St. Augustine, Florida was already settled 42 years before Jamestown, Virginia was established and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. This quaint lovely town is overflowing with history and different cultures. Today it still has cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages.
The oldest remnants are from the 1500’s- the ancient fortress Castillo de San Marcos, and the old City Gates come from the time when St. Augustine was ruled by Spain.
At the entrance to St. Augustine, also called the “Ancient City”, stands the old City Gates. The walls of these gates were reinforced with stone, and the coquina columns built in 1808. Leading into the historic town is St. George Street, where the 18th century Restored Spanish Quarter is located. On this well-known street you will find Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, housed in its’ Moorish Revival building. Also close by is the “Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse” with its’ life-sized figures of teacher and students, and old schoolbooks, slates, pencils, and maps.
Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest building in the city- construction on this coquina fortress was finished in 1695. The Castillo served as a military prison during the Revolutionary War, and three signers of the Declaration of Independence were present inside its’ walls.
On St. Francis Street you may visit the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, also known as the “Oldest House”. The original part of the house was built in the early 1700’s out of coquina The architecture today reflects British and Spanish styles, and the house is furnished to represent different time periods. The “Old Jail” is situated on San Marco Avenue. This turn of the century jail served as the city’s jail from 1891 until 1953.
St. Augustine has something special for thrill-seekers- the “Riding Ghost Tours”. This bus tour is led by a guide who tells ghost stories. The tour visits haunted areas like the Old Drug Store, the City Gates, Castillo San Marcos, Matanzas Bay, the Old Town and the National Cemetery. It is available on weekend nights from late January to early March.
St. Augustine, a picturesque town on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, is a place where one can truly step back in time. In addition to the historic attractions, quaint cafes, pubs, interesting shops and bed and breakfast inns line the cobblestone streets. You may stroll the ancient streets, or choose to have a leisurely ride in one of the horse-drawn carriages which are a familiar sight in St. Augustine. Whether you visit for the rich history or the modern-day fun St. Augustine is a charming destination.