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St. Augustine – “Nation’s Oldest City”
Established: September 8, 1565; 455 years ago
St. Augustine, on the east coast of Florida, is often referred to as “Little Europe.” Several centuries ago, this city on the Atlantic coast was founded by the Spaniards and became the very first city in the United States of America. Until now, the influence of European traditions is clearly visible in the architectural appearance.
St. Augustine Square is a godsend for those who love beautiful architecture, leisurely walks around the city, excursions, and educational recreation.
According to official records, St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by the Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles. For 200 years, the city remained the capital of Spanish Florida, until these lands passed to the British, and then to the Americans.
However, according to the existing legend, the first Europeans appeared on the site of the future city back in 1513. The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the Atlantic coast. He was looking for a source of youth and discovered new lands. Ponce de Leon proclaimed the Spanish possession of La Florida and named the area in honor of St. Augustine.
The Best of St. Augustine Florida
America’s Oldest City
The name La Florida is associated with the date of arrival of the discoverer to these lands. A European ship landed on the shores of this area at a time when the famous flower festival – Easter Florida – was taking place in Spain.
At the end of the 19th century, St. Augustine began to gain popularity among tourists who today like to visit the oldest city in the United States. St. Augustine has a subtropical climate. The wettest and hottest months are from May to September. At this time, the air temperature during the day rises to 28-33 degrees Celsius. Winter is dry and comfortable here: the average daily air temperature rarely drops below 15 degrees, so walking around the city at this time of the year will be comfortable.
Things to do
St. Augustine disposes for a leisurely, relaxing vacation. Here you can relax on the beach, swim in the waters of Matanzas Bay, walk around the city, or go on excursions.
A long coastline, warm sun, soft white sand crumbling the underfoot and the breathe of the Atlantic – all this awaits you on the beaches of St. Augustine. The most important of them – St. Augustine beach – is located near the city. But be prepared: it is often windy here, strong waves rise. Gusts of wind blow off light grains of sand, exposing many small shells that children love to collect.
There are many low-rise buildings on the coast. Most of them are hotels. If you want to spend a few days in St. Augustine, we recommend renting a room in one of the coastal villas with some beautiful ocean views.
If you are interested in learning more about St. Augustine’s history and local attractions, check out the Tourist Information Center. Here you can get a map of the city and many useful recommendations to help you plan your excursion routes. You can find the tourist center at the intersection of San Marco Ave and W Castillo Drive. The exact address is 10 S Castillo Dr, St Augustine.
For those looking to take part in an organized sightseeing tour of St. Augustine, we can recommend three of the most interesting ways.
- Travel around the city on the small tram Red Train Tours. This tourist transport has been operating in the city since 1953. During the 1.5 hour guided ride, the tram will make more than 20 stops in several districts of St. Augustine. For lovers of mystery and mysticism, a special tour has been created to places where ghosts live.
- Ride the Old Town Trolley Tours. Tourists agree that the best guides, are here. The excursion trip lasts a little over an hour, and there are also 20 stops along the way. You can go to any of them, walk on foot, and then sit down again in the next trolleys.
- A Walk on the water with the Scenic Cruise. Tourists with children especially often go on such boat trips. The journey starts from the city’s harbor, next to the Bridge of Lions. The walk lasts a little over an hour, the path goes along the Matanzas Bay. An additional bonus for the participants of the excursion is the opportunity to see dolphins.
What to see
There are a lot of attractions in St. Augustine, so one day may not be enough to see them all. But when there is not very much time, it is worth visiting at least a few places from our list.
Old city: When planning your sightseeing tour of St. Augustine, include St. George Street in your itinerary. It starts at the gates of the Old Town near Castillo de San Marcos and ends at the Plaza de la Constitution. This street is the very center of the historic district of the city. It is forbidden to enter here by car, so you can safely walk and inspect the local buildings of the colonial era. Take a closer look, many of them offer interesting museums, restaurants, and designer shops.
Also in the Old Town, you should definitely see two buildings in the Spanish Renaissance style. These are the Lightner Museum and Flagler College. Distinguished by their striking facades with balconies and turrets, both buildings were built by the tycoon Henry Flagler. Once they housed hotels where the wealthy aristocrats liked to rest.
Now, one building houses a museum with a large collection of glass, crystal and porcelain and the other house is a college. Tourists can look inside the educational institution and look at the hall on the first floor, decorated with beautiful paintings and stained glass windows.
