America’s oldest European city in the heart of America’s sunniest vacation state adds up to dozens of activities and a large helping of fun. Families, history buffs, couples and those who just want to relax will find plenty to see and do here.
Get acquainted with this 400 year old city by taking in one or more of the tours on offer. Theme tours, such as the downright delicious tour of Whetstone’s Chocolate Factory and deliciously chilling ghost tours narrated by a friendly undertaker who drives visitors from location to location in a private hearse, bookable at ghosthearse.com are top draws, while narrated tours by Ripley’s Red Train Trolley and Old Town Trolley allow passengers to hop on and off at no extra charge.
Old St. Augustine
History is part of life here and St. Augustine’s Old Town mixes historic sites like the Castillo De San Marcos fortress, Old Jail and Ximenez-Fatio House Museum with contemporary shops and restaurants. Other historic points of interest include Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth in Archeological Park and the 140-year-old lighthouse on Anastasia Island, whose 165 foot climb to the top rewards visitors with sweeping views of St. Augustine and its surrounding waterways.
Art galleries, boutiques and antique shops abound in the Old Town area along King, Aviles and St. George streets. They also border the beach front area along the A1A Highway. Designer and name brand outlet stores at Prime Outlets and the Premium Outlet Mall on Interstate 95 feature top quality lines like Tommy Bahama, Hugo Boss, DKNY, Jones NY, Zales, Samsonite, Kitchen Collection and dozens more.
What would a trip to Florida be without lots of gators? The Alligator Farm Zoological Park on Anastasia Island has gators, crocodiles, exotic birds, lemurs, Komodo dragons and more. One of the area’s top-rated area attractions is the St. Augustine Wild Reserve, a rescue center and permanent home for unwanted exotic animals. Residents include lions, tigers, caracals, mountain lions, bobcats, coatimundis and wolves. This is a serious reserve, with no gift shops and no photos allowed but plenty of chances to see majestic animals close up. Visiting is by appointment only and reservations can be made at staugustinewildreserve.org. At Marineland Dolphin Adventure 20 miles south of Old Town, visitors can feed, swim with and observe dolphins at play in their extensive watery habitat. Reservations are recommended at marineland.net.
Hits with Kids
In addition to trolley tours, big cats and fearsome gators, children especially enjoy Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, the Pirates & Treasure Museum, and Potter’s Wax Museum, all in the Old Town area. Fiesta Falls, 10 miles north, is rated by visitors as the best mini golf venue in the area.
Fun on the Water
The schooner Freedom, replica of a 72-foot blockade runner, sets out three times a day from the City Municipal Marina for a thrilling sail on nearby coastal waters. Also departing daily from the city’s marina is the Victory III, a double decked cruise boat that that takes guests on a narrated tour of landmarks and points of interest. It goes without saying that St. Augustine has several broad decked, well patrolled beaches. Vilano Beach, a five minute drive from Old Town, is lively and friendly, with picnic areas, a fishing pier, and activities like parasailing and Sea Doo rental as well as charters for deep sea fishing and sailing.
No matter how long visitors stay, there’s always one more thing to see or do in St. Augustine, every day of the week and every month of the year.
Vanessa Matthews a lover of human expression and a freelance Travel Bloggers lives in St. Augustine, Florida