It’s hard to think of US tourism attractions without talking about the great state of Florida. From the beaches of Miami to the amazing and wonderful attractions in Orlando, this state has more places to visit that you can imagine. That shouldn’t be a surprise though as the state is one of the largest in the US. This time, we’re visiting St. Augustine. This city in the southeastern region of Florida may not get as much attention as others in the city but if you’re looking for some place amazing and truly memorable, then its beaches, historical sights, and experiences you can never forget.
St. Augustine serves as the county seat of St. Johns County and is part of Florida’s First Coast region in the Jacksonville metropolitan area. It was founded on September 8, 1565 by Pedro Menendez de Aviles who also happens to be the first governor of the State. Why St. Augustine? According to historians, the city was founded near the feast day of the saint of the same name.
For over 200 years, the city served as the capital of Spanish-ruled Florida. It was also designated as the capital of British East Florida when it was established during the late 1760s. It was returned to the Spanish on 18783 and it was eventually given to the US in 1821 upon the ratification of the Adams-Onis Treaty.
One of the many things that St. Augustine boasts in terms of tourism is its huge number of historical attractions. There’s plenty more than you can imagine in the city and it would be a mistake to not visit these places. Before you pack your bags and headed for St. Augustine, here are a few vital details for the trip ahead.
- 1 How to Get to St. Augustine
- 2 How to Get Around St. Augustine
- 3 Best Time To Visit St. Augustine
- 4 Things to Do in St. Augustine to Learn Some History
- 4.1 Fountain of Youth
- 4.2 Colonial Quarter
- 4.3 Villa Zorayda Museum
- 4.4 Lightner Museum
- 4.5 St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum
- 4.6 Oldest Wooden School House
- 4.7 The Old Jail
- 4.8 Fort Matanzas National Monument
- 4.9 Spanish Military Hospital Museum
- 4.10 The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum
- 4.11 Old City Gates
- 4.12 St. George Street
How to Get to St. Augustine
If you want to head to St. Augustine as conveniently as possible, book a flight to the Jacksonville International Airport which is approximately 50 minutes north of the city. This is one of Florida’s busiest airports and it serves both national and regional airlines that can connect the state to both international and local cities.
There are two other airports that you can take to get to the city as well. First is the Daytona Beach International Airport which can also take you to the city from other parts of the world. It is 50 minutes to the south of St. Augustine and it provides service to a whopping 150+ destinations worldwide.
Your last option via flight is the Northeast Florida Regional Airport which is 10-minutes away from St. Augustine. However, this airport is best reserved for those already within Florida or for those who are traveling to the city via a chartered flight.
Driving to St. Augustine is relatively easy as well. From the north and south, the city is easily accessible via the Interstate 95, the US Highway 1 and the scenic Florida Highway A1A. From the west, you can take Interstate 10. Lastly, Interstates 4 and 75 connects the city to the central and southwestern region of Florida.
How to Get Around St. Augustine
Getting around St. Augustine is relatively easy thanks to the availability of ride-sharing services. Getting from point-to-point in the city’s major attractions is as simple as tapping on your smartphone. If you want to travel at your own leisure while enjoying other attractions nearby, take a rental car instead.
Instead of renting a car, you can rent other smaller and more convenient ways of transportation as well. This includes bicycles, mopeds, and 2-seater scooters. These rental places are readily available around the city meaning you can find your way around at your own leisure easily.
Within the city itself, there are two major forms of public transportation. For tourists, the most popular way to get around the city is via the Red Train Tours and Old Town Trolley Tours rides. These are train-like attractions which are very abundant in the city. They have set routes which will give you the freedom to fully explore the city.
If you want a quick lift at short distances, we recommend taking a pedicab. This bicycle rickshaw is run by two operators; the Pedicab of St. Augustine, and Explore Tours and Pickups. This is a great option if the traffic is heavy as they can get through small streets within the city.
There is a multitude of ways to get around St. Augustine but perhaps the most convenient and cheapest is via walking. The city is named as one of the Most Walkable Cities in the US. With its open roads and relatively short distances between attractions, we aren’t surprised as to why it got this marvelous title.
Best Time To Visit St. Augustine
It’s considered that a visit to St. Augustine from March to May is the best time. Not only is this St. Augustine’s spring season, but it also means that you’ll be able to escape the cold and extremely humid season in Florida as well. What’s even better is that this period is chock-filled with culinary events for foodies too.
