When people think of Florida, they tend to think of Disney World, right? It’s okay, everyone does. Everything is for the most part shiny and new. But Florida is also home to St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city. This beautiful city is full of history and very modern at the same time. Preserved from centuries past and yet so exciting – and only an hour and a half from Orlando. Take a day trip to and experience 10 favorites in St. Augustine.
1. St. George Street
A completely pedestrian street, this gem houses many of the attractions you’ll read about below like Colonial Quarter and Castillo de San Marcos. But it is also home to the oldest schoolhouse in the US, a chocolate shop to die for, and some of the most unique shops and eateries in the state. So take a stroll and discover all that the city has to offer.
2. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
America is a toddler compared to other countries in the world, but this structure is the oldest masonry fortification and the only surviving 17th-century military site. Built between 1672 and 1695 by the Spanish to protect their city, it was used in the Revolutionary War by British soldiers, and by the Confederacy during the Civil War. It’s made entirely of cocina (which is a fancy word for limestone made of seashell fragments). Take a tour, see a re-enactment, or just take in the history on your own time.
3. St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
The oldest surviving brick structure in the city, the lighthouse was built between 1871 and 1874. Take your camera and climb to the top of the 165-ft tall lighthouse for the most breathtaking views in St. Augustine, or explore the remnants of shipwrecks and maritime history in the museum. And you better believe it’s part of the ghost tours. Legend has it that two young girls and a former lighthouse keeper who died on site in the 1800s have never left.
4. Lightner Museum
Housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, this impressive museum offers exhibits of art, shrunken heads, salt and pepper shakers, human hair, and cigar labels. Open daily from 9-5 pm, plus there’s a cafe where you can enjoy lunch. So plan on spending the day. Definitely one of the most beautiful of the 10 favorites in St. Augustine
5. Colonial Quarter
Located on St. George Street, this living history museum offers travelers a glimpse into the life of the colonists. It is divided into four areas: the 16th Century Spanish First City, the 17th Century Spanish Fortified Town, the 18th Century Spanish Garrison Town, and the 18th Century British 14th Colony. Visitors can witness musket drills and cannon firings, leatherworking, and even the construction of a ship. Book a tour to see the city and the Colonial Quarter through the eyes of an experienced guide!
6. Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
A little more than a mile north of historic downtown St. Augustine is the site of the original settlement. And the reason for the settlement: the Fountain of Youth. Thought to give the drinker eternal youth, this is the center point of the attraction. And you can drink yourself. Does it work? You’ll have to let us know.
7. St. Augustine Beach
With beautiful white sand beaches and a clear calm ocean, this is one of the most uncrowded beaches in the area. So find a spot and bask in the sun’s rays, play in the small waves, or fish off of the pier. If surfing is what you are looking for, hit the beach on a windy day, and you’ll find the waves you are after.
8. St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
This attraction sits across the street from the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. From climbing on board a replica pirate ship to taking your picture with the world’s oldest “WANTED” poster and the ONLY treasure chest on display, you will find your inner pirate here. So be sure to book your tour now!
9. Old Jail
Built in 1891, this jail was used until 1953 to house the city’s criminals. Take a daytime tour to learn about the history of the jail, the city, and the conditions the prisoners lived in, or join a ghost tour and see things from a completely different angle. The attraction is open daily 9-4:30 pm.
10. St. Augustine Alligator Farm
One of the oldest attractions in Florida, this alligator farm was established in 1893. It was promoted by the South Beach Railway Company and soon became a booming tourist destination. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm is the only facility in the world exhibiting specimens of all 24 currently recognized species of crocodilian and is recognized nationally for the care given to its inhabitants.
Not sure where to start? Take a tour of the city, and takes notes for your next visit. So check out these 10 favorites on Florida’s Historic Coast.