for something to do that wouldn't get us into trouble. This drive was perfect!
Mike says: great! I have to try it again pretty soon.
Mar 30, 2020
Drove it today!
Had to get out of the house today and my wife and I drove the whole thing form 204 south toward Espanola. Only saw one other vehicle headed north. it was fantastic!
Mike says: Great! The only way I can enjoy myself these days is to self isolate in my car and hit the road. I hope our big government doesn't prevent that, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Mar 10, 2020
Bicycle ride on the Old Brick Road
What a pleasant surprise to find this road on our bike ride from Palatka to Flagler Beach. While many of the bricks are covered in sand, it was still a great experience to find and ride this piece of history. We were on mountain bikes with wider tires, so it was smooth riding. The best part was we didn't see another soul or a vehicle from pavement to pavement. It was awesome!
Dec 22, 2019
by: David Payne
Floridian since birth in 1942. Finally got to drive this road returning to Jax after Thanksgiving from home we have owned my entire life to my weekday teaching job at River City Science Academy. Traffic horrendous on 95.
Sunday afternoon, one very polite local man about half way. Helpful information. Had to stop at rattlesnake crossing a bit farther up. Took picture, then drove carefully around so as not to hit it. Must have just shed. Coloration was beautiful, not regular more dusty. Length about 3 1/2 feet. Its home, not mine.
Will drive this piece of Florida history again, and will again follow 13 up along east side of St. John's River to Jax. Thank you for making this information available.
Mike says: glad you enjoyed the trip. It's a vanishing experience.
Dec 06, 2019
Not as it once was
My husband and brother in law have been telling me about this road for a long time. My husband decided to just take me down it and it’s been covered in dirt. You can see the red brick peek out here and there. There’s a few spots where it’s more visible but mostly it’s covered up. I’m very disappointed I didn’t get to see it the way it was all of those years.
Dec 01, 2019
Old Brick Road
I have lived in Flagler County for over 25 years, and finally drove down this road the other day with my two children.
It was nice until about half way when you start getting into what seems like people's private property.
The closer I got to County Road 204 from the second half, the more traffic there was. I passed about 15 trucks total and it was all trucks and the people on the road at this time, were speeding and completely self centered, as none, allowed me to pass.
I wanted to enjoy history, but on this particular day, locals were very rude and speeding.
Mike says: this is too bad. I have been lucky and usually only see two or three vehicles each way.
Nov 24, 2019
Back for a visit
by: Paul Hampton
As a native of Florida it's always nice to be back and find places I had not seen. Took a drive from Palm Coast today and found the 0ld brick road and drove it from about 14 miles or more,a few rough spots but no problems at all, glad I did it, our dog Thor was watching for critters the whole way.
Mike says: I haven't been there for a couple of years. It's good to know it's still passable. Still quiet too, I assume.
Feb 20, 2019
Old Florida History
My wife and I drove down this road on our the way to St. Augustine a year and a half ago. It was so interesting to imagine how it must have been like in Florida 100 years ago.
My concern is the logging trucks driving down this road and destroying it, there is evidence of that happening. So much of old Florida history gets destroyed in the name of progress.
Mike Says: I agree it's so sad to see Florida continuing to develop. A lot of the old back roads I still drive are becoming congested with traffic from new developments that pop up all over the state. We can't keep people from coming down. When I moved to Florida the population was 4 million. Now it's 22 million.
Aug 11, 2018
Old Brick Rd by Motorcycle
by: Lead and One Nut (DOT RIDERS)
Rode it today on Harley Electra Glides! Glad we had dry weather over the last week otherwise it would have been impossible. We moved here from NY a year ago and can’t believe the amount of history we’ve come across. 10 to 15 mph for the entire stretch but it was worth it!
Jul 25, 2018
I'd love to visit this brick vestige of the Dixie Hwy. Wish you'd included a map reference. I live in S.E. Florida. We have several stretches of Old Dixie Highway, but all are paved over. When I first lived here 45 years ago, I seem to recall there was a small section of brick. It's gone now. I moved away, came back 30 years ago, but so much had changed !! Is still changing. I look for signs of old Florida whenever I go around the state, things that are not in parks or museums but real artifacts, buildings, and scenes of bygone days. I find them occasionally, but fear they'll all be gone soon. Some you haven't mentioned in articles, such as Richardson's Fish Camp in Kissimmee on Lake Toho. You can stay overnight, or just launch your boat and try to catch the famous bass.
Jul 17, 2018
Finally drove it!
by: Jack, Matthews NC
I first came across this road at the Espanola end about 10 to 12 years ago. I had laid out a bike route to ride on vacation, and this road was part of it. You can imagine my shock at finding a brick paved road in the middle of nowhere in Florida!
I chose not to ride it that day as I had narrow bike tires on a rough brick road covered with sand at least 10 miles long. Not wise to try it!
But I finally drove it in my Camry Hybrid today. Saw one truck in the first few miles but that's it. The southern third is OK, but the middle third is quite rough with tire ruts and humped up in the middle that I worried about it dragging my valence. A lot of potholes to dodge. The last third smoothed out as I approached SR 204.
Took me 51 minutes to drive this at about 12 mph. The skies got quite dark and it began to shower as I finished. I would not recommend riding this road in the rain because you could not see the potholes.
I am so glad that after 10 years I drove this road.
