"Saint Augustine & its Beaches" Saint Augustine by HumblyServingChrist

Saint Augustine Travel Guide: 720 reviews and 1,963 photos

A trip back in time

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States. That’s right—the oldest. It was founded by the Spanish in 1565, 42 years before the English ever colonized Jamestown, 55 years before the Pilgrims reached Plymouth Rock, and over 200 years before the United States declared its independence. Over the centuries, the St. Augustine area has seen history-changing battles involving the Spanish, French, British, Native Americans, and pirates. It has also seen history-changing luminaries like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr. speak on its streets. Today, much of the authenticity of St. Augustine’s incredible history actually remains preserved and accessible, making the city a very attractive destination, albeit one peppered with some modern tourist trappings. St. Augustine’s historic district and waterfront is certainly unique, in many respects much more reminiscent of a European village than of the heart of any American metropolitan exurb. That said, St. Augustine also has beaches lining the islands that separate the city from the Atlantic, and suburban areas that legitimize its status as the southern anchor of the Greater Jacksonville Metropolitan Area. St. Augustine boasts a unique blend of qualities that warrants comparisons to many other renown places throughout the world—the history and architecture of Spain; the picturesque seaside beauty of the Mediterranean, the romantic allure and Southern charm of Charleston or Savannah; and the relaxed, artistic spirit of Key West—all blended together under the North Florida sun. The city's attractions are diverse and plentiful, including forts, historic sites, living history museums, animal parks, sightseeing tours, specialty museums and areas for recreation and amusement. At times, replicas of historic sailing ships also dock at the city's marina.

What to see & where to go

The Historic District: The historic district is a walkable area centered around pedestrian-only St. George Street, which is lined with shops, restaurants, and small attractions. Numerous other surrounding streets also offer a variety of unique shops, restaurants and galleries from which to choose that are just a short walk away. In fact, two main entry corridors, King St. and San Marco Ave., are known for having large concentrations of art galleries and antiques shops respectively.It's common to see authentically clothed soldiers walking around town as well, particularly at the Castillo de San Marcos, a large waterside fort that once served as St,. Augustine’s primary defense, and now serves as its signature attraction. Across the street from the Castillo, another much newer "must see" attraction is the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. Though some children may be frighted by certain parts of this museum, it offers a fascinating and thorough look at the villainous pirates that are connected with the history of St. Augustine as well as other famous buccaneers, through a treasure trove of interactive exhibits, historical artifacts, and diaramas. (This is actually one of my favorite museums of all time, anywhere). At night, the historic district gets a lot quieter, as "ghost tours" become the gimmicky tourist draw after dark, but the abundance of bed and breakfasts, quaint restaurants, and carriage rides also give St. Augustine a very romantic ambiance at night for honeymooners and married couples seeking a quiet escape.

St. Augustine's Beaches: St. Augustine boasts three small beach towns and two state parks along its historic shores. The Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Research Reserve serves as a protected natural area separating St. Augustine's beaches from Jacksonville's to the north. South of Guana, at the very tip of the long barrier island that extends down from Jacksonville, is a quaint, mom & pop community of pastel Floribbean beach houses called Vilano Beach. Characterized by its mom & pop nostalgia, this resurgent community now boasts a fishing pier, a nature walk, and a community town center along a handful of blocks between the beach and pier.

South of the inlet that creates St. Augustine's harbor is Anastasia Island, the northern part of which is within the city limits of St. Augustine. This part boasts the
St. Augustine Alligator Farm & Zoo, the St. Augustine Lighthouse, an ampitheater, and the natural expanses of Anastasia State Park. Just below the state park, St. Augustine Beach is a commercialized town with a smattering of small hotels and a fishing pier but also a history of erosion problems. Sleepy Crescent Beach, occupying much of Anastasia's south end, has a much more reliable endowment of sand backed with lush dunes, cottages, and a few mid-rise condos. While any of these beaches are sure to please visitors, parts of Vilano Beach, St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach do, unfortunately, allow cars to drive and park on the sand. Located at the southern end of Anastasia Island, Fort Matanzas stands sentinel in the Intracoastal marshlands near Matanzas Inlet.

A short drive away

Marineland: Just a few minutes south of the inlet, Marineland offers visitors the opportunity to interact or even swim with dolphins through different programs.

World Golf Hall of Fame & the Outlets: Located along Interstate 95 between Jacksonville and St. Augustine in World Golf Village, the World Golf Hall of Fame has exhibits honoring the greatest players in the history of the sport. An IMAX theater, two golf courses, a convention center, a hotel, and couple of restaurants and shops accompany the hall of fame complex. Two large outlet malls also face each other across Interstate 95, five miles south of World Golf Village.

Jacksonville & its Beaches: 45 minutes to the north of St. Augustine, Florida’s largest city, Jacksonville, offers one of the country’s most attractive urban riverfronts. Its downtown straddles the St. Johns River with riverwalks and skyscrapers and is connected by signature bridges. This city of contrasts offers a myriad of big-city cultural, sporting, and cosmopolitan offerings along with an impressive zoo, great museums, and the largest urban park system in the country. Across the Intracoastal Waterway, the unique Talbot Islands State Parks offer great preserved slices of natural beach to explore, the idyllic neighboring surf towns of Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach provide one of the best beach and "town center" combinations anywhere, busy Jacksonville Beach boasts an ocean pier and many popