St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest European settlement in the United States— even before Virginia’s Jamestown—established by the Spanish in 1565. That means the city just celebrated its 450th year in 2015. There are plenty of beach-y things to do, but also lots more that make this city an amazing gem for travellers to uncover this winter.
Check out 10 things to see and do that should be on the top of your itinerary when you decide to #SeeSomeStAugustine. — Marquaysa Battle
1. Flagler College
Flagler College looks like a resort because much of it used to be one: The Ponce de Leon Hotel. It was built on the dime of Standard Oil honcho Henry Flagler, who was blowing money fast, but confident the building would last beauty’s test of time. He was right. The Spanish Renaissance building is breathtaking and its interiors rival the most beautiful European cathedrals. It became Flagler College in 1968, keeping most of its original design and 40 pieces of Henry Flagler’s beloved art collection.
2. Castillo de San Marcos Monument
Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. It’s pretty much in its original condition, so you get to enjoy all the war finishings, including the original moat, drawbridge and Spanish cannons. On weekends, guides do a whole war reenactment (armor included) and fire the cannons.
3. The Lightner Museum
The Lightner Museum is another former hotel building by Henry Flagler. The Alcazar Hotel was built in 1888 and was the playground of America’s elite. The draws were thecasino, sulfur baths, a bowling alley, tennis courts, archery, massage parlors and a swimming pool, then the largest indoor one of its time. Today, the Lightner Museum houses mostly Victorian era artifacts, including vintage typewriters, a gilded Rococo rocking chair and, uhh, shrunken heads.
4. Ride the Wave
There is a ghost tour every night of the year in St. Augustine. (The tour is more about teaching the ins and outs of professional ghost hunting than giving you the heebie-jeebies.) The best ones allow you to get your ghost bust on with official ghost hunting equipment like the “K-II meter”. Visit here for tour info.
6. Paint with Dolphins at Marineland
Yes, you can paint with a dolphin at Marineland Dolphin Adventure, “the world’s first oceanarium”. General admission is pretty cheap if you just want to look ($14.95 for adults), but you can get up close and personal with a dolphin package. Choose your Aside from painting with dolphins, you can also swim with them, feed them and train them. Learn more by visiting here.
7. Visit The Hyppo
The Hyppo serves up gourmet popsicles made of all the fruits you love, but with a twist. Think champagne mango, horchata and strawberry basil. Stop by during a day of sightseeing or reward yourself after your surf lessons and dolphin training.
8. Indulge in Spanish Cuisine
In addition to the architecture, food is the other surefire indicator of St. Augustine’s Spanish influence. For lunch, stop by the Spanish Bakery & Café for empanadas, sandwiches and salads. People rave over their food, and their cheap prices. For dinner, try Columbia Restaurant in the Historic District, known as much for their wine as they are for sumptuous meals.
9. Get On A Boat
A walking tour is cool and all, but anytime you can get on the water, do it. Native Sun Tours, leaving from Anastasia Island, will give you beautiful views of downtown St. Augustine and other popular landmarks like the Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine Lighthouse and the Castillo de San Marcos monument. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a dolphin. Catch the sunset tour for the most awesome photos.
10. Enjoy High Tide
The High Tide art gallery puts on 44 local artists whose art depicts life in St. Augustine. Much of the art is actually for sale so if you see something, buy something. The gallery also has a popular collection of vintage surf boards from Hawaii, California and Florida. After you get your art fix, you can pick up souvenirs such as sea glass jewelry and beach-inspired home décor.