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Travel

St Augustine – History, Adventure, Food and Fun

St Augustine is a city of history, adventure, stunning Spanish colonial architecture, great food, and fun too. The nation’s oldest city is spectacular and educational. Brimming with history and no end of things to see and do both in the city and the surrounding area, St Augustine offers travelers the best of city life, as well as easy access to nature, and a rich history that rivals any city in the country.

In fact, this city is the oldest continuously occupied European established settlement within the United States, hence it’s incredibly rich history and many historical sites. We took a trip to St Augustine recently, and we were blown away by the city’s beauty, history, vibrant creative food scene and culture. There are many reasons this destination makes a perfect girl’s getaway. Here are a few of the ones that stood out.

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Florida’s Historic Coast – St Augustine

Founded on September 8, 1565 by Spanish admiral, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the settlement was named in honor of the feast day of St. Augustine. For over 200 years, the city served as the capital of Spanish Florida and became capital of British East Florida for a brief period. The county seat of St. John’s County, this city is part of the Jacksonville metropolitan area and it is commonly referred to as part of Florida’s Historic Coast.

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It’s a city filled with history and so much more. Modern fun, culture and great food are just waiting to be discovered by the whole family, the solo traveler, the romantic getaway, guys or girlfriend’s getaway too. St Augustine is well known for weddings and school field trips too. Education, romance, history and golf? There’s a bit of something for every type of adventure.

We thoroughly enjoyed every second in St Augustine and would return in a heartbeat.

Worth noting are the numerous pretty little B and B’s in St Augustine. Actually 25 Bed and Breakfast inns exist in this small city of 14,000 people. Accommodations run the range from cute homespun Bed and Breakfasts to name brand hotels. BUT, what you need to know about St. Augustine is this – the city of St. Augustine has a smart city planning department and you will never see one of those massive hotel chain skyscrapers here. Nothing can be higher than 4 stories by mandate of the city, which means views of the city are magnificent from pretty much any location.

Also another small point worth noting, because of the deep history running through this area of Florida, St Augustine has the distinction of being the only city in North America with an archeological team on staff. Before anything can be built here that team is required to do a dig. Preserving history is important here.

The Vibrant and Creative Food Scene:

St. Augustine has always had a dining scene that features fresh seafood and locally grown produce. In recent years, the city has experienced an influx of great restaurants. In the past few years popular restaurants like, Michael’s Tasting Room, The Floridian, The Ice Plant Bar and Restaurant, The Preserved, and the Prohibition Kitchen opened and have really set the bar for scratch kitchens, adding to the already exceptional dining scene.

Hot Shot Bakery & Cafe

No trip recap is complete without discussing dining, so let’s take a look at Hot shot Bakery & Cafe. WE stopped in for a little cooking demo and some history of the culinary influences that shaped the local cuisine, including the Minorcans and Greeks who came to St Augustine in 1777. The demo was fun and tasty, and learning the history was quite informative. And the food was amazing. At least two members of our small group of four left with their bottled Datil pepper sauce (serious heat there). And the cranberry mustard that Sherri Stoppelbein puts on her sandwiches is scrumptious. Oh, also worth mentioning there are many gluten free options here and farm to table is taken seriously.

Catch 27

If you love good food and seafood, then Catch 27 is the place for you. Featuring some of the best seafood in the area, Catch 27 is located in the heart of historic St Augustine and serves fresh, locally caught seafood daily. Everything is from scratch, and everything is delicious. We ate our fill of delicious seafood, fresh fish tacos, appetizers and desserts. On our last morning here we overheard someone on the trolley talking about their dinner reservations and I told them Catch 27 is the spot they cannot leave without trying. If you go and you do not visit Catch 27 you are missing out.

Not kidding when I say I already miss this spot the most. Incredible and inventive.

Maple Street Biscuit Company

See my post on Jacksonville too to understand why we loved this cute bakery and cafe so much. Maple Street Biscuit was one of our favourites on this getaway.

