St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the United States, founded by the Spanish in 1565. It served as the capital of Spanish Florida for 200 years, so European influence is everywhere from the cuisine to the architecture.
It became a getaway for the rich and famous when Henry Flagler developed the rail system through Florida and opened luxury hotels along the way. Now it’s home to Flagler College and the Florida National Guard.
What to Do in St. Augustine
Castillo De San Marcos National Monument– Construction on the fort began in 1672 while the Spanish still had a stronghold on the area. Guests can tour the fort with park rangers to learn about what it would have been like back then. Since it’s a National Park Site, there are some days throughout the year when guests can visit for free. 1 South Castillo Drive
Colonial Quarter– This neighborhood is made up of historic buildings modeled after the early settlement of St. Augustine. While you’re here, check out the costumed interpreters and The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse.
Feast of Saint Augustine 3 Hours Walking Tour– Visit the best restaurants in downtown St. Augustine on this guided tour. For one price, you get samples along the way, along with cocktails for those old enough to drink.
Fountain of Youth– Easily the city’s most popular attraction, the Fountain of Youth marks the point where Ponce de Leon supposedly found the fountain of youth, a water source that would make the drinker stay young forever. Drink the water and explore the park, which has an impressive collection of peafowl and other animals. There are also archaeological digs, painting classes, and even weddings going on daily. 11 Magnolia Avenue
Legacy Tours of Flagler College– Formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel, this resort has been turned into a small liberal arts college. Tours are led by students and talk about the building and history of the property and how it came to be a school. Admire the Spanish Renaissance architecture throughout the campus. 59 St. George Street
Lightner Museum– This museum houses all sorts of oddities from shrunken heads to antique glassware to a stuffed lion. The building itself is the former Alcazar Hotel, another Henry Flagler property built across the street from Flagler College. Get a skip-the-line ticket before you go. 75 King Street
Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center– Learn about St. Augustine’s Black history, which dates back over 450 years, at this museum, which is located in an area where emancipated people lived starting in 1866. 102 Martin Luther King Avenue
Pirate & Treasure Museum– Families will love this interactive museum with exhibits on the history of piracy in America and beyond. Artifacts include real pirate flags, gold doubloons, swords, and more. 12 South Castillo Drive
Ripley’s Believe It or Not– While you’ll find other locations of this offbeat museum, this is the original. It’s located in a former home-turned-hotel with a spooky past of its own. It has some of Ripley’s items never seen before. 19 San Marco Avenue
San Sebastian Winery– Enjoy locally made wines at this tasting room in one of Henry Flagler’s former railroad buildings. Styles include pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon, port, and muscadine wines. 157 King Street
St. Augustine Distillery– The former factory opened 11 years ago during the rise in craft distilling. Since then, it’s become known for award-winning spirits, including rum, vodka, gin, and whiskey. There are free self-guided tours and tastings. 112 Riberia Street
St. Augustine Eco Tours– See the waterways that surround the old city with this eco-friendly tour operator. Visitors can spot dolphins in kayaks or catamarans.
The St. Augustine History Museum– This museum interprets the history of St. Augustine from Native American tribes to Spanish control to the present. 11 Estey Street
St Augustine Lighthouse– The view from the iconic lighthouse, built in 1874, is well worth the climb up the 219 stairs. Along the way, there are panels talking about the history of the lighthouse and its ghostly past. The museum has artifacts collected from the area as well as belongings of previous keepers. 81 Lighthouse Avenue
Villa Zorayda– This home was inspired by Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Built in 1883, it later operated as a hotel before becoming a museum. It’s filled with unique Moorish-inspired decor and even an ancient Egyptian rug made from cat hair. 83 King Street
Whetstone Chocolates– Tour an active chocolate factory that has crafted sweet treats for countless brands, including Walt Disney World. Book your tour in advance. Visitors are required to wear hear nets and no photos are allowed inside the factory. 42 St. George Street
The Discover St Augustine: Attractions Pass with Hop-On Hop-Off gets you into the majority of these landmarks.
Where to Eat in St. Augustine
Ancient City Brunch Bar– Started as a teenager’s high school project, this family-run restaurant is a popular spot for coffee and “brunch boards,” a breakfast take on charcuterie with cheese and pastries. 210 St. George Street, (904) 342-0890
The Floridian– Focusing on what’s local and seasonal, the diverse menu includes an Asian-inspired fried chicken sandwich, catch of the day, and blackened Florida shrimp and grits. Even the decor is inspired by the tropics. 72 Spanish Street, (904) 829-0655
The Hyppo– Celebrating the artisan popsicle trend is The Hyppo, a shop selling its offbeat flavors like mango habanero, pistachio rosewater, and pear riesling. Made from fresh ingredients, a popsicle is a great way to beat the Florida heat. 48 Charlotte Street, (904) 217-7853, 70 Saint George Street, (904) 547-2980
The Ice Plant– This trendy bar and restaurant has a cocktail-heavy menu that takes inspiration from a drink’s most important ingredient. Menu highlights include their house burger, rabbit pie, and Minorcan-style seafood stew. The building itself is an old factory. 110 Riberia Street, (904) 829-6553
Llama Restaurant– For Peruvian food, head to this restaurant with items like ceviche, lomo saltado, and seafood stew. There’s also a full bar with wine and mimosas as well as chichu, a corn-based drink. 415 Anastasia Boulevard, (904) 819-1760
Michael’s– Open since 2006, this restaurant is known as one of the best in the city for dishes like steaks, seafood, and the extensive wine list. Chef Michael has appeared on the Food Network. 25 Cuna Street, (904) 810-2400
St. Augustine Fish Camp– Enjoy waterfront views and fresh seafood at this laid-back restaurant. Favorites include local shrimp and grits as well as the fried fish sandwich. 142 Riberia Street, (904) 827-7000
Sunday– Every day is the weekend at this breakfast and lunch spot north of the historic district. The menu includes toast, egg sandwiches, and salads. 73 San Marco Avenue, (904) 907-2176
Where to Stay in St. Augustine
Casa Monica Resort & Spa– This stylish Kessler Collection property is designed in the Moroccan style with chandeliers and artwork. The hotel boasts multiple restaurants and luxurious rooms. Guests have access to a private beach. 95 Cordova Street
The Collector Inn– The adults only inn is a short walk from the historic district, spread across nine buildings. Guests enjoy free WiFi, daily breakfast, a heated pool, and daily happy hour.149 Cordova Street
Comfort Inn & Suites– Located near the outlet malls a short drive from downtown St. Augustine, the rooms are comfortable and clean. Breakfast is included, along with WiFi, an indoor pool, and a fitness center. 2367 FL-16
The Local– Set across the bay on Anastasia Island is this vintage motel that has been completely restored. Guests enjoy smartphone check in and keys, gym access, bicycles, and a pool. 512 Anastasia Boulevard
The Pirate Haus Inn– Budget travelers can enjoy the basic rooms at this inn. Some are themed and have bunk beds. Guests have access to television, games, and a full kitchen. 32 Treasury Street
St Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast– The historic bed and breakfast is a romantic setting for a getaway with porches, a swimming pool, and gourmet daily breakfast. Rooms are furnished with antiques and televisions and guests get discounted admission to nearby attractions. 279 St George Street
Villa Victor– This modern hotel has a restaurant, bar and snack bar, an outdoor pool, and free WiFi. 42 San Marco Avenue
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I was a guest of the St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, who arranged my stay at the Comfort Inn and Suites and entry into some attractions.