Coasting: Six must-do’s in St. Augustine, Florida

Horse-drawn carriage, St. Augustine, FL

Horse-drawn carriage, St. Augustine, FL

This is the year! America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida, celebrates its 450th anniversary! So this is your year to plan a trip and make a list — a “must-do list” for beautiful St. Augustine.

Not sure what we expected, having waited until our retirement years to see St. Augustine for the first time.  But now we’re wondering what took us so long.  St. Augustine melds the Old World charm of New Orleans with the Bohemian atmosphere and laid-back fun of Key West into one.  For history buffs or party-hardies, St. Augustine comes in just right. Here are our six must-do’s for when (not if!!) you come down South to the city with the slogan “Beautiful beaches and the rest is history”!

Gonzalez-Alvarez House, "the Oldest House" in St. Augustine

Gonzalez-Alvarez House, known at “The Oldest House” in St. Augustine, dates back to the early 1600s. 271 Charlotte St.

1.  Soak up the beauty

It wasn’t five minutes after we stepped out the door of our B & B on Cedar Street that we grabbed our cameras and pointed upwards at the impressive architecture of the Flagler Buildings.  An original partner with John D. Rockefeller, Henry M. Flagler arrived in St. Augustine in 1883, had two new hotels built (the Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar), and purchased the Casa Monica (a Moorish Revival building) renaming it the Hotel Cordova.

Courtyard of the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine

Courtyard of the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine

Now, the Hotel Ponce de Leon is the home of Flagler College, and the buildings represent some of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture in America.  The Alcazar has become the Lightner Museum known for its extensive collection of Louis Tiffany stained-glass art. And, if you wish, you can spend a night or a week at the Hotel Cordova!

2.  Walk through time

After you stroll the campus of Flagler College and get a feel for the beauty of the Lightner Museum, you’re primed and ready to explore history on foot.  Be sure to head down Aviles Street, the oldest street in North America dating back to the 1500s.  Charm is the operable word here — a long bricked street frequented by horse-drawn carriages passing diners eating outside.

Dining out on Aviles Street

Dining out on Aviles Street

Here’s where you’ll shop if you love quality goods, art, and antiques.  Drop in at Georgia Nick Gallery and ask to see Georgia’s hand-made note cards sporting her own photos from around the city.  Or find a fashionable long skirt and creatively designed bracelet at Candida’s Closet.  Don’t miss Aviles Gallery where we fell in love with the watercolors of artist Pam Pahl.

Put on your walking shoes for the longer (and possibly more crowded) St. George Street, where shops have become comfortable in some of the most treasured homes of the city.  If you’re a history snob, you’ll have to overlook ice cream parlors, coffee shops, and t-shirts, but don’t let that stop you.  Spanish Colonial-style masonry homes abound, some with coquina structure (rock formed with tiny embedded shells) and original foundations.  Stand by the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse (everyone does!) and remember that it’s the oldest surviving wood frame building (cedar and cypress) in St. Augustine.  Go inside to see rare school books, slates, maps, and such. (Open daily, admission charge.)

3.  Fort-ify your outlook

Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort and the only extant 17th century fort in the continental U. S. Built in 1672-1695 to protect the town and treasure fleets on their way to Spain, Castillo de San Marcos  is the granddaddy of all the forts in our Coasting series.  The fort offers you a view of city buildings and Matanzas Bay from several vantage points as well as a chance to pose for a “selfie” beside the cannons!

Inside Castillo de San Marcos

Inside Castillo de San Marcos

4.  See the light

One of only six lighthouses in Florida open to the public, the 126-year-old St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum offers an authentic look inside and out.  Climb 126 steps to the top.  Or stay below, tour the museum, and watch craftsmen at work on the ground.

5. Sleep Inn 

Whether you prefer luxury accommodations, a night in a historic property, or the comfort of a B&B, you’ll find interesting places to spend time in St.

Augustine!  Use your favorite internet search engine or Florida’s Historic Coast for reservations, but don’t wait too long.  Special events like Rhythm & Ribs Festival (April 10-12, 2015), Celebrate 450! (September 4-15, 2015) and the 7th Annual Pirate Gathering (dates TBD) fill up available accommodations fast.

Blue Christmas theme at At Journeys End

A Blue Christmas theme with Elvis on the balcony: At Journeys End, St. Augustine

Our B&B, At Journey’s End, and the other three on Cedar Street were still decorated for the Annual Bed and Breakfast Holiday Tour.  Lucky us.  Elvis greeted us from the balcony, smiled at us from the front yard, and graced us with renditions of “Blue Suede Shoes” from a hidden boom box.  Or some such apparatus!  And we loved it!

6.  Eat out! Drink Up!

Our view from the bar at Cellar 6, Aviles Street, St. Augustine, Florida

Our view from the bar at Cellar 6, Aviles Street, St. Augustine, Florida

Make it a point to search for what makes St. Augustine truly unique — an eclectic mix of restaurants offering everything from Cuban sandwiches at the casual La Herencia Cafe on Aviles Street to the upscale Cellar 6 where we toasted in the New Year at the bar. (Best place to view the action and get to the know the bartender!)

But our one “blown-away” place had to be Ice Plant.  Focused on the art of mixing cocktails such as Florida Mule with vodka from their own St. Augustine Distillery located next door, Ice Plant also serves farm-to-table food (think grass-fed beef and local veggies).  Even if you don’t eat a thing, you should order a drink (even the type of ice is selected) at one of two bars in this renovated 1927 ice plant, smile at the waiters dressed in their 20s working-class attire, and understand just what made Garden & Gun take note.

Shaken not stirred at Ice Plant, St. Augustine

Shaken not stirred at Ice Plant, St. Augustine

Here’s hoping you’ll find lots to put on your must-do list in St. Augustine. We certainly more to explore if we ever return.  And if you’ve been, why not leave us a comment:  What was your favorite thing to do in St. Augustine?

Who knows?  Come September, we may all gather to Celebrate 450!

Harbor scene, St. Augustine

Harbor scene, St. Augustine

For more information:

Twitter.com/FlHistoricCoast

Facebook.com/OfficialStAugustine

Instagram.com/FloridasHistoricCoast

Celebrate 450http://staugustine-450.com

Twitter.com/StAugustine450

Facebook.com/450th

For more posts in our Coasting series, click on Travel Series and then Coasting at the top of this blog. And thanks for traveling the coast with us! Bert and Rusha

For the week of August 17, 2015, we’re linking up to #Monday Escapes hosted by @mummytravel.  For more great posts, click here.

TingNewBlue

 

About Oh, the Places We See

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
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21 Responses to Coasting: Six must-do’s in St. Augustine, Florida

  1. I would love to explore Florida some day!!

    • As close as we live (relatively speaking) to Florida, we hadn’t seen much of it until this past year. I like what we’ve seen very much. There’s the old kitschy part — hasn’t changed in decades — and then there’s always something new, too. Hope you get there.

  2. Amy says:

    Lovely St. Augustine via your lens! Love it. It’s on my bucket list. 🙂

  3. I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in St. Augustine when I was there but I definitely plan on returning soon. Just for fun, here’s an old post of mine on it I thought you might enjoy: https://livingwithmyancestors.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/st-augustines-oldest-house-then-and-now/

    • Loved this blog post that you linked! Especially the two photos — one of your mom standing beside the house compared to the one with you standing in the exact same spot. Your eye for details made for an interesting read. Thanks again for taking the time to share the link with us. We enjoyed the city very much. Hope we get a chance to return.

  4. Great advice. I shall put it to work when I get to that neck of the woods. –Curt

  5. yprior1 says:

    well this was an unexpected delight today – because I love st augustine and my sister used to have a second place there in the early 1990’s. ahhh – and I knew most of these places in your photos – not the sleep in – or Ice Plant – but the other photos really brought me back. thanks – and cool plug for this city and what to see – I agree with your six. 🙂

  6. pamelaholko says:

    I loved this post. Thanks for sharing. St Augustine is now on the list for my next trip to USA as it sounds fabulous.

  7. This post really makes me want to visit. Thanks

    • Glad it had that effect on you — we really found lots to do and without spending a lot of money. We loved walking the streets, roaming through the fort, and climbing (a little way) in the lighthouse. Go if you can! And thanks for the comment.

  8. This brings back stunning memories. St. Augustine is truly something. I’m glad you enjoyed yourselves

  9. We have not been to St. Augustine, but it certainly looks and sounds like we should put it on the bucket list. 🙂

    • Judy, I hope you get to St. Augustine. We expected old, but what we found was plenty of new mixed with the old. Even the buildings were well-maintained, offering great photo opportunities. Thanks for the comment.

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