If you haven’t been to St. Augustine, FL then you need to pack your bags and fill up the tank, you are missing out on what may be Florida’s best weekender to be had. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, just high-tail it to our Nation’s Oldest City. This history-rich Florida destination is full of entertainment, dining, hospitality and leisure.
Best time to visit Sept-May, favourite month April
As a travel blogger (and a bit of a chatter mouth) I talk to A LOT of people and I ask, “where have you been? Where are you going? What did you love? What did you hate?” You name it, I am always asking people questions, and I am always surprised at the number of people that have never been to St. Augustine, including people who live just hours away. Florida residents, both part and full time, and vacationers alike, seem to be in the shadows of the Disney empire.
St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest city, which in of itself is pretty fascinating. If you’re like me, you think old, you think interesting. So, I went to the Nation’s Oldest City to uncover the legend and the lore, the creepy and the pretty, and you know what? It all turned out to be one big barrel of awesome.
It’s old, it has character, it has nooks and crannies, really old live oak trees with Spanish moss that hangs to the ground, and really, really nice people. The hospitality there blew me away. Having been formally trained in the hospitality industry in Charleston, SC it’s very hard to impress me by the likes of hospitality.
I was lucky enough to have stayed at the St. Francis Inn. The staff was very friendly, the Inn was pristine, antiquated, and wrapped in low hanging trees and overgrown vines. The details were warm and left me knowing that this will always be my St. Augustine home away from home.
Bonus: The St. Francis Inn is located on St. George Street just a short walk from the historic district. It is said to be haunted too, and that is always pretty cool.
Historic St. George Street was like a time warp. All of the buildings are made to look just as they did in the late 1500s, in fact, they are all built on the original foundations. Here you can find shopping, dining, and both the Colonial Quarter and the Pirate & Treasure Museum. The Colonial Quarter is an interactive history attraction with authentic replicas from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and is home to one of the best tour guides I have ever met, Grimm.
If you’re looking for a fun and engaging way to learn about the history of St. Augustine and the beginning of our Nation, then this is the place you want to be. Be sure to swing over to the Pirate & Treasure Museum as well. This is a family fun museum that has one of the best presentations of pirate history I have ever seen, and it is home to the world’s only authentic pirate treasure chest.
Another great must-see attraction is Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth and Archaeological Park. This in combination with Colonial Quarter is the best way to get the complete history dating back 3,500 years before Ponce de Leon was said to have discovered Florida in 1513. Situated alongside the 15 waterfront acres is the original site of St. Augustine, a Florida Historic Landmark. Now, if you’re into the creepier, darker side of travel then you may want to explore one of the city’s top-rated ghost tours.
What’s old comes with a history, and where there’s history there’s creepy. One of my favourite “Ghostly” attractions was Ripley’s Believe it or Not at the historic (and haunted) Castle Warden. Not only is Mr. Ripley’s collection of weird stuff fascinating, but the history of the Castle Warden is chilling, so chilling, that they offer a Ghost Train Adventure tour. Join Ripley’s tour guide with your very own paranormal investigative equipment, and see for yourself just how haunted St. Augustine really is.
Falling in love with St. Augustine is easy. There is much, much more to see and do in the Oldest City, and I can hardly wait to get back to those old red bricks in front of the St. Francis Inn. So, if your bags are still empty what are you waiting for? It’s time to crawl out from the shadows of Disney and dig a little deeper into real Florida culture.
Other places that you have to see:
Castillo de San Marcos
Black Raven Pirate Ship