While specific Florida locations are well-known for their history, cuisine, or abundance of activities, others are preferred for their white-sand beaches. St. Augustine covers all those topics and more. Known as the “Nation’s Oldest City,” St. Augustine was established as the first European settlement in North America in 1565. It is located close to the site where Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, who is said to have arrived in 1513 while searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth,white sand youth,
Despite its age, St. Augustine is still one of Florida’s most picturesque cities, offering a wealth of sights, activities, and exploration opportunities. It is one of the greatest sites in Florida and is still vibrant after hundreds of years.
Top Activities in St. Augustine
Even if exploring St. Augustine’s ancient streets would please you, there are plenty of opportunities to delve further into this captivating city.
Getting a feel for the area with a trolley tour is a terrific place to start. Only seven historic cities in America provide Old Town Trolley Tours, and St. Augustine is one of them. This trip visits over 22 locations and 100 sites of interest across the city, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, the Old Jail, the Oldest House Museum Complex, Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, and more. You’ll also hear intriguing stories about the city’s past and present.
A “frightseeing” trip is a necessity in this 500-year-old city. In addition, you may come at night for the Ghosts & Gravestones version of the tour, which is full of stories about the macabre, eerie, and supernatural.
Another thing you must do before leaving St. Augustine is shop on George Street. For good reason, St. Augustine’s principal draw is its historic area. A pedestrian-only center avenue is dotted with antiques, eateries, entertainment venues, and hip stores. These little streets are perfect for spending a day exploring on foot.
When exploring St. Augustine, you will be able to notice the enormous Castillo de San Marcos, a Spanish stone castle from the 1600s. Visit us for a tour of the fascinating history and views of the Inlet of St. Augustine.
For more historical eye candy, visit the magnificent Flagler College, which features hand-painted murals on the walls and ceiling of the dining room illuminated by 79 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained-glass windows, and the Lightner Museum housed inside the former Hotel Alcázar, a Gilded Age resort built on railroad magnate Henry Flagler’s commission.
A history nerd? Beach lovers like St. Augustine’s stunning Atlantic Ocean beaches, conveniently close to the city’s historic center. With its grassy dunes and windswept expanses of sand, St. Augustine Beach and serene Crescent Beach are two favorites; nevertheless, one of the most peaceful locations in the area is Anastasia State Park, a protected animal refuge.
Hotels in St. Augustine
Beds and breakfasts are the norm in St. Augustine. While there are chain hotels nearby that could be more suitable for big groups or those on a tight budget, staying at one of the charming inns in the city is part of the experience and puts the entire historic district conveniently within walking distance for everyone else.
Full of historic beauty, the charming and magnificent St. Francis Inn on St. George Street is a regular favorite among travelers. The inn offers 19 elegantly furnished guest rooms and suites, a swimming pool, bicycles, a walled courtyard garden, comfortable living and dining areas, and sumptuous gourmet breakfasts every morning.
The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens, an elegant and quaint establishment situated on Cordova Street at the periphery of St. Augustine’s Old Town, is yet another beloved spot. While providing a tranquil retreat from the crowd, the resort is conveniently close to all the major sights. It seems like a genuine getaway with its gorgeous courtyard, brick walkways, antiques, bar, pool, fire pits, and contemporary yet luxurious rooms.
You’ll also see this stunning property when you visit the Casa Monica Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection in St. Augustine. Initially constructed in 1888 as an homage to classic Moroccan splendor, Casa Monica is now a St. Augustine icon in the historic area’s center. It features a Mediterranean-style restaurant, spa, and event space.
The Historic Sevilla House, Old Powder House Inn, Casa De Solana Bed and Breakfast, 44 Spanish Street Inn, and the Bayfront Marin House Historic Inn & Cottages are some of the other highly recommended bed and breakfasts in St. Augustine. The latter is situated across from Matanzas Bay, possibly the best waterfront hotel in the area, and offers off-property beach cottages and Caribbean-style homes on the ocean.
The Ideal Time to Go to St. Augustine
A trip to St. Augustine is always a good idea. Due to its northern location, the city endures more significant seasonal variations than other sections of Florida, yet there are plenty of reasons to visit all year round.
Summertime is the best time to see the historic area because fewer people are around, but the beaches will be crowded. It’s also hurricane season so the weather may interfere with your plans. Spring brings with it many events and sunny, breezy days.
As school resumes in the autumn, there is less of a surge in family travel, so you can find great deals and take in the changing foliage. It’s the ideal time of year to explore the city’s various stores and boutiques and take in cultural festivals because of the pleasant weather, low levels of humidity and rain, and fewer crowds.
But winter is one of the greatest seasons to go, not only because the temperature may drop significantly, which is a refreshing change of pace in Florida’s warm climate, but also because it’s when the city is decked out for Nights of Lights, one of the state’s most popular Christmastime events.
This yearly event, which has won several awards, lights up the city with over three million lights from mid-November to the end of January, illuminating citizens and tourists and bringing joy to the season. One of the most anticipated events of the year, Nights of Lights draws sizable crowds, but if you can avoid weekends and holidays, you should be OK.
Places to Dine and Sip
Try some traditional Florida delicacies at St. Augustine, such as fresh seafood prepared with a Latin twist. Thanks to the influx of tourists and young people who appreciate the city’s blend of the ancient and modern, the dining and drinking scene is rather vibrant.
Nestled outside the historic area but well-liked by locals and tourists alike, Ice Plant Bar serves farm-to-table cuisine and creative beverages in a beautifully refurbished 1929 structure. A1A Ale Works has a slightly touristic menu, but that’s only due to its mass-appealing food and second-story veranda with panoramic views of Matanzas Bay. Their root beer is another noteworthy beverage.
Other well-liked eateries in St. Augustine’s historic district include The Floridian, which offers southern cuisine with a regional twist; Columbia Restaurant, a well-established local chain that dates back to 1905 and serves traditional Spanish cooking; Harry’s Seafood, Bar & Grille, which is inspired by New Orleans (book a table in the gorgeous courtyard); Prohibition Kitchen gastropub; and Catch 27, which offers seasonal fare and local seafood.
Gypsy Cab Company, a laid-back neighborhood hangout just outside the historic center, serves a flavorfully diversified menu inspired by many cuisines worldwide, including a peanut butter pie that will make your dreams come true.
Whatever you choose to eat, it’s difficult to go wrong booking a table in St. Augustine; with so many highly regarded eateries offering tantalizing menus and fantastic ambiance, it’s one of Florida’s most fabulous gastronomic destinations. Make a reservation and prepare for some fantastic meals—almost every restaurant you select will be excellent.
How to Get There: St. Augustine, Florida’s Alcazar Courtyard and City Hall
It’s simple to drive to St. Augustine, but consider leaving the car behind and exploring the historic neighborhood on foot once you’re there. If you need to cover more ground, trolleys link the city, although most incredible places are easily accessible on foot.
A few large towns, such as Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, and Orlando, are less than two hours distant from the region; Savannah, Georgia, is a little less than three hours up the coast. As a result, U.S. Highway 1, Interstate 95, and the picturesque Florida Highway A1A provide easy access from both the north and the south.
Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) is the nearest major airport, about 50 minutes north of St. Augustine. For non-commercial travelers, there is also Northeast Florida Regional Airport (UST), which is about ten minutes from the historic area.
Two more significant airports are Orlando International Airport (MCO), 90 minutes southwest, and Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB), located approximately 50 minutes south.