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FL Vacation: St. Augustine, with Video Tour
A Great FL Vacation
Ever been to St. Augustine, Florida? Long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, another city in what is now the United States was founded. St. Augustine is the oldest permanent European-occupied city in the Unites States, and it’s also the oldest port in the continental US. It’s located on Florida’s east coast, in St. Johns County, which is just south of Jacksonville. It’s a truly amazing FL vacation destination, dripping with charm, history, great beaches, and lots of activities for all ages.
History of St. Augustine
Spain’s Don Juan Ponce de Leon was the first European to explore what is now Florida, in 1513. He claimed the land for Spain and called it La Florida, which means “Land of Flowers.” For the following five decades, Spain tried desperately to settle the area, but their attempts were futile. Another nation was successful however.
In 1564, France established a colony and built a fort on the St. Johns River, which threatened Spain’s claim. To strengthen Spain’s hold, King Phillip II named Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles as Florida’s governor. Menendez and his men set about driving out any settlers they found who hailed from other European nations.
Menendez, along with his soldiers and a group of settlers, arrived off the coast of Florida on the Feast Day of St. Augustine, in 1565. A few days later, they came ashore to an Indian village and named it St. Augustine. The Spanish quickly began building the town and establishing missions in the area. They also drove out the French.
It’s no surprise that St. Augustine is home to many fascinating historic sites. Some of these include the Oldest House, the Bridge of Lions, Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Colonial Spanish Quarter, the Old Jail, Oldest Wooden School House, St. Augustine Lighthouse, Mission of Nombre de Dios, Cathedral Basilica, Spanish Military Hospital, and Fort Mose. Another must-see is Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth.
Old Town is a section of St. Augustine that’s an absolute must-see. The streets are closed to vehicle traffic, and the area boasts one historical building after another. Today the old structures are home to boutiques, shops, restaurants, cafes, museums, and galleries.
St. Augustine Shopping
St. Augustine is a paradise for shoppers. Basically, there are three sections of St. Augustine – the historic area, the I-95 area, and the beaches. The Old Town shopping in the historic area includes such items as handmade chocolates, antiques, leather, candles, toys, folk art, books, art, pottery, hand-blown glass, jewelry, vintage clothing, and many other unique items.
The area on and around I-95 has several malls and outlet stores, including Reebok, Royal Dalton, Tommy Bahama, Gap, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Timberland, Nike, J. Crew, Banana Republic, American Eagle, Adidas, Bass shoes, Book Warehouse, Ed Hardy, DKNY, Coleman, and many, many more!
The beaches of St. Augustine feature typical beach shops that carry souvenirs, beach supplies, gift items, and surfing gear.
St. Augustine is a gastronomical adventure, with all kinds of wonderful cuisine! My favorite is the fresh seafood, but you’ll find all kinds of other offerings, too, like steaks, barbecue, pizza, Cuban, Caribbean, burgers, specialty sandwiches, German, Italian, Cajun, Irish, Spanish, Chinese, French, Greek, Japanese, British, Southwestern, Mediterranean, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, and Southern country cooking. You’ll have the chance to try local fare like gator tail, softshell turtle, and seafood chowders, along with restaurants that are located right on the water. St. Augustine also has plenty of national chain restaurants.
St. Augustine Beaches
St. Augustine has miles of beautiful sandy beaches. The best are found on Anastasia Island, just across the Bridge of Lions. You’ll find plenty of places for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, wind surfing, fishing, hiking, camping, shelling, canoeing, beach volleyball, boogie boarding, wildlife viewing, surfing, or just soaking up the Florida rays.
At Anastasia State Park, you’ll also find bicycle rentals, nature trails, paddle boats, a playground, showers, a concession stand, restrooms, and beach supplies. You can even take lessons on various water sports!
At the southern tip of Anastasia Island, the Matanzas River empties into the sea. This is a gorgeous area, but beware of strong currents. Swimming here is often dangerous.
St. Augustine Lodging - Accommodations
You’ll find just about anything you’re looking for in the way of St. Augustine, FL vacation lodging, including hotels, resorts, cheap hotels, cheap motels, beachfront hotels, bed and breakfast inns, beach houses, duplexes, triplexes, and condos. There’s also great camping on Anastasia Island.
St. Augustine has many other attractions that I haven’t mentioned:
- Family Fun Factory
- OldTown Trolley Tours
- St. Augustine Alligator Farm
- St. Augustine Eco Tours
- Black Raven pirate ship
- Potter’s Wax Museum
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
- World Golf Hall of Fame and IMAX Theater
- Miniature golf
- Sightseeing cruises
- San Sebastian Winery
- Ghost tours (This is the most haunted city in America!)
- Carriage tours
- Fishing charters
- Limelight Theatre
- McKnight’s Little Ireland Dinner Theatre
Plan a FL Vacation to St. Augustine!
St. Augustine is a great destination for a FL vacation! Even if you can’t stay in the Old City itself, it makes a wonderful day trip from Amelia Island, Orlando, or Jacksonville. You’ll have a blast here, and your trip is sure to be an unforgettable experience. You’ll also learn a lot about history in the process! Be sure to view the photos below the links!
NOTE: I'll be adding more pics of St. Augustine and Anastasia Island. My daughter and her family are going there next weekend!
For more great FL vacation destinations, check out the links below!
More FL vacation information:
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