Quick! Where does old Florida meet the fun of the beach?! The easiest answer is St. Augustine! This relic of the Spanish conquistador race has been around for over 450 years. Key to its history are two famous names. Ponce De Leon of the fountain myth (more on THAT later) and Henry Flagler who revolutionized the east coast of Florida at the turn of the last century.
What can I do to get ready for a trip to St. Augustine?
St. Augustine is a super family friendly destination and it’s full of plenty of small sites for anyone to see. The big deal is how all of those sites came to be. Here are our picks for the best books to enjoy leading up to your North Florida trip.
Where should I start exploring St. Augustine?
We suggest settling into the old town by taking a drive to learn the lay of the land. Starting on the north side of town, take a ride down…
- Magnolia Avenue and view the old Oak Canopy. This delightful street has one of the most photographed oak canopies around and has been used in many movies. Now…
- Check out the Old Senator Tree at the San Marcos Hotel. This old girl has seen a lot in her days and taking a moment to check in on her gives you a good sense of where St. Augustine is coming from: Old Florida. Next, ride over to…
- Check out the big cross at Mission Nombre de Dios Museum and the Shrine Our Lady of La Leche. A huge part of Spanish history in this area are the many missions that dotted the small communities as the Old World cane to the New World. Now…
- Drive south toward Castillo San Marcos. Check out the marquee event in town. This fort built in the 17th century anchors downtown St. Augustine. While there’s not much inside, checking out the actual building which is constructed with coquina blocks. Just across the street you’ll see St. George Street. Take a peek…
- Then cross over Bridge of Lions. This bridge links the old town to the beaches. You’ll find most of the best rentals and beach access points on this side of the bridge.
- Finally, stretch your legs at Anastasia State Park. This park is a great first look at the gorgeous crescent beaches that St. Augustine is so famous for. Check out this little drive from the bridge through downtown for more.
What sites should I see in St Augustine?
We have plenty of recommendations for the many small sites that St. Augustine offers. And small is the most important word here. There are no mega sites here but there are a series of small delights that each take up about an hour or so and leave you with tons of beach time to run out all that kid energy or lay back and relax if you are sans the kiddos. Check out these old Florida gems…
On the beach side…
- St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum: This museum and lighthouse are a quality visit and cater to all kinds of families. The museum is a great mini lesson in why lighthouses were important and how they work. The view from the top is totally worth all 219 steps!
- St. Augustine Alligator Farm: Oh my! There are over 800 scaly friends waiting to greet you as you walk, climb and, if you are brave enough, zip line past all 24 species of crocodilian. It’s an old Florida gem worth the time.
- Anastasia Mini Golf: What’s a beach vacation without a seriously raucous round of mini golf?! This popular evening stop doesn’t disappoint.
Old Town Venues…
- Oldest House in St. Augustine (Eugenia Price’s Novel: Margaret’s Story) The oldest house is just that: an old house. What’s cool is that you see how old world technology and new world resources came together to become a unique set of construction practices that influenced centuries of architecture. A great walk through.
- St. Augustine Shipwreck Museum: Okay, we admit it. It may not be the very BEST thing in town but it could be your lifesaver on an unexpectedly rainy day. This is a great site to keep in your back pocket. It’s not big and just right for some pirate-y fun!
- The Lightner Museum: What kind of podcast would we be if we didn’t recommend the best art museum in town!? Look for plenty of programming for all ages and tastes. Then check out the restaurant that now sets up in the swimming pool!
What should I see on St. George’s Street?
- Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is the biggest church in town and blends old world architecture with new world resources. The church is a lovely walkthrough and can start your walk north on the street.
- Enjoy all the little shops and restaurants on this pedestrian friendly street. There’s something for everyone and it will probably be home to lots of your dining experiences.
- Columbia House is just one of the many St. George Street finds that will dot your walk in and around this main thoroughfare. Order the famous 1905 salad that’s prepared tableside and the best black bean soup around.
- St. Photios Greek Orthodox Church: From the biggest church to the littlest. Our favorite stop on the street, which can be packed sometimes, is this often overlooked oasis about midway through (and on the east side). St. Photios is a perfect break from the hustle and bustle. Say a prayer, enjoy the moment.
What should I skip on St. Augustine?
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not! We’re over shrunken heads and shock value. There are better ways to spend your time unless you are a 13 year old boy.
- Fountain of Youth! Here us now! THE WATER IS FULL OF SULPHER!!!!! That means it stinks and we drank it. It didn’t work. Nope.
- Old Jail Museum (part of trolley tours)! Insert *eye roll* here. This rinky dink jail does more to hold old school tourist brochures and sell trolly tickets than it does to give you any insight into this old school town.
What are some St. Augustine experiences?
- There are plenty of goofy Ghost Tours to find. Our favorites are from Ghost City Tours. They have walking tours for adults and families which make the choices easy.
- Nights of Lights allows anyone to enjoy the amazing Christmas atmosphere. We recommend Pineapple Ride and Tour for an easy way to enjoy the spirit of the season.
- San Sebastian Winery combines the fun of a winery with a little Old Florida history. It’s not that far from the other attractions in the downtown area.
What sites are close to St. Augustine?
- For a sight to see visit Buccees! Lawdy! Buccees takes the highway rest stop to the next level. Load up on snacks and marvel at how much Walmart they’ve stuffed into an oversized gas station. Only in America!!!! Find it on Exit 323 on I-95.
- Jacksonville Zoo: On the north side of Jacksonville is this lovely zoo which isn’t an all day affair. It’s a great break from so many beach and downtown sites and can be used to break up a trip out of town.
- World Golf Hall Of Fame: We see you! We know that there are some golf junkies out there! And if that’s you, DO NOT MISS THIS!!! Then go have lunch at Bill Murray’s restaurant.
- Marineland Dolphin Adventure: This relic of the past is working hard to meet the need of the future and now focuses on conservation efforts rather than old roadside shows. It’s about 20 minutes south of town and can be an interesting stop.
Where can I go after seeing St. Augustine?
- Go North to Savannah
- Go South to Palm Beach
- Continue on your old Florida trek to Silver Springs or Manatee Springs
- Decompress from Disney