The main theme and attraction of Saint Augustine is its amazing history. It is in fact the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States. Saint Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Florida’s first Governor. He named the settlement “San Agustín” because the day his ships finally sighted land while still out at sea, it was August 28th, the feast day of Saint Augustine.
You can feel the age and history when walking the streets. It’s home to the oldest street in America — Avilés Street. It is also home to the oldest house, oldest school house, and oldest maritime port in the U.S. All three buildings have been preserved and converted into museums for you to tour.
If you love to walk and explore then this is your kind of town. There are the trolleys that take you around and tell you stories about the streets and buildings they choose to take you to. And you can hop on and off at your choosing to explore more of a certain area in town and it is very affordable. But if you love to explore on your own like me, the walking and getting great exercise is my favorite way to see this town. What I love are the side streets and unique homes and businesses that I feel really add to the fascination to this sea side village. So here are some of my favorite “haunts” when I visit Saint Augustine...and by the way it is famous for its haunted history and there are Haunted Tours as well.
The Fort– The Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortress in the United States, was first built by the Spanish in 1672 using coquina stones. Coquina is Spanish for “small shells” because it consists of ancient shells that have bonded together to form a rock-like substance similar to limestone. The fort has really endured because of this amazing material. It has stood through lashing hurricanes, many battles and the test of time overlooking Mantanzas Bay for over 300 years. It was never breached by its enemies. Go see the fort and watch the cannons fire. It’s good history–I took the picture underneath while standing on one of the ramparts. –
The Bridge of Lions
This structure is a work of art and first opened in 1927. Due to age it was refurbished in 2010. It is a beautiful bridge with a functioning draw bridge. You can walk across and see the bay and the beautiful ships and private boats of all sizes. It’s very scenic. At the end of this article you will see a video I shot going under the draw bridge while sailing around the bay. I managed to film some dolphins near the bridge.
Sailing ships at the docks
You can walk down to the dock and go see some amazing ships and buy tickets to go out on a cruise around the bay. There are at least three different types of vessels that take people out on the bay and sail past the famous Saint Augustine light house. The pirate ship is pretty fun because you are sailing with real Pirates (that’s what they told me!)
The shopping district
The many streets lined with shops and cafes and taverns are so fun to hike! The shops and eating and drinking establishments are owned and operated by hard working small business owners who are friendly and helpful with information about their town. You can tell the people who live and work in Saint Augustine are very proud of their village. If you take some side streets you will find hand crafted beer pubs and hand crafted distilled spirits made from local Florida crops! There are restaurants that feature these hand made drinks served with great food. The one I visited and enjoyed is called “The Ice Plant” on the edge of the village. I highly recommend a visit there. I wish more towns would bring back mom and pop like market places like the ones found on the cobble streets of Saint Augustine.
The Wax museum–
Potters Wax Museum is a treat! The unique assortment of museum exhibits was started in 1947, making it one of the most valuable wax figure collections in the world. They really use wax, and the figures are amazing! You won’t be disappointed! Here is a pic I took of King Henry the 8th. All his wives ( you have to go to see each wife standing around him) are there next to him and some seem to be glaring at him —as they should be . I took this picture…He is so real looking, as are all of the figures there, you expect him to start bellowing out some orders any minute!Each character in the museum is the proper height and weight according to historic documents, with costumes so well put together with top quality materials you will just find yourself staring for a long time. You will get to see how historic icons really looked and how tall they were. I love this place!
The Greek Chapel
On the busiest shopping street, St. George Street, the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine welcomes visitors to a calming and charming little garden path that leads to a small lovely chapel where you can light a candle and say a prayer. It is also a museum and there is a really nice gift shop with beautiful works of hand made religious art and jewelry from Greece, the Holy Land and local artists. I love this little Shrine and I go there every time I visit Saint Augustine to reflect under its hand painted ceilings and walls. I know you will feel and take in the peaceful atmosphere. I took the following pictures last year.
Final Thoughts—There is really something for everyone in this lovely old village by the sea. It has a rich history, terrific eating and drinking establishments, museums and plenty of shopping and sight seeing. The skies are blue and the sunshine really energizes you! You will feel great being outside enjoying all the sights. I will end my blog with the video I took from the boat ride I enjoyed in early March of this year…(thank you to Casey my daughter for her video editing!)——THANKS FOR READING AND WATCHING!