Often people talk about “old Florida” and it probably means different things to different people and at different times, but you can’t get any older historically than St. Augustine. Founded in September 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain, St. Augustine is the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the United States – more commonly called the “Nation’s Oldest City.” Americans like things that are the biggest or tallest or oldest and St. Augustine lays claim to a number of “oldest” structures in the country. Starting with the Castillo de San Marcos and including the countries oldest school house.
The area was noted in the journals of Ponce de Leon in 1513 while searching for the fountain of youth and later fortified into a Spanish stronghold. The cities defenses are the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, the Castillo de San Marcos is a large Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World. It’s a National Monument and, at over 315 years old, it’s the oldest structure in St. Augustine. It’s also one of the main attractions visitors to St. Augustine come to see.
After visiting the National Historic Site of Castillo de San Marcos spend some time taking a stroll down St. George Street in the Old Town. There you can stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the many great restaurants and cafes or have happy hour at a wine cellar. Browse the retail shops, and museums and visit the other historical sites.
St. Augustine’s rich heritage makes the city and its surroundings a unique getaway for visitors who are drawn to the old city and the fort. But the city also has dozens of other options to occupy the visitors time.
- There is Marineland Dolphin Adventure Featuring a variety of interactive programs, which range from programs for land-loving guests to enjoy dolphins up-close, to ones that offer the opportunity to immerse yourself in the dolphins’ aquatic world as you swim with our gentle residents.
- Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium is the very first permanent Ripley’s attraction! Set in a beautiful historic castle, Ripley’shouses over three floors of family friendly fun!
- Potter’s Wax Museum has been rated as one of the Best St. Augustine Attractions for more than 50 years, Potter’s Wax Museum was the First Established Wax Museum in America.
- The Fountain of Youth Park – which gives visitors a chance to experience history at this important archaeological site and to claim that they drank from the famous springs.
- St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum – You can also relive the Golden Age of Piracy at Pat Croce’s St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum with the world’s largest collection of authentic pirate artifacts; interactive and educational exhibits, including the award-winning Book of Pirates and the spine-tingling Disney Imagineer-designed Below Deck sound experience of Blackbeard’s last battle; the world’s only pirate treasure chest and one of only two existing 17th century Jolly Rogers; and rarely-seen shipwreck treasures from the Florida Division of Historical Resources.
The Old School -Located in the historic district, this is a true “American Landmark”. The original Colonial house is handmade of red cedar and cypress and dates back to the 1700’s. Juan Genopoly purchased this homestead and transformed his living area into a classroom for the children of St. Augustine’s newest residents, the Minorcans .
- St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum – Once a week you can catch the sun set and the moon rise from atop the St. Augustine Lighthouse, and enjoy complimentary champagne and snacks.
If you are in the area or are planning a Florida trip, go ahead and be a tourist for a day or two. We did and it was actually a lot of fun. In case you are wondering, yes St. Augustine has a good beach with a number of ocean-front hotels in case you get tired of being a tourist.
P.S. If you are going to be in Florida this holiday season St. Augustine puts on a great show called The Festival of Lights where the entire downtown and historic district are decorated in lights. (In 2017 it started on November 18th)