May 14, 2018
May 13, 2018
Great ride along this road stopping for photos whenever we wanted as there was nothing and no one to stop us. We did pass one other vehicle, saw a black bear, armadillo, and a hawk. Relaxing fun ride on a historical old road. Sure hope it is around a long time in this untouched, undeveloped state. The bricks just need a little TLC every so often.;)
Mar 22, 2018
Second Time Around
by: Diane H.
The first time we drove this road was back in 1994 in a Saturn. It had bigger holes and lots more soft sand then, and we kept thinking we were going to rupture the oil pan from bouncing up and down. Today we rode north to south, returning to Daytona Beach from Palatka. The road is not all that bad now, but it is still bumpy. Can't go over about 15 mph. Big snake crossed the road in front of us. Just let someone know where you are going before you start out because you might not be able to use your cell phone.
May 07, 2017
A Therapeutic Journey
by: Todd Osburn
We drove this stretch of Old Dixie Hwy today.
After an early exit from my son's baseball tournament in Sanford, we decided to make lemonade out of lemons and take the scenic route home. We were just sort of winging it on a full tank of gas in the Expedition. So, when the pavement ended and things got interesting, I had no issues continuing. My kids, on the other hand, we're a little excited.
It was thrilling and educational. We stopped and said hello to a local gopher tortoise, experienced rush hour when we passed the only vehicle that we saw, and wondered what life must have been like for the men who built the road. It was just what we needed.
Mike says: Thanks for the report, Todd. Congratulations to you and your family for braving the untamed historic road.
Dec 20, 2016
Florida Times Union Article
Mark Woods has a great article about this old highway in the Florida Times Union, December 17, 2016.
Dec 19, 2016
Old Brick Road travel
by: Drove it Today
This section of the old Dixie Highway was a front page story in the Sunday, December 18, 2016, Florida Times-Union and today was challenge day.
Heading south from the Jacksonville area, it was easy to locate the north end of the featured section of the Old Brick Road, south from CR 204, as identified on the Garmin GPS. We drove to Espanola and then did a little searching on the abandoned section of the Florida East Coast Railroad right of way from Espanola to Bunnell.
We were using an SUV and had no problems with travel, but we took it slow, simply to enjoy the long stretches of forest and clear cut areas. It must have been an interesting drive shortly after this section was opened in 1916 or so.
Mike says: Glad you were able to make the trip for its full length. There sure are some lonely stretches along the way.
Dec 01, 2016
Just HAD to try it . . .
by: Embarrassed Suburban Guy
After seeing on maps that Florida 13 looked like it continued south of Hwy 204 into Bunnell, I decided to try it (from the opposite way) when returning from a business trip to Orlando about eight years ago.
I was in a 2002 Acura 3.2TL.
With the sun getting low in the sky, I turned right out of Bunnell onto what was a perfectly-normal paved portion of the road, with even a few houses in sight as I passed. Safe enough.
Then the pavement ended, and I read the historical marker about "The Old Brick Road." All this did was pique my curiosity, so I kept driving, and at times really came to regret my decision. The "road" was more SAND than brick at several spots, and SOFT sand at that. I nearly got stuck several times, and like another writer on this page I really didn't know how far I had traveled since leaving the pavement and I had only an estimate in my mind of what was a 9-mile road to know how far I might be from the other end.
No cellphone coverage, gas tank nearing "E" and now the sun really getting ready to set. I saw ONE other vehicle along my trek, what looked to be an agricultural truck with some hispanic guys riding it, looking at me and no doubt laughing at the stupid city guy trying to make the trek in his sports sedan.
I'd never felt so foolish or scared in my life, but I kept going and pretty soon reached the pavement on the north end, near Hwy 204, my heart racing. IT WAS AWESOME! Never even told my wife what a stupid thing I'd done.
Mike Says: Good for you! I do this kind of thing often enough that I don't feel as stupid as I did when I first began such adventures. You are braver than I am. I probably would have made sure I had a bit more sunlight before making the trek.
Sep 08, 2016
Proceed At Your Own Risk
Stumbled across Old Brick Road out riding my HD Dyna Super Glide. The sign said "Proceed at your own risk", I took that as an invitation.
After several miles the adventure was getting serious especially because I did not know how long until I hit pavement. Thank goodness I was on the Dyna, it handled it better then me. A few soft spots but maintaining about 40 MPH got me through it.
Fortunately a truck came up and I was able to find out the scoop: 2/3rds done so I continued ahead.
Alas pavement, but a ride I will never forget.
Jul 31, 2016
Old Brick Road
Had a great adventure today happening onto a dirt road in Flagler County Florida. The dirt road turned into an old brick road. No cell phone or GPS out there but we kept going north and north west for about 10 miles. No houses, no signs, not even wildlife since it was in the 90s. Found the name of it at the end of our journey and looked it up as soon as we had some bars. Nice to read about the Old Dixie Highway. Love finding dirt roads. M&M
May 31, 2016
It is hard to keep people from lifting these old bricks and using them for home improvement projects or selling them.
May 04, 2016
Hi, would like to know who is in charge of what remains of the Old Dixie Highway. It is an amazing look into Florida's history and I would love to see how I could help or who I could contact to get some type of preservation started so that we don't loose this beautiful piece of history! Thanks, Bryan
Mike Says: These old road segments are probably owned and maintained by the counties they are in. In the case of Espanola, it's in Flagler County. You could probably also get some information by googling local historical societies in the areas you are interested in.
Tell us about it here.