Ready to journey to the Sunshine State’s historic gem? On one of our visits to Florida we went searching for the old Florida and places steeped in history; this led us to St. Augustine. We liked it so much we’ve been back several times.
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Nestled along the Atlantic coast and founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest U.S. city. So, you know this city has some amazing stories to tell. Flaunting its beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, cobbled streets, and beautiful coastline, St. Augustine is irresistibly charming for history buffs or nature enthusiasts.
St. Augustine has three major sections:
- Historic Downtown
- King Street District
- St Augustine Beach
Historic St. Augustine Florida
The historic district is the oldest part of St. Augustine and home to buildings dating back to the 1700’s. There is plenty of shopping, restaurants, and attractions for the whole family. Stop by the St. Augustine Visitor Center to find out all the fun things to do here.
Where to Park in Historic Downtown
St. Augustine is a walkable city-most of the popular sites are within 2 miles of each other. So put on your walking shoes, park your car and explore the streets of St. Augustine. There is a large parking lot off of Florida State A1A & West Castillo Drive behind the Visitor’s Center.
Things to do in St. Augustine’s Historic Downtown
On your way to the downtown shopping area check out the milestone and fountains.
Old Spanish Trail Zero Milestone
This milestone marks the end of the Old Spanish Trail from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida. It is a near the St. Augustine Visitor’s Center.
Fuente De Los Canos De San Francisco
Near the St. Augustine Visitor’s Center is the Fuente De Los Canos De San Franisco . A beautiful fountain with multi spouts represents the relationship between Aviles, Spain and St. Augustine, Florida. Spain gave the masks to St. Augustine.
Old City Gate
Opened in 1739, the old city gate was the only access point for the north side of Spanish St. Augustine. In 1808 the gate’s pillars were constructed of coquina. Today, they mark the entrance of St. Augustine’s historic district.
See the oldest wooden school house in the USA. Built in 1702 . Tours are available. For information on the tours
Pirate & Treasure Museum
Located in St. Augustine’s historic district, the Pirate & Treasure Museum has the largest collection of pirate artifacts. My daughter said this is the best museum ever and all museums should be like this one.
The museum has nine sections. You receive a treasure map with clues to help you find the treasures throughout the exhibit. Your journey begins at Port Royal. Here you learn how pirates came to be. The following exhibit is a recreation of a tavern to show how pirates lived. The main deck is built as if you are boarding a pirate ship. It is interactive. Visitors can fire a real cannon, feel the weight of a musket, explore the captain’s cabin, and see the execution dock.
With more than 800 artifacts and treasures the Pirate museum is the most complete collection of all things pirate. It is also home to the world’s only pirate treasure chest. The chest belonged to Thomas Tew and is over 400 years old. We had fun trying to figure out where the lock on the chest was.
You can view recovered sunken pirate treasures, Captain Kidd’s chest, and one of the two original jolly roger flags.
In addition to these exhibits there is a room on pirates from Hollywood and a Disney Blackbeard show. The Pirate & Treasure Museum
Castillo de San Marcos
In 1672, the Spanish built Castillo de San Marcos. It is the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. The fort was a military outpost to protect their fleets and to keep pirates from stealing their provisions.
The builders used what was abundant in Florida to create the fort. It is made with coquina, which is limestone made out of shells. If you take a closer look you can see the seashells.
Take a stroll down the oldest street in the nation’s oldest city. Aviles Street is lined with art galleries, cozy cafes, and a vibe that feels like you took a step back in time.
North of Downtown
Just under a mile north of the Visitor Center near the Matanzas River is Magnolia Drive. The live oaks arch over the road creating a a canopy of Spanish moss. It is one of the prettiest roads in Florida and it is also the street where you’ll find the Fountain of Youth – that is if you believe the legend.
Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
Looking for the Fountain of Youth? If the stories are true you just mind find it in St. Augustine, Florida. According to the legend, Ponce de León was searching for a mythical spring that restores your youth when he landed at this site in 1513. You can drink from this fountain within the Archaeological Park.
This park is the location of the first settlement in St. Augustine.
Less than a third of a mile from the park is St. Augustine’s oldest jail and general store.
The Old Jail
St. Augustine’s most hardened criminals were sent to the Old Jail. Hear stories about the people who were imprisoned here and those sent to the galleys. Take a guided tour of The Old Jail and step inside the maximum security cells.
Anastasia State Park and Beach
If you need a nature fix head over to the island to for some sand and sun at Anastasia State Park.
St. Augustine Lighthouse
Visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse.