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St. Augustine Vacations

Activities and Attractions in the oldest city in the USA

As the oldest city in the nation, St. Augustine is rich in history and culture. Set in Northeast Florida, inland from the Atlantic Ocean, it is 37 miles south of Jacksonville. Strategically located at the foot of the St. Augustine Inlet and easily accessible from the Atlantic Ocean, the nation's oldest city was founded in 1565, 42 years before Jamestown, Virginia, and 55 years before Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. Ponce de Leon, on his famous search for the mythical Fountain of Youth, initially discovered and named the old Spanish city,  making it an important part of American heritage.

The two biggest features of St. Augustine are the Old Town historic area and the 300 year old coastal fort, Castillo de San Marcos. Even today, from views high atop the old fort's walls, it is easy to see the layout of the area and intuitively understand the relationship between the sea, the old fort and the early settlement. As St. Augustine grew from its founding it became a prized coastal port city, suffering attacks from the indigenous Indian populations, pirates, brigands and foreign powers. These threats necessitated the construction of well fortified defensive positions around the city, reconstructed and in evidence around the city today. Greater threats from aggressive enemy countries required the building of Castillo de San Marcos.

The coquina stone, shell and sand fort, Castillo de San Marcos, has been guarding the city and surrounding waters of St. Augustine since 1695 when construction was finally completed. Powerfully built from local stone quarried nearby and righteously defended by its garrisons, the old fort has never been conquered in battle. Many times during its existence the local citizens left their homes in the city and encamped for days and weeks on its parade grounds, safe from attacking forces inside the high, thick walls. Today, the Old Town, a few hundred yards away, is easily seen from from the walls of the fort and one's imagination can easily roam back 300 years to portray Spanish soldiers and citizens of the colonial era.

St. Augustine's Old Town is today a prized Historic District. Years of painstaking reconstruction efforts have yielded an authentic old world Spanish town. The narrow streets, once accommodating horse and wagon traffic are now used as wide pedestrian walkways through the quaint yet modern shopping areas formerly used as residences, shops or to provide town services. Old structures, like the Rodriguez - Avero - Sanchez house built in 1762 or the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in America provide a glimpse into our nation's history prior to even the Revolutionary War and American Independence from the British. 

The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum conjures up similar historic visions for visitors, although nearly recent compared to the Old Town era. In 1824 the first maritime beacon became active at the nation's oldest port city. The current structure and buildings have been rebuilt but date to 1876. The Lighthouse offers its visitors the opportunity to climb its 219 steps to the top and get a soaring panoramic view of of the area. Those less intrepid may see this same view from the relative comfort of the museum's books and displays.  

St. Augustine is compact in size, and tourists who want to take everything in at their own leisure can walk from one end of the old city to the other in approximately 20 minutes. One walking attraction is St. George Street, a pedestrian walkway lined with shops. Once you’ve shopped ‘til your heart’s content in the historic district, tourists can take a short drive over to The Outlet Center, located at I-95 and State Road 16, for more great bargains.

The St. Augustine Beach, located on Anastasia Island, is enjoyable for people of all ages. The attractions include a playground, the St. Johns County Pier, a fishing pier, volleyball courts, and fine shopping and dining. Forty-three miles of sandy beaches can be found in the areas around St. Augustine, if a secluded spot is more up your alley.

Historic cities usually offer visitors a variety of tours, and St. Augustine is no exception. For those tourists interested in the supernatural, St. Augustine is known as one of the most haunted cities in the United States. The city offers several ghost tours and haunted walking tours that are both fun and educational. If you’re more interested in learning about the history of St. Augustine, there are also tours that take vacationers to Castillo de San Marcos - the oldest stone fort in the United States- and to the Gonzalez-Alvarez house - the oldest surviving Spanish Colonial dwelling in the state of Florida.

While on your trip to St. Augustine, be sure to visit one of the many museums. One popular museum is the Colonial Spanish Quarter, a living history museum. Visitors can watch tradesmen go about their work and learn about ways of life in the 18th century. The Lightner Museum displays 19th Century period pieces housed in the old, opulent Hotel Alcazar, built by Henry Flagler in 1887.

Population figures from the year 2000 census place the full time residence count at around 11,000. The metro area is far larger and the entire area gets a huge boost in numbers from its year round tourism. Day trips to the city are very popular with Florida residents as well as out of state visitors. For overnights and extended stays you can lodge in a historic bed and breakfast inn, a five-star hotel, a tropical beach retreat, or a cozy European-style motel. Whatever your taste or budget, there’s something for everyone in America’s oldest city.

St. Augustine is conveniently located near three major airports. In addition to the airport directly in St. Augustine, vacationers can fly into Jacksonville International Airport, which is 48 miles away, or Daytona Beach International Airport, which is 54 miles from St. Augustine. The Orlando International Airport and all of Orlando’s attractions are slightly over 100 miles away.

Directory of

Northeast Florida Area Cities

Nassau County

Amelia Island

Callahan
Fernandina Beach
Hilliard

Yulee

 

Duval County

Atlantic Beach
Baldwin
Jacksonville
Jacksonville Beach
Neptune Beach

 

Flagler County

Beverly Beach
Bunnell
Flagler Beach
Marineland
Palm Coast

 

St. Johns County

Hastings
Marineland
St. Augustine
St. Augustine Beach

Butler Beach
Crescent Beach
Fruit Cove
Palm Valley
Sawgrass
Villano Beach

 

ARTICLES

 

Old Drugstore in St. Augustine

Authentic Old Drugstore

 

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St. Augustine Lighthouse

 

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Castillo de San Marcos 

 

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St. Augustine Beach

 

 

More pictures from St. Augustine can be found on our picture website.

 

 

 

Great Florida Links! Find info on National and State Parks in Florida; Check driving distances between cities; Print Florida maps on your printer; Get fishing license info and picture identification of Florida fish; Find Historical sites to visit and links to major theme parks and attractions and more!

 

Chamber of Commerce

Chamber of Commerce serving St. Augustine.

 

Nearby cities to check for activities and attractions: St. Augustine Beach, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Marineland.

 

More St. Augustine, Florida Tourist Links

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