On March, you have the St. Augustine Lions Seafood Festival and the Rhythm & Ribs Festival to look forward to. Then in April, you can partake in a Taste of St. Augustine, and Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest as well. These are the events during which the city comes most alive so you’ll be very happy to visit here.
If you want to avoid tourists and get the best prices at hotels, we advise visiting from November to late February. This is a great opportunity to explore the city but keep in mind that while it has merits, visiting during this period means you’ll have to shoulder the very cold and humid Florida temperatures as well.
Things to Do in St. Augustine to Learn Some History
If you love history, St. Augustine, Florida is the best place to be. In fact, it is the oldest city in the whole United States. Also, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the US. With that, you know you’ll be in for some good and long stories of the past if you visit this place. But with the modernization of this city, where can you exactly go to get a good look at the city’s past? Here are some things to do in St. Augustine if you want to be a history buff.
1Fountain of Youth
You probably know the Fountain of Youth and what it can reportedly do. However, even years after Ponce de Leon discovered the apparent healing water, the debate is still on as to whether or not this fountain can really heal you or make you look younger forever. It’s a good thing, this Fountain of Youth is located in St. Augustine so you can see it for yourself if the rumors are true. But aside from that, this place also holds a lot of stories of the past to tell and hearing them is also one of the best things to do in St. Augustine, especially if you want to be a history buff. However, if you plan to visit this place, make sure to schedule your visit between 9 AM and 6 PM as these are the hours when visitors are allowed.
Another best things to do in St. Augustine is to explore the Colonial Quarter. Here, you have two acres of space filled with historic houses and other establishments to enjoy. This place will definitely immerse you into four separate eras: 16th Century First City, 17th Century Spanish Fortified Town, 18th Century British 14th Colony and 18th Century Spanish Garrison Town with the history demonstration s hat you can get to see, as well as the hands-on activities being offered. You’ll also get to listen to some vivid storytelling, see themed exhibits, and enjoy period restaurants. Along with those, you can also get to see a soldier’s home, watch colonial craftsmen demonstrate their trade, and even see a musket drill. This place will surely fill you with a lot of stories about the city’s past, making visiting it as one of the best things to do in St. Augustine that will really make you a history buff.
3Villa Zorayda Museum
Of course, a trip to the museum will surely fill you with knowledge about a certain place and St. Augustine has plenty of them. One of which is the Villa Zorayda Museum. Initially built in 1883 as a winter residence for Franklin Smith, this place has some nice architecture to boast of along with the history that it has to tell. As a matter of fact, Villa Zorayda Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But this place isn’t just pretty. What makes visiting it also one of the best things to do in St. Augustine is that it houses several items that might probably be older than you. Some of the highlights in this place are the colorful collection of paintings. There are also pieces of 17th-century furniture and even a 2,400-year-old rug that was taken from one of the pyramids in Egypt. It’s definitely worth seeing.
Speaking of museum, here’s another museum you shouldn’t miss if you’re looking for the best things to do in St. Augustine: the Lightner Museum. Here, you will surely be amazed at the Victorian-era antiques that it houses. There are also some 19th-century art that includes Tiffany and Co. glass. This place also has costumes, furnishings, and mechanical musical instruments from around the world that will make your visit worth the drive. In addition to that, the Lightner Museum also has unconventional items on display, including an eccentric collection of salt and pepper shakes, cigar labels, and shrunken heads to name a few, that you can get to see as you walk through the museum. It’s surely an attraction that you shouldn’t miss in case you’re traveling to St. Augustine.
5St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum
Also another museum that you shouldn’t miss is the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. Visiting it is one of the best things to do in St. Augustine as this place will tell you more about the history that happened in its seas, as its name suggests. Here, you can get to see a fascinating collection of shipwreck artifacts. It also has a wooden boat building exhibit and a 165 lighthouse that stands 165 feet tall that you can actually climb. While ST. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum has plenty of things to offer its visitors who want to know more about the city’s history, it’s not always for the faint of hearts, though. This is because rumor has it that the said museum is haunted by its former lighthouse keepers. Visitors have reported that they experienced eerie feeling and seeing apparitions during their visit. Still, it’s worth visiting, especially if you will climb its lighthouse as you will be rewarded with the most gorgeous panoramic views of the city, as well as the Salt Run Lagoon.
6Oldest Wooden School House
By just looking at its name, you will already have a clue how much history the Oldest Wooden School House holds. Built in 1788, this place doesn’t just have a unique structure (made with cypress and cedar and is put together by handmade nails) but it also served a unique purpose and that is being the first co-ed school that educated boys and girls in 1788. Built under the rule of Imperial Spain, this 200-year-old building can let you see a glimpse of what life was during the time period, especially as you listen to the animated schoolmaster that it has. The best part of it is that it has an on-site gift shop where you can find items that you can take home to remember this unique trip by or maybe items that you can give as a gift to your family and/or friends back home.
7The Old Jail
Speaking of old, here’s another old establishment that you need to see if you are looking for some things to do in St. Augustine to know more about its past: The Old Jail. Opened in 1891 and served as St. Johns County Jail until 1953, this place also has a lot to tell about the city’s past with the fascinating artifacts that it showcases. You can also get to marvel at the collection of weaponry that it has and even take photos of and at the spot where the hangings were carried out in the jail back in the day. It also has a structure that it worth talking about. Aside from its Romanesque revival style architecture that will capture your attention, this place is also worth visiting as it has costumed tour guides who can help you paint a picture about the conditions that its prisoners encountered in the jail in the past.
8Fort Matanzas National Monument
Also another one of the best things to do in St. Augustine if you want to get a good glimpse of the city’s past is to visit Fort Matanzas National Monument. Built in 1742, this place once served as the city’s defense from British attack. And even until today, the remnants of its service remains and seeing it is something you shouldn’t miss if you are interested in the city’s history. What makes this place all the more worth talking about is that you’ll regularly find reenactments of what happened in the past here, detailing the history of this fort to its visitors. It’s not just educational but it is also very entertaining as the reenactors are really good. And if you’re traveling with kids, this the Fort Matanzas National Monument is one of the best places to be in St. Augustine.
9Spanish Military Hospital Museum
The Spanish Military Hospital Museum also gives you a piece of history in the medical field in the early days of St. Augustine. And seeing it is also one of the best things to do in St. Augustine. Here, you can watch how colonial surgery techniques were performed by the museum staff and even get to see and learn more about the herbs that the early settlers in the city once used as medicine. Also, with the displays like the antique surgical instruments, you can also get a glimpse of what life was like as a patient or a doctor back in 1791. It’s also a place that will fill you with lots of knowledge in the history of medicine in St. Augustine so don’t miss a chance to add this to your list of things to do in St. Augustine as well.
10The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum
Initially built as a home for the Ximenez Family in 1798, this place eventually became a boarding house that offered lodging to many guests back in the day. Today, this place now opens itself to the public as a museum. But it’s not just an ordinary museum that tells stories about its former owners. Rather, this place showcases the way of life in Florida in the early 19th century, particularly during the original Florida tourism boom. All of its rooms were restored and meticulously preserved and each of them tells a story about a particular type of its visitor who stayed in the boarding house. Some were adventurers, pirates, soldiers, botanists, sailors, and even sick people who were trying to recover in Florida’s balmy climate, to name a few. It’s a different kind of trip back in time so don’t miss a chance to visit this place too.
11Old City Gates
The Old City Gates, as its name suggests, has a lot of things to tell about the city’s history as well. There are even different kinds of tours that you can try out like the historic walking tours, horse-drawn carriage tours, and a sightseeing trolley train tours wherein you’ll be taken into some of the historical sites around the area. But what makes this place all the more worth visiting is that it isn’t just filled with historic landmarks but it is also a place where you can also get to try out more modern activities as this place also has plenty of bars, cafes, shops, and inns.
12St. George Street
Also one of the popular things to do in St. Augustine is visiting St. George Street. Many locals and tourists alike flock this area because it is one of the places in the city that really has a lot to offer for its visitors. There’s so much to do in this place that many often miss exploring the surrounding cobblestone streets, as well as the nearby areas. And if you happen to go here, don’t forget exploring this place thoroughly. Aside from the attractions that it has where you can get to hear countless stories about the city’s past, this place also has some streets made with cobblestones that are also perfect for that Instagram post. St. George Street is also just a stone throw away from several restaurants that are worth visiting as well in case you need to fuel yourself with some good food after a long day of exploring the city’s attractions. It’s something that you shouldn’t pass on adding to your travel itinerary as well.
St. Augustine is really an amazing city that you need to visit if you’re traveling to Texas. It has plenty of attractions and activities to offer, especially if you want to learn more about its rich past. So why not add this to your travel itinerary now?