Castillo de San Marcos
Construction of St. Mark’s Fortress in St. Augustine began in 1672 and lasted 23 years. With this fort, the Spaniards wanted to protect their trade routes. Earlier on the site of the fortress several times tried to build wooden forts, but all of them were destroyed by pirates. Then a decree was issued on the construction of a new defensive fortification. This time, the walls were made from shell rock, which was brought to the city from a neighboring island. And the construction of the fort was carried out by workers specially brought to the city from Cuban Havana.
The fort has been perfectly preserved to this day. Today, tourists can see not only the massive walls of this structure, but also a large collection of cannons that were brought here from different places. Here you can also watch demonstration shooting. True, for safety reasons, they don’t shoot from the original guns, but from their modern copies, cast in the 20th century.
Fountain of Youth
The Fountain of Youth, Ponce de Leon: If you believe the legends, the famous St. Augustine archaeological park of Ponce de Leon, was founded exactly on the place where the Spanish explorer landed in 1513. He was looking for a source of eternal youth, but he couldn’t find it. Ponce de Leon’s life was short-lived, the Spaniard was wounded by a poisonous arrow, and he died in 1521.
But in the park named after him, today you can see the Fountain of Youth. Many tourists believe in the magical power of its water and specially come to the source to be nourished with energy and vitality.
Museums and landmarks
- The oldest wooden school in the USA: This building was built at the beginning of the 18th century from cypress and red cedar. Absolutely every detail of the house is made by hand, and instead of nails, the logs are connected with wooden stakes. Initially, this building was a residential estate, but then its owners allocated a room on the ground floor for a study room. So the oldest school in the United States was opened here, in which for the first time in American history, both girls and boys began to study together.
- Museum of Pirates and Treasures: The creator of this museum is the American sports commentator and a true pirate fan, Pat Croce. Even after becoming a famous person, Pat did not give up his hobby and continued to collect the museum collection. But now he had enough money to purchase a separate house and equip a fascinating exhibition in it. The pirate museum will be interesting for both young and adult visitors. Here you can not only listen to exciting stories about sea robbers, but also go through a quest to find treasures.
- Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. At the Ripley Museum “Believe it or Not!” many unusual exhibits have been collected, and a tour of the expositions will provide answers to the most unexpected questions. All of the most mysterious, illogical, incomprehensible can be seen here. For example, a two-headed kid, the smallest horse, a strange robot, ancient instruments of torture, or a wax figure of a prisoner who survived thirteen gunshot wounds. Some of the exhibits will make you smile, others will scare you. Tours to the Ripley Museum will appeal to both children and adults.
- Alligator farm. This unusual farm appeared in St. Augustine in 1893 and today has the status of one of the oldest attractions in Florida. Not only several species of alligators, caimans and crocodiles live here, but also a large number of monkeys and exotic birds.
- St. Augustine’s oldest house was built in 1702. It is now part of a complex that also includes two museums, an exhibition gallery, a garden, and a shop. Having bought one ticket, tourists will be able to visit all these objects at once.
- The old city prison. For breathtaking stories, take a guided tour of the old prison. From 1891 to 1953, the most dangerous and cruel criminals were in this building. But despite its dark history, the prison building does not look ominous and does not disturb the atmosphere of the city. Since 1993, fascinating excursions have been conducted here. For lovers of mysteries and ghosts in the prison, night tours are organized.
- Potter Wax Museum. The collection of figures created by George Potter became the first such museum in the United States of America. A resident of St. Augustine brought the idea for the exhibit from a trip to London. More than 160 wax figures can be seen in the museum today. There are politicians, music performers, movie stars, scientists, etc. For example, guests can see Albert Einstein, Princess Diana, and Harry Potter.
- The Lighthouse of St. Augustine is located on Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine. This building is covered with many legends and ghost stories. But even if you do not believe in mysticism, it will still be interesting to see this structure. Tourists are allowed to climb to the top of the lighthouse by overcoming 219 steps. Upstairs, the reward awaits you with panoramic views of Mantanzas Bay and the Atlantic. There is also a Fresnel lens created by French craftsmen. Its structure consists of three panels that transmit light in three separate beams, then create a special beacon light signal – “night sign”.