Schmagel’s Bagels, The Floridian and so many more!! There are more than enough great choices for a wonderful dinner or lunch in St. Augustine. Loved the many tiny candy shops and keep your eyes open for gourmet popsicles. See what I mean about creative!!

 Things To Do and See

St Augustine Bike Rentals

This was one of our favourite activities the entire time we were away. We did a Segway tour of St. Augustine, but there are several other options there too. There are bikes, scooters, golf carts and scootcoupe cars, as well as VIP tours. Next time I would love to drive the scootcoupe.

Renting a bike or doing a Segway tour is a super way to see the city. Our guide John was extremely well informed. Highly recommend St Augustine bike rentals. Also the ride was safe. Street traffic here is not overwhelming as it is in many other cities.

What did I learn from this activity? Don’t wear Birkenstocks on a Segway. I almost got one caught. Closed toed runners are best.

Anastasia State Park

For the outdoor lover, Anastasia State Park is the place to visit. Enjoy all the beauty that nature has to offer while you  hiking, fish, do watersports, and more.

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The Lightner Museum is across from Flagler College

Lightner Museum

Art buffs and pop culture lovers will adore touring Lightner Museum. Housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, today this incredibly beautiful building is open to the public seven days a week and features one of the best collections of fine and decorative 19th century art to be found. Self-guided and reservation tours are available. So are demonstrations of antique mechanical musical instruments.

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Lightner Museum currently features the popular Dressing Downton exhibit which is exceptionally curated and a must see. When you are done, visit the gift shop featuring Downton souvenirs. And don’t forget to have lunch on the lower level, the former pool of Alcazar Hotel now called Cafe Alcazar.

See photo above of us dining in the pool. Soup and salad was very good and the specials are tasty. Ask the server what they are when you visit.

Ripley’s Museums and Tours

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Ripley’s Museums are always fun and quirky and well represented here. We did the Ripley’s Ghost Train Tour and it was comical. Warning – I wouldn’t recommend it for small children, because there are scary bits.

 Red Train Trolley Tour

Hop on and hop off at any of the 23 spots. Keep your sticker and your ticket. Great and easy way to see the city. Plus it’s cute, family friendly, and always fun to ride a train or a trolley. You will see various versions of this all over the city. We did Red Train Trolley Tour, which was great. However if you want great pictures you will need to hop and and off. Snapping shots while the train is in motion is not the best way to get superb photos.

Dark of the Moon Tour

If you’re looking for something a little different, head over to the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime museum to take part in their Dark of the Moon Tour. This tour touts itself as the all ghosts, no gimmicks paranormal tour. It’s apparently the only tour that lets you investigate the most haunted place in St Augustine.

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Flagler College:

For years I have heard about the Flaglers in Florida and had no idea what the connection was. I am Canadian so I will chalk it up to that. This year we actually googled it on the drive down. In St. Augustine you should take the time to investigate Flagler’s investment and influence here. Flagler College is worth visiting and also taking pictures of too. It was one the Ponce DeLeon hotel and the building itself is magnificent. Now it is a stunning college.

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Inside Flagler College dining room. Windows of Tiffany Glass. Trust me – you have never seen a college like this. Do the tour! This photo courtesy of Sandi Allen at Canadian Blog House. Thanks Sandi!

The Oldest Fort in the US:

Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest fort in the US. Beautiful to visit and to take photos of as well. We mostly saw it at night on the ghost tour. It is also a stop on many of the trolley tours.

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Photo courtesy of Aeryn Lynne – Geek With Style

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine:

18th Century Church. The oldest church in Florida. Stunning features and architecture inside and out. Gorgeous stained glass. Gift shop inside.

The Fountain of Youth:

We drove by and didn’t really have time to visit, but would recommend that you try to see the Fountain of Youth when you visit.

Shopping:

Most adorable shopping district you will find anywhere. Cute quirky shops on cobblestone streets. We found dozens of souvenirs, sweet treats, and household goods.

St Augustine – A Great Choice for a Girl’s Getaway

The places listed above are just some of the amazing places to see in the Saint Augustine area. From art to history to fine dining and more, St Augustine has something for everyone in the family. If you’re planning a trip to Florida, St Augustine should be on your list. The architecture, history and food alone are spectacular. Oh and did you know it was ranked by National Geographic Traveler as one of the “World’s 20 Must See Places.”

A Few More Things:

  • Nearest airport – The most logical airport to use to travel to St Augustine is the Jacksonville International Airport.
  • Park Now pass – Get one – parking can be tricky and expensive otherwise. This makes it affordable.
  • There’s also a distillery you might want to tour and a chocolate factory.
  • Follow St Augustine on Twitter – @FlHistoricCoast

    Facebook.com/OfficialStAugustineand visit – www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com  to learn more and to start planning your vacation. 

  • OH MY and I didn’t even have time to tell you about the beach. Anyways, trust me there’s more to see and do than I could even begin to cover here. You will just have to go see St Augustine for yourself.

    We were guests of St. Augustine and Visit Florida while doing our girl’s getaway trip this past Fall. Accommodations, amenities, food, and flights were covered. My opinion is all my own and it is also truthful. 

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.

14 Comments

  • Christine

    Wow! I’m really surprised that St. Augustine is in Florida. I would not have guessed that! I have never visited Florida, but St.Augustine is not the type of place I would think would be located in Florida. I would have guessed Spain based on your photos alone. What a BEAUTIFUL place!

    I love the variety of things to do and visit. I’m trying to decide what I would do first if I would go visit. I’m debating going for a walk to check out all the beautiful buildings… or try out some of the food (those deviled eggs looked out of the world delicious!). I’d definitely make sure to visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine!

    Thanks for sharing your trip! It sure has me dreaming of a vacation! hehe

  • Nicole King

    St. Augustine looks like a city that is rich in history and I absolutely love that! I’ll have to keep this gem in mind next time I decide to plan a trip to Florida.

  • Lisa Favre

    Okay, I was skimming through your list of things to do and um… chocolate factory?! Yes, please with a cherry on top. I’m sure, though, that my husband would be more up for the distillery.

  • Censie Sawyer

    I have only ever been to Florida for a conference….which meant I never really stepped outside of the hotel due to a super busy schedule. One day I hope to take my family on a vacation to Florida. St. Augustine has always interested me. Thanks for the great ideas!

  • Ali Rost

    St Augustine sounds like such a wonderful destination. If my husband and I are ever lucky enough to visit, you can bet we’ll be eating our way through all of the great restaurants (for her) and stopping at the Ripleys’ Museum (for him). x

  • Teresa

    Oh I loved reading this information about St Augustine. We went to Florida for three weeks this past summer, driving from Chicago with our children and I wanted to stop in St Augustine for a couple of days, but we just couldn’t squeeze it in. ow, I know for sure we need to make this spot a must see on our place to go soon

  • Karlyn cruz

    Wow! I definitely like that there’s an archeological team! Sounds like there’s a lot of history there! That shopping district looks great! And I can’t believe there are so many B and B’s! Definitely tons of places to stay! What a great little town!

  • Aitza b

    I love St. Augustine so much. I’m a native Floridian and still have vivid memories of my 4th grade field trip there. So much rich history in this town. Glad you all had a lovely time.

  • Tami

    I would like to visit the Hot Shot Bakery & Cafe. I enjoy watching cooking demos and hearing history of culinary influences. I am about to take the gluten-free journey, so this will be an added bonus.

  • Stephanie Ziajka

    This looks like an incredible trip to St Augustine. I would love to go and see the history, especially try the foods there. Next time I go to Florida to visit family, I’d love to make a detour visit!