A Trip to St Augustine - Florida's Oldest City

A Trip to St Augustine - Florida's Oldest City

St Augustine from the air
St Augustine from the air

If you feel like a change from Disney and would like to find out more about Florida’s history, then take a drive over to the East coast and visit St. Augustine. It is only about 107m from Orlando, so less than a two hour drive from your vacation rental home.

Occupying a stretch of gentle coastline and white sand beaches along the North Florida Atlantic Coast, St. Augustine attracts thousands of visitors each year who enjoy the history, community, beauty and ambience of America's oldest city.

St Augustine Lighthouse
St Augustine - Lighthouse Museum

St Augustine was first established under Spanish rule in 1565, making it the oldest permanent European settlement in the United States. In the years after its founding, the city shifted to British rule for a period and then transferred back to Spanish control in 1783. In 1821 the United States purchased the area that included St. Augustine from Spain.

It wasn't until the late 1800s that the city really began to develop as a popular tourist location under the entrepreneurial eye of oil magnate Henry Flagler who saw the advantages of having wealthy, Northern Visitors coming to St Augustine for their winter retreat.

St Augustine Flagler College
St Augustine - Flagler College

Flagler brought the railroad to St Augustine and by doing so encouraged many wealthy people to visit St Augustine and stay in the hotels that he had built. These hotels were very large and opulent, the grandest being the Ponce De Leon Hotel, which is now home to Flagler College. St Augustine is a great place to spend a day or more, if time allows.

Visit the first Catholic Church to be built in the United States - Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church. Built in 1890 by Henry Flagler, in memory of his daughter, Jennie Louise Benedict, who died in childbirth. Henry Flagler, his first wife, Mary, his daughter Jennie and granddaughter, Marjorie, are all laid to rest in the family mausoleum. The beautiful church has lovely stained windows. 

St Augustine - the very first Ripleys Believe It Or Not
St Augustine - Ripleys Believe It Or Not

The Bridge of Lions takes you across to Anastasia Island where you can visit the Alligator Farm - Crocs, Gators, Birds, Mammals and Reptiles (12 and older $21.95, 3-11 $10.95 - hours 9-5).

The very first Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” is in St Augustine in the Castle Warden building on San Marco Ave. It has housed Ripley’s collection of oddities since 1950.

St Augustine - Fountain of Youth
St Augustine - Fountain of Youth

The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is a 15 acre waterfront historical site where St. Augustine, Florida began. This is where Spanish Explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles, established the first and oldest continuous European Settlement in the United States of America. You can even drink from the legendary waters and see if your visit grants you the secret to eternal youth. Although despite my efforts, I have not seen any discernable changes, perhaps I needed to drink some more! 

Explore St Augustine on a horse drawn carriage
St Augustine - Horse Drawn Carriage

Enjoy a horse drawn carriage ride along narrow, tree-lined streets. As you slowly pass by centuries old structures, your driver will narrate the story of old Saint Augustine, a great way to learn about this historic city which boasts 36 original colonial buildings and 40 reconstructed buildings.

Take some time to sit, relax and enjoy the view from the city plaza; formerly the old slave market. Soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the diverse architecture, If all that history makes you thirsty, then visit the San Sebastian Winery, located at 157 King Street (10-6 Mon. thru Sat. 11-6 Sun) It offers free winery tours and wine tasting daily. The winery is a great place to visit and also pick up a few bottles of good, local wine to take back to the villa and enjoy. We have enjoyed several and can highly recommend the Blanc du Bois which is very similar to a Sauvignon Blanc and costs around $12 per bottle.

St Augustine has many motels / hotels and most popular chain restaurants, as well as some really nice independent restaurants.

Have fun and enjoy.