Founded in September of 1565, Saint Augustine is best known as the oldest city in the United States and being a city that old it leaves a visitor a lot of history to explore, but no one said exploring history couldn’t be fun. In fact Saint Augustine has turned learning it’s history in to a non stop fun and adventure filled, vacation destination.
The historic buildings of the oldest part of the city have now been turned into an attraction destination of shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels, bed and breakfasts and museums. The oldest Wooden School House on Saint George Street, dates back to 1740 and the now St. Francis Inn bed and breakfast also on Saint George Street, occupies a building that dates back to 1791.
Enter through the original city gate and unto the narrow streets of the historic city to find shops, eateries and drinking establishments mixed in with a treasure trove of exhibits of the city’s past. The Colonial Quarter, The Medieval Torture collection, The Spanish Military Hospital and the Pirate Treasure Museum, just to name a few, are among the interesting and entertaining establishments awaiting your curiosity here. Walk through the streets and imagine life over 200 plus years ago while you shop, have a drink in a pub or feast on seafood in these old and historic buildings. In this oldest city, one can explore, shop, eat and party their way through a history lesson and have a jolly ole good time doing so.
Every Old City needs a Fort
Ponce De Leon first claimed Florida for Spain back in 1513 but France and later England lay challenge to Spain’s claims. These threats caused Spain to see the need to build a fort in Saint Augustine and in 1672 ground was broken for Castillo de San Marcos. Today Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest and best preserved example of a Spanish masonry fortification in the United States and is part of the United States National Park Service. This over 300 year old fort is open for viewing everyday except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Plan plenty of time
There are so many activities, things to do, places to see and history to learn in Saint Augustine that a mere weekend getaway or a few days of vacation will not nearly give you enough time to take it all in. The best way to get around to all the sites is by one of the two trolley tours available, The Old Town Trolley or Red Train Tours offered by Ripley’s. Each one allows you to get on and off at your leisure and both tours are fully narrated giving you details of the city’s history that you may not get walking or driving it on your own. In addition just about everywhere you go there is a parking fee so taking advantage of the tours may save you some cash in the long run. The Red Train Tours offered by Rippley’s offers combo tickets for other attractions as well, also giving you the opportunity to save a little of your travel dollars.
We all know that Ponce De Leon discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth and some say that he found that fountain in Saint Augustine. Well, I don’t know if it will bring you youth but at the Ponce De Leon Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, you can drink from the famous spring commemorating Ponce De Leon’s landing here some 400 plus years ago.
Pay a visit to the Oldest Store Museum and watch the live actors demonstrate the latest snake oils, tonics and elixers of the year 1900. Step back in time and see the latest inventions of the turn of the century and be amazed at just how far we have come from those early days of medicine and technology.
Every city has criminals and where you have criminals you must have a jail and old Saint Augustine was no different. P J Pauley Construction company, the same construction company that built the famous Alcatraz prison in San Francisco, were employed in 1891 to construct the jail in Saint Augustine. In 1954 the jail was transformed in to a local attraction and in 1987 it was added to U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Tours of the Old Saint Augustine Jail depart every 20 minutes from 9 am to 4:30 pm.
Of course a city this old has many stories to tell but none more intriguing as it’s ghost stories and in Saint Augustine there is no shortage of ghost tours to tell them. There are walking tours, train tours and bus tours awaiting you if you dare to face your fears and explore the possibilities of ghost sightings in this city of ghostly mystery.
Explore the weird in Saint Augustine at Ripley’s Believe It or Not and view the unusual and interesting artifacts and marvel at the quirky and strange exhibits. But the exhibits are not the only odd thing going on in this building. Ripley’s museum is housed in the old Warden Castle originally built in 1887 as a winter retreat for a wealthy business associate of John D. Rockefeller. In 1941 it was purchased, remodeled and turned in to a hotel. As the story goes, in April of 1944 a carelessly discarded cigarette started a fire on the third floor and 2 female guests perished in the blaze. It has been said that many of Rippley’s employees and guests alike have seen the ghostly figure of a female and it is presumed that this ghostly figure is that of one of the women that died in the 1944 fire. Believe it or Not.
Over the Bridge
Onto A1A Highway and over the Bridge of Lions, just a few short minutes drive are even more must see and do adventures.
Saint Augustine’s Alligator Farm & Zoological Park is home to alligators of course but also home to rare and exotic wildlife as well. Founded in 1893 it is one of the oldest zoos in the United States and is home to birds, mammals and reptiles. And for a real memorable experience try zipping the zoo on a unique zip line and aerial course over 7 acres of live alligators.
Visit the Lighthouse at the nation’s oldest port at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate and a member of the American Alliance of Museums. Follow the story of this lighthouse and it’s keepers by climbing the 219 steps to the top. See the breathtaking view of St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean once a top of this marvel that still keeps the light shinning.
St. Johns County Ocean Pier at Saint Augustine Beach on Anastasia Island. Free parking and beach access, Fishing pier (at additional cost) playground with splash park, restrooms and gift shop.
The slogan for Anastasia State Park is “Paradise near Historic St. Augustine” and it truly is an ocean and nature lovers paradise while still being within minutes of all the adventures that Saint Augustine has to offer. With the Atlantic Ocean as it’s main attraction Anastasia State Park also offers, nature trails, bike riding, kayaking, fishing (with permit), surfing, paddle boarding, picnicking and the list could go on and on. A full facility 139 site campground is also available with reservation. Each site has electric and water hook ups with a dump station available at no extra charge.
These are but just a few of the many attractions, museums and places of interest that are waiting for you in Saint Augustine. There are old churches, wineries, old villas and shrines just waiting for your visit. So if you are ready to learn, discover, play, explore and more, then get busy and plan your next vacation and plan a stay in the Oldest City, Saint Augustine.
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Categories: North East