St. Augustine is a unique American vacation destination. Over 500 years old (not many American destinations can say that), this magical Florida city is walkable, full of character and places to eat, drink, sunbathe and relax.
Tour colonial buildings like the beautiful Cathedral of St. Augustine or the Spanish fortress and hear stories about the many ghosts that are said to haunt the city. See re-enactments of how life was lived 400 years ago and dine or drink in atmospheric old taverns. You can even relive the period when St. Augustine was a den of Buccaneers, with the Pirate Pub Crawl.
If history doesn't excite you, modern St. Augustine is a tourist's dream. Window shop at boutiques like Surf Culture on St George Street, see the oddities at Ripley's Believe it or Not! or head to coastal beauty spots like Anastasia Beach, where the water is warm, and there are miles of dunes in which to find the ideal spot.
With so much to appeal to both history buffs and families wanting a conventional beach holiday, St. Augustine is a destination that every traveler should visit.
Famous for being the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the Americas, St. Augustine has more historic buildings per square mile than any other American destination. Find out how the city changed hands from Spanish to British and then American control, see the cathedral, the city jail and the Spanish fortress for a taste of how life was lived four hundred years ago.
Florida is one of America's greatest beach destinations and the area to the south of St. Augustine has some of the state's finest beaches. If you want to swim, kayak or just perfect your tan, head to Anastasia Beach, which is just a couple of miles out of town.
The calendar of St. Augustine is jammed full of special events. See the lavish Christmas Parade if you visit during winter, see the magical illuminated boats at December's Holiday Regatta of Lights or blend great food and blues at the Rhythm & Ribs Festival held in March.
Some major tourist destinations can be tricky to get around, but that's not the case with St. Augustine. The city center is full of attractions and it is easy to navigate by foot (plus there are plenty of walking tours are available as well).
St. Augustine is one of Florida's best places to eat out, with superb Mexican restaurants like Casa Maya and seafood restaurants like the Outback Crab Shack serving up locally caught shrimp and fish. It's also a fantastic place to drink. Don't miss the St. Augustine Pub Crawl, which visits a string of historic inns in the center of town.
Construction began on the Castillo de San Marcos in 1672, during the time when Florida was still part of the Spanish Empire. It is the oldest fort constructed of masonry in the US, and the largest stone fortress in all of what was once the Spanish New World. Along with touring the fort, which includes former soldier's residences, a gun deck, a large courtyard, and a spectacular view of the city, visitors can check for special events such as historic weapons demonstrations and more.
The Bridge of Lions spans Matanzas Bay, connecting St. Augustine with Anastasia Island. From the pair of replica marble lions copied from the Medici palace in Rome to the picturesque views of the Intracoastal Waterway, the double-leaf drawbridge is a photographer's dream. At the west entrance, there is a dock open for public access along with landscaped grounds and gazebos, plus stunning views of historic St. Augustine.
The Mission Nombre de Dios and the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche were established on the site where Pedro Menéndez de Avilés landed on September 8th, 1565, claiming the territory for the Spanish crown and for the Catholic church. A church and mission were founded in the early 1600s, with the current church built in 1915 to replace the structure destroyed by a hurricane. Visitors can explore the grounds and enjoy the landscaped gardens, and may choose to observe a moment of silence at the shrine. The Mission runs a regular mass and confession, and offers a gift shop for souvenirs.
Visitors can get a glimpse at what life and education looked like in 18th-century colonial Florida by touring the replica displays and museum exhibits of the Oldest Wooden School House. The structure dates back to 1716, originally a home constructed with cypress and red cedar logs. The present-day museum includes a kitchen area, and gardens where a pecan tree has been growing for 250 years.
Located on Anastasia Island across Matanzas Bay from St. Augustine, this large state park is home to breathtaking plant and animal ecosystems and stunning natural wonders, from white sandy beaches and dunes to tidal marshes and nature trails. The park is home to abundant wildlife and birds for nature lovers, with miles of hiking trails. Bicycle, paddleboard, kayak, and canoe rentals are available for exploring the park. Camping facilities include 139 campsites within a short distance of the beach, with WiFi available from the camp grill area.
