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As the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine is rich with cultural and historical heritage. This beautiful and celebrated city will captivate your imagination. You can relax on pristine beaches, walk in the same footsteps as pirates, explore historic buildings, and admire the Spanish colonial architecture. There is so much to do here that it is difficult to choose my favorite St. Augustine attractions, but I have narrowed my list down to my top 10 things to do in St. Augustine. Let's get started!
The historic Old City district is a must-see in St. Augustine. Stroll through the area and enjoy the shopping, dining, museums, and art galleries that fill this area. Admire the authentic cobblestone streets and the original Spanish colonial architecture. Walk down the main thoroughfare, St. George Street, and you will see the Colonial Quarter, the Oldest Wooden School House, and the Pirate & Treasure Museum. Then, walk down Aviles Street, the oldest street in the United States, constructed in the late 1500s. Here you will find the old Spanish Hospital Museum, and plenty of art galleries, boutiques, and sidewalk cafes.
St. Augustine was a prime target over 300 years ago during the Golden Age of Piracy. Many legendary pirates including Francis Drake (1586) and Robert Seale (1668) plundered the town. “When you visit St. Augustine, you are literally walking the same footsteps as pirates,” says Pat Croce, founder of the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. Take a visit to this museum to discover genuine pirate maps, treasure chests, and other artifacts.
The Castillo de San Marcos is an incredible place to visit because it embodies nearly 450 years of Florida history. Completed in 1695, Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest and largest masonry fort in the continental United States. There were several wooden forts before its construction, but these were continually plundered by pirates. After a particularly destructive attack by Robert Seale in 1668, which left the city in absolute shambles, the Castillo de San Marcos was built to protect the city from any more attacks. Later, the fort was used to incarcerate members of Native American tribes. The most famous prisoner was the Seminole war chief, Osceola, who was imprisoned during the Second Seminole War. In 1933, the Castillo was transferred to the National Park Service and it has become a popular tourist destination. The Castillo de San Marcos is daily to visitors from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
If you are looking for some fun entertainment that is unique to St. Augustine, then you have to check out Black Raven Adventures. They have programs for all ages, but adults will particularly love either the "Rum Runners Cruise" or the "Rum and Romance Cruise." The Rum Runners cruise is an adult-oriented show with swashbuckling pirates regaling you with skits, songs, and stories. The suggestive jokes make this a lively show for anyone who likes to laugh and have fun with friends. The Rum and Romance cruise is also an adult-only trip, but with a softer side. There will be music, authentic St. Augustine history, and fun contests with prizes. There is a fully licensed bar is open during every trip with a large selection of specialty cocktails, because would it really be a pirate cruise without rum? As we are headed into the holiday season, they also have daily special Christmas cruises that are fun for the whole family, including the “How Santa Saved Christmas” trip and the “Nights of Lights.”
There are 42 miles of beautiful beaches near St. Augustine. There are a variety of options, including natural State Park beaches and public beaches. Anastasia State Park is a protected bird sanctuary with five miles of pristine sandy beaches. Anastasia Park has a recreation area with beach equipment rentals, a volleyball court, a concession stand, and a picnic area. a pristine beach that protects the natural habitats of turtles. St. Augustine Beach is known for its white sandy beaches, the St. Johns County Pier, and great restaurants nearby. Crescent Beach is a wildlife refuge and is a serene beach nestled in a beautiful natural setting.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse was built in 1874 and is still active today. Visitors can climb 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and enjoy the 360-views over historic downtown St. Augustine, Matanzas Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. Guided tours are included with admission so you can learn about this historic lighthouse.
St. Augustine is known for its extraordinary wetlands, coastal marshes, and wildlife. Cruise around the delightful estuary and watch dolphins, turtles, and manatees interacting in their natural habitat. This area is home to dolphins year-round, so you will always have the opportunity to witness these playful creatures. The tour combines sightseeing and learning as you will also get to learn about the history and famous landmarks of St. Augustine. Also, there is a bar open on board with $4 mimosas available for those 21 and older! This unforgettable dolphin tour from Florida Water Tours is the perfect way to discover the scenic waterways of St. Augustine.
Magnolia Ave is a beautiful oak-lined avenue just north of the historic district. National Geographic has named it one of the most photographed streets in America. The way the sun filters through the oak canopy and Spanish moss makes it a dreamy spot for nature photographers. The street only stretches for 0.3 miles but it is well worth a visit. You can also stop by Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, which is located off this road.
This area is the likely Florida landing site of Ponce de Leon in 1513. The park contains a well that is claimed to be the freshwater source that Ponce de Leon believed to be the Fountain of Youth. The park is fun and educational as it tells the story of St. Augustine’s history. Archaeologists have excavated the park’s grounds and found the remains of the first Spanish settlement and its fortifications in St. Augustine. This park is entertaining and educational for all ages. There are many things to do including drinking from Ponce de Leon’s Spring of Eternal Hope, observing the stars at the planetarium, climbing the Spanish watchtower, and watching daily live canon shootings.
This historic and stunningly beautiful building was originally the exclusive luxury hotel, Ponce de Leon Hotel. It was built by Henry Flagler in 1887 because he envisioned creating an American Riviera in St. Augustine. Flagler’s friend, Thomas Edison supplied power for the building with DC generators. The hotel was one of the first buildings in the country wired for electricity from the onset. It is also home to the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows. Many famous people stayed at the hotel during its operation including President Grover Cleveland, President Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and Mark Twain. Learn more about the building’s fascinating history on a tour. Tours are offered year-round, but times vary throughout the year. Tickets may be purchased at the lobby gift shop inside Flagler College.
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