Interestingly, the lighthouse continues to operate today. There is also a non-profit maritime museum, which might also interest the tourists to look in.
Where to dine?
After long walks through the streets of St. Augustine, you will definitely want a tasty dish. Here are a few restaurants and cafes that we can recommend for you.
Address: 60 Hypolita St, St.Augustine
This restaurant is considered one of the best in the city. Here you can order international cuisine. Try grilled scallops, lobster ravioli, or beef tenderloin. Guests also praise chocolate donuts, coconut ice cream, and a chocolate frappe. Each dish has its own original presentation and a delicious taste.
GAS Full Service Restaurant
Address: 9 Anastasia Blvd C, St.Augustine
Do you like juicy and mouth-watering burgers? Then be sure to check out the GAS Full Service Restaurant. Here you can order grilled chicken sandwich, egg rolls, or a blue cheese burger. And in addition to them – a mug of cold craft or draft beer. If the weather permits, it is especially pleasant to sit at a table on the open veranda. Affordable prices for all dishes on the menu will be an additional pleasant bonus.
Address: 40 Charlotte St, St.Augustine
Anyone who loves seafood dishes is advised to book a table at Catch 27. In this restaurant you can order grilled shrimp, fish sandwiches, fish chowder, and fish tacos. There’s also a good wine choice to your taste from a large number of options in the restaurant’s wine list. On sunny days, we recommend taking a seat at a table on the open veranda and relaxing in the shade of the trees.
Mojo old city bbq
Address: 5 Cordova St, St. Augustine
The delicious aroma of tender grilled meat will not let you pass by the Mojo Old City BBQ. Stop by, grab a seat at a table and order delicious a beef brisket, grilled pork, or onion rings. There’s also diet turkey steak, if preferred. Bourbon, craft beer, or draft beer are good additions to meat.
Address: 4255 A1A S, St.Augustine Beach
Guests love this restaurant for its delicious food, friendly and polite staff, and good service. The menu offers international cuisine. Here you can enjoy delicious crab soup or lobster bisque. For dessert, visitors recommend ordering a chocolate ganache or lime-filled pie. Drinks – sherry, marsala, or beer.
Address: 846 Anastasia Blvd, St.Augustine
There are more than three dozen vegetarian restaurants in St. Augustine. Creative Juices is one of them. There are several tables in a small room, so guests will be especially comfortable here. The menu includes fresh salads, hummus, and curry soup. As well as a large selection of delicious desserts. Visitors are very fond of the local cupcakes, cookies, and banana pancakes. As for drinks they can order fresh juices and smoothies.
Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille
Address: 46 Avenida Menendez, St.Augustine
This cozy bar next to the Basilica Cathedral serves Cajun and Creole cuisine. Visitors love to order flavored grilled scallops and prawns and salmon with sauce. As for dessert – beigne donuts or lime-filled pie. Guests can choose where it is more convenient to sit: in the hall under the roof or at a table on the outdoor terrace.
Address: 72 Spanish St # 3638, St.Augustine
Another place in St. Augustine that will appeal to vegetarians. For example, they will definitely love the local fried tomatoes. But those who do not mind trying meat and seafood will find many mouth-watering dishes on the Floridian menu. There is also a large selection of spirits and signature cocktails. All of the restaurant’s dishes are prepared exclusively from fresh produce from local farms and fish farms, so the menu is constantly changing depending on the season.
Tini martini bar
Address: 24 Avenida Menendez, St. Augustine
The Tini Martini Bar boasts not only its cocktails, snacks, and desserts, but also an amazing view of the bay. Having taken a comfortable place on the veranda, you can breathe the fresh sea air, watch the sailing boats and yachts, while slowly sipping cocktails in good company.
How long does it take to fly to St. Augustine?
The distance from Fort Lauderdale to St. Augustine is 240 miles. The flight will take about two and a half hours. From a flight altitude, we can see the entire Atlantic coast, West Palm Beach and Donald Trump’s residence.
Also, we are always ready to pick you up from any city in Florida and draw up an individual air travel program, capturing several cities at once. For example, we can combine a tour to St. Augustine with a flight to Orlando, landing on the way at Cape Canaveral, where the operating spaceport and the stunning Kennedy Space Museum are located.
If in any of the cities you want to stay for a couple of days, our plane together with the pilot will be waiting for you at the local airport. Plan your trips, and we will make them truly comfortable.