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
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
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
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
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park– Alligators are obviously the main attraction at this wildlife park, bringing in the most unique of the species from all over the world. Enjoy daily reptile shows or try the Crocodile Crossing zip line, which runs through the park. 999 Anastasia Boulevard
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
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
Other attractions to check out are the oldest wooden schoolhouse, the St Photios Shrine, Mission of Nombre de Dios, the Pirate & Treasure Museum, San Sebastian Winery, The St. Augustine History Museum, and the Colonial Quarter.
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
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 Tasting Room– Spanish influence is still present in St. Augustine, as seen at the Tasting Room, a tapas restaurant. They have an extensive selection of Spanish wines. The ceviche, pictured above, and gambas al ajillo, a spicy shrimp dish, were my favorites. 25 Cuna Street, (904) 810-2400
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
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
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
Where to Stay in St. Augustine
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
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
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 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
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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.