Walking down St Augustine’s cobblestone streets is like stepping through a time machine. Back to a time of Huguenots, Spanish rule, privateers, and sunken ships loaded with treasure. Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or a family adventure vacation you will definitely want to add this city to your list of things to see.
Founded first by French Huguenots, then settled by Spain’s Admiral General Don Pedro Menendez in 1565, the city boasts beautiful architecture, impressive dining, and a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else in the United States. Don’t worry. If you aren’t a high roller you can do this vacation without stressing your finances.
St. Augustine offers a mind-boggling array of features and attractions. Many of the things you’ll want to see will be within walking distance of the historic downtown district. The key to a great downtown experience is to park and walk. If you try to drive around town you are going to spend most of your vacation looking (and paying) for parking. Many times during the year parking is a real commodity. Besides some of the streets that hold the best shopping and dining are closed to traffic. If you have trouble walking long distances the city offers trams and trolley services that are convenient and inexpensive.
As the oldest city there is an exciting, if sometimes dark and tragic past. On that point you’ll want to visit the lighthouse. It stands as a black, white, and red monolithic tribute to St Augustine’s port side heritage. Featured on “Ghost Hunters,” it offers a haunting glimpse into its nautical history. Give yourself at least an hour for the tour. There is a significant time line to cover. Tours are $9 for adults and $ 7 for children.
Fort Castillo de San Marcos is another sight you shouldn’t miss. Perched on the outskirts on the city, it is an integral part of St. Augustine’s charm. It was built in 1672 to protect the city. Over the last few years there has been some reconstruction in order to provide a more authentic feel to how the Spanish soldiers lived and died within the fort. Tours are $6 for adults and children are free.
The historic district also offers a winery, carriage tours, and an alligator farm that claims to have every species of Crocodilian on the planet. I haven’t done the appropriate legwork to confirm that, but having been there, I believe it.
It seems like the biggest expense on a vacation is usually lodging. If you have the time you should stay the night and enjoy the nightlife. There are a few options when it comes to resting your head. Do you like to camp?
If the answer is yes then you are in luck. As a native Floridian I don’t recommend this in the hottest summer months, but for three seasons out of the year it can be a very nice way to see St Augustine. Anastasia State Park is situated 5-10 minutes from town, has picturesque campsites, and lends itself to tent camping and R.V. parking with prices starting at $28 per night. If you can, try to plan it in conjunction with an event at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. It’s a premier outdoor venue, and it has walk-in access from the campground.
Obviously, camping isn’t for everyone. Florida’s unpredictable weather doesn’t always avail itself to tent camping. Not to worry. There is a fine selection of hotels and B&Bs that puts you in the middle of the city. Hotels are competitively priced. You will spend a little more money on a B&B. However, if are on a romantic getaway it will take your experience to the next level. With either option you gain some nice conveniences like free parking, and the ability to walk back to your room if you, or your kids, get tired.
There are a lot of ways to enjoy St.Augustine’s nightlife. How you do it depends on what you enjoy and what type of a vacation you’re on. A good strategy is to scope out the places that look interesting to you during the day while you’re shopping and having lunch. There are more great restaurants in the city than you will be able to visit. Some legends of great dining in the city are Columbia Restaurant, O.C. White’s, and A1A Ale Works. Rest assured whether you are looking for family dining, high-end cuisine, or a pub-crawl you will find what you are looking for.
For dessert may I suggest a ghost tour? Guided by lantern through the old city streets by hosts dressed in authentic garb, these walking tours will give you a spine chilling look into St. Augustine’s darker history.
Go see the Oldest City. From beaches, to attractions St. Augustine offers something you just can’t recreate in a theme park. It will give you a one-of-a-kind perspective of our nations past. This is truly one of the best vacation destinations in Florida.