Are the traces of American history only to be found in the northeastern part of the country? Absolutely not! Saint Augustine is the oldest city in America. As early as 1565, a permanent settlement was established here by the Spaniards. This makes the city one of the oldest European settlements in the country, which was also continuously inhabited at the same time. You can still find those European influences in the historic city center today. So a lover of (American) history should definitely pay a visit to Saint Augustine. But even if you don’t like history, there is plenty to do here. The town is known for its good restaurants and the beach is not far away.
Sightseeing in Saint Augustine
A visit to Saint Augustine cannot be missed during a Florida vacation. Of course Saint Augustine breathes history, but you can also do other things here, if this is not necessarily your thing. You can visit various museums or enjoy a nice meal. Would you rather be outside? Then you can take part in a boat trip or hit a ball on one of the golf courses in the area.
Saint Augustine Historic District
According to citypopulationreview.com, some buildings in Saint Augustine’s Historic District date all the way back to the early 1800s. These were built in the Spanish colonial era. The most popular streets are St. George Street, Cordova Street and King Street. Most of the attractions are located on these streets, including an old cemetery, boutiques and restaurants and museums. Because the city was built by Europeans, the center is very compact and easy to walk. Be sure to visit Colonial Quarter, where you’ll be dressed up to learn about the different periods of Saint Augustine’s history, including the Spanish occupation of the 18th century and the British occupation of the 19th century.
The building itself is worth seeing alone: the Lightner Museum is located in the middle of the historic district of Saint Augustine and is built in Spanish colonial style. In the Gilded Age, this building housed Alcazar Hotel, a very popular luxury hotel. In the late 1940s, the building was bought by Otto Lightner, who turned it into a museum. He was particularly fascinated by the things that people collected and this can still be found today in the collections of the museum. You can wander through the museum on your own or join a guided tour. End your day with a drink at Cafe Alcazar.
The Flagler College
While you’re at the Lightner Museum, cross the street to Flagler College. Built by Henry Flagler, this building used to house Ponce de Léon, Saint Augustine’s first hotel. Today the building is used as a university. You can walk around freely on campus, but you can also join a tour. In this tour of the former hotel – now a National Landmark – you will learn more about the architecture of the Spanish Renaissance. Also stop at the Solarium: from here you have the best view over the historic district of Saint Augustine.
Castillo de San Marcos
An absolute attraction in the city: Castillo de San Marcos. This fortress, in the shape of a star, was built by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century to protect themselves against attacks by the British. Today, as it has “national monument” status, the fort is managed by the National Park Service. You can put together your own tour using an app. During your tour through the fort you can ask your questions to the rangers who walk around completely in traditional costume. On weekends, the same rangers also give demonstrations with the cannons. Be sure to look over the wall, because from the fort you have a beautiful view of the city.
In Saint Augustine there are a lot of museums where you can learn about the history of the city, but there are also other museums. Oldest Wooden School House, one of the oldest buildings in town, will teach you about 19th century school life. In the museum you can still find many objects from that time. The museum also has a tropical garden. The Pirate and Treasure Museum is fun for kids. Here you can learn about the time of pirates and see some of the treasures from that time. If you have not finished looking yet, you can also visit the Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. In this museum you can see shipwrecks from the nineteenth century and learn about the lighthouse keepers. There is an interactive scavenger hunt for children.
Unfortunately, the Lincolnville neighborhood is often overlooked by tourists. And that is a shame, because there is also a lot of history here! In ancient times there were plantations and orchards in this area. The district was founded in the mid-nineteenth century by escaped slaves. Eventually, the African-American community spanned more than 130 blocks. Lincolnville achieved national fame for its prominent participation in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Through walking tours you can learn about important places in Lincolnville in the fight for equality. If you like architecture, you should definitely take a walk through the area as there are many Victorian buildings here.
End your visit to Saint Augustine with a visit to Anastasia Island. You can reach this peninsula via Bridge of Lions. If you came to Florida to see alligators, go to Alligator Farm. They have all kinds of alligators here, including even an albino alligator. But you can also find other animals, such as monkeys, snakes and exotic birds. Anastasia Island State Park offers hiking, kayaking and bird watching. Extra nice: you can also camp here, near the beach. On Anastasia Island you will also find the aforementioned Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.
Frequently Asked Questions about Saint Augustine
What are the top attractions in Saint Augustine?
When in Saint Augustine, don’t miss the Historic District. Be sure to visit Castillo de San Marcos, a historic fortress from the sixteenth century.
What are the best outdoor activities in Saint Augustine?
If you don’t like history, you certainly won’t be bored in Saint Augustine. You can go on a boat trip or take a walk in one of the parks nearby.
What are the most popular activities for kids in Saint Augustine?
History certainly doesn’t have to be dusty. The museums in Saint Augustine are also suitable for children; especially the Pirate and Treasure Museum and the Lighthouse and Maritime Museum have fun activities for kids.
What are the best day trips from Saint Augustine?
Be sure to visit Anastasia Island. This peninsula is actually attached to the city. Here you will find the state park of the same name and also Alligator Farm.