St. Augustine, Florida, is probably one of my favorite cities in the world. It has history, beauty, and a respect for the diverse cultures from which it evolved. And it’s close to the beach too!
by A.E.Crane via WikiMedia Commons
This year marks the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine. It is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States.
Colonized by a Spanish explorer named Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in September 1565, St. Augustine has persevered through devastating wars, city-leveling fires, ravaging epidemics and numerous occupations by various military contingents. Its rich heritage is evident everywhere you look.
To celebrate this milestone anniversary, city leaders have planned a special 450th Commemoration exhibition sharing the stories of how the cultures of Spain, Africa and Native America have intertwined with others to create the blended society that is today’s St. Augustine.
From April 4 through October 4, visitors can enjoy the exhibit entitled “Tapestry: The Cultural Threads of First America Exhibition.” Admission is free, and there will be many events throughout the year to enhance the presentation.
El Galeón, the authentic wooden replica of a Spanish galleon like the one used by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, will be docked at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina at various times throughout the year. Individuals and tour groups can enjoy exploring the ship. It’s great fun for adults as well as children. Tickets are available at the marina.
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Whether your passion is old forts and military museums, or historic homes and churches, or you just want a break where the kids can run around and scream without disturbing anyone, there’s something for you in St. Augustine.
The easiest way to see it all is to hop on a sightseeing trolley or train and just ride around to get your bearings. Then you can decide whether you want to visit the Old Jail, the first Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the Fountain of Youth, the Lightner Museum, the lighthouse, the Pirate and Treasure Museum – so much to choose from!
There are chocolate factories and wineries, forts and cathedrals. Don’t forget the newly refurbished Colonial Quarter, offering a touch of Williamsburg, VA, in Florida. There you’ll find a true living history museum where blacksmiths, carpenters, leather workers, ship builders, cooks and military reenactors recreate the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries.
by Infrogmation via WikiMedia Commons
There are combo packages, multiple day tickets, ghost and gravestone tours. There’s even a Beach Bus. And if the beach is your destination, just turn onto state road A1A and travel over the historic Bridge of Lions to the sleepy little town of St. Augustine Beach. Parts of the beach are available to drive on. An entrance fee is usually charged.
One of the prettiest places to access the beach is Anastasia State Park, over 1600 acres of natural beauty where you can enjoy swimming, bicycling, beachcombing, camping, hiking, boating, fishing, picnicking and just enjoying the peace and quiet. No driving on these beaches, but parking is convenient.
Restrooms, showers, and concessions are available for day visitors. A small fee is charged when you enter the park.
Pets are not allowed in the State Park, but leashed pets are allowed on other beaches. Just be sure to clean up after your furry friend!
Whether at the beach or in the historic district, chain hotels and motels abound in St. Augustine, as well as cozy bed and breakfasts and private homes. Restaurants range from fast food to fabulous seafood places.
So there you have it – a wonderful place for the whole family, whether you have a few hours or a week or more. You’ll never see it all. But each time you visit, you can enjoy something new as well as visit old favorites! The best of both worlds!