A few years ago while looking for someplace new to visit on summer vacation I asked for suggestions on Facebook and a girl I had gone to high school with commented, “You should come to St. Augustine!” So I googled St. Augustine, FL and we’ve been three times now. It has everything we desired in a beach vacation!
St. Augustine’s History
St. Augustine was first explored by Europeans in 1513 by Spanish explorer and governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León, who claimed the region for the Spanish crown. St. Augustine is the oldest successful European settlement in the United States. St. Augustine was settled in 1565, 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, and 42 years before Jamestown. Historical downtown St. Aug is filled with top notch restaurants and beautifully preserved Spanish architecture. Walking around the brick laid streets of downtown in the evening is the perfect way to spend an evening. Plenty of restaurants and shops for everyone to enjoy. If you have older children there is an awesome historic Segway tour!
When Ponce de León landed on the coast of Florida he founded the famous Fountain of Youth! Stop by and take a drink!
There are also two forts in St. Augustine that are worth a visit. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is right in downtown St. Aug. Fort Matanzas National Monument is just outside of downtown and includes a free boat ride over to the fort. Guides are very knowledgeable about the history of St. Augustine.
St. Augustine’s Parks
Anastasia State Park is the most beautiful state park you could ask for. Visit in the morning before it’s too hot and walk around. There is a small fee to visit the park, but it’s for such a good cause, I got over that pretty quickly. The park includes 1,600 acres of rich ecosystems and abundant wildlife. You can walk the sand dunes looking for wildlife, swim, and walk the trails. They also rent bikes, paddle-boards, canoes, and kayaks in the park. Great place to spend the day!
Located at Francis Field, immediately across from the Historic Downtown Parking Facility, SWING is an acronym for St. Augustine’s Wish for Its Next Generation and was a community project built in 1997. The 23,000 square foot playground area has slides, swings, parallel bar, wooden forts and towers, tire swings and various interactive play/exercise equipment. A pavilion is located at SWING within the enclosed area.
Where do I even start? The restaurants are local and fabulous. You won’t find a many chains in this town! We have 3 favorites that you have to go to should you visit St. Augustine!
First do not, I repeat, do not go to St. Aug’s and skip Harry’s. I guess technically Harry’s is a chain as there are five in Florida, but whatever, you need to go! You will think you are in the heart of New Orleans while you’re there with dishes like Shrimp and Scallop Orleans, Crawfish Etouffee, Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, fried fish and other authentic Louisiana dishes. The outdoor shaded patio is beautiful! It’s perfect for a date night or with the kids. Be prepared to pay for parking as Harry’s is in the heart of downtown. After dinner you can walk along the fort and the river or the other direction into the quaint center of town for some shopping.
Saltwater Cowboy is about 5 miles outside of downtown, it is actually really close to our rented beach front condo. Outside you are surrounded by marsh, inside you’ll find a rustic dining area that is as cozy as a southern back porch. Fair includes seafood, BBQ ribs, chicken, steaks, gator tail, frog legs and of course country fried chicken. My daughter ate her weight in delicious fried pickles!
Our third favorite is Mojo’s BBQ. Reasonably priced, great BBQ! My son said the mac-n-cheese was like a party in his mouth and I have to agree. The only problem with this place is that there are so many good side items it’s impossible to pick just two! In cooler temps I recommend the outdoor dining area, but it’s not shaded so avoid it in the heat of the day! Mojo’s is downtown, but does have a small parking lot.
Other favorites are Mango, Mango’s where you can get Caribbean fare and some signature dishes like the Mango Mangos famous Corn Cakes. Great place to hit for lunch. It’s in the main beach area of St. Aug on A1A! The other one I have to give a shout out to is The Conch House. The Conch House is a typical outdoor seafood restaurant on the beach, what sets it apart is the unique Jamaican styled grass huts out over the water. If you can snag one of those then you are in for a real dining treat.
On our third visit to the city we finally decided to stop by the Alligator Farm Zoological Park after driving past it several times. Awesome! There are more than just alligators here, but the alligators are amazing. There are several species of alligators, birds, and other reptiles. Plan to spend at least a few hours. My only complaint was we went in June and phew was it hot. We probably would have enjoyed it more had we not be dying to go back to our condo to jump in the pool.
Enjoy an entertaining thrill ride & tour aboard the El Conquistador Speedboat, focusing on St. Augustine, Florida’s maritime heritage, history, landmarks, authentic stories and local marine life. The boat departs from downtown and is fun and exhilarating! The narrated ride is appropriate for people of all ages…and anyone who enjoys being on the water! Hold on to your hat!
Other points of interest you might want to check out include the St. Augustine Lighthouse, The Pirate and Treasure Museum, the Potter’s Wax Museum, various putt-putt locations and much more!
The beaches of the St. Augustine area are both secluded and unspoiled with more than 40 miles of scenic, well-preserved coastline. They are absolutely pristine. There is a pier that offers fishing pole rents and downtown you can get a variety of boat ride activities.
St. Augustine is only 2 hours to Disney and NASA.