If you want to enjoy the historic attractions without contending with massive crowds, visit St. Augustine between March and May. Summer brings hot temperatures and is great for beach lovers, but the city can become extremely crowded. Winter brings magical illuminations at night, but can also bring chilly temperatures, making spring the best time to go.
If you intend to fly to St. Augustine, your best option is to fly into Jacksonville International Airport, which is around 50 miles to the north. You can then take an airport shuttle to most of St. Augustine's major hotels, which costs $5 per head. Alternatively, you can take the hourly bus, which costs $2 or take a cab. If you choose a taxi, expect to pay $30-40.
There's no Amtrak service directly to St. Augustine, but you can travel to Jacksonville via the Meteor and Silver Star routes, which provide connections to Miami, New York, and other Eastern Seaboard cities. From Jacksonville, it takes around 90 minutes to reach St. Augustine by car.
Driving is a convenient way to reach St. Augustine. I-95 passes a few miles to the west of the city and links it to cities like Jacksonville, Washington, and New York. If you are coming from the West or Southern states like Texas, take I-10.
St. Augustine is served by regular Greyhound buses, which stop at 1711 Dobbs Road, not far from the city center.
The historic district is the place to stay if you want to explore all of the city's architecture and museums, and it's full of excellent accommodation options. For a luxury stay, have a look at the Francis Inn, which mixes an 18th-century building with private Jacuzzis. Also in the historic area, the Pirate Haus Inn is great fun for kids, with pirate-themed storytelling entertainment and great food. For a cosy and affordable alternative, try Our House of St. Augustine B&B, which is a little to the north of the city center,
The Historic District – Located between Orange Street and King Street, the Historic District includes some of the oldest buildings in America. The city dates back to 1513, and there's plenty of colonial architecture to see, including the Cathedral of St. Augustine and the city gates. The Historic District is also home to many of the city's best restaurants, including the traditional Spanish tapas restaurant Columbia and Harry's Seafood Bar and Grille.
Eastern St. Augustine – Across the Matanzas River, you'll find Eastern St. Augustine. Mainly residential, this charming area has plenty of its own attractions, including the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Anastasia Boulevard is also a great place to head for nightlife, with bars like O'Steens and the Hoptinger Bier Garden.
North St. Augustine – A few blocks north of the Historic Center, St. Augustine doesn't suddenly become a standard American city. The northern half of the city is also packed with colonial sights, such as the Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. It's also the starting point of historic trolley tours, making it a handy place for sightseers to base themselves.
Getting around St. Augustine doesn't involve battling for a place on public buses. Instead, the center of the city is well covered by a series of trolleys. A three-day pass on the Old Town Trolley Tours allows you to visit everywhere at your own pace, while the Beach Trolley is useful for anyone who wants to spend their days by the sea.
Because St. Augustine is so compact, taxis aren't usually needed, but they can be a good way to get back to your hotel after a night out. Uber offers the best rates in town, with a basic booking fee of $2.05 and a subsequent rate of £0.75 per mile.
If you want to explore the Florida coast and head to attractions like Disneyland or Cape Kennedy, having your own car makes sense. Cars are available for around $20 per day from major outlets like Enterprise and Avis. There are also several downtown parking lots, including sites at the Castillo de San Marcos, which charges $1.50 per hour.
The best place to go if you want to shop at craft stores or boutiques is St George Street. This pedestrian precinct features a wide range of stores, from Surf Culture (which is handy for finding the perfect bikini) to Fresh Produce, a boutique selling casual wear for women. There aren't any conventional malls in the center of town, but just to the south you'll find places to shop like the Ponce de Leon Mall and Anastasia Plaza.
The cost of living in St. Augustine is around the American average, so it won't break the bank but saving money won't be easy. If you need to shop for groceries, the best places to go are supermarkets like Aldi and Winn Dixie, both of which have numerous locations in town.
If you love dining out, you'll adore St. Augustine, where the local restaurant scene has a strong Spanish and Mexican slant. Casa Maya is the place to go for wholesome, organic vegetarian food while Zhanras is a great tapas joint. Along with Latin-influenced chefs, the city is also a great place to eat gourmet seafood. Try places like Outback Crab Shack (which specializes in fried crawfish) and Saltwater Cowboys. Expect to pay around $15-20 for a good meal and anything above $30 at high-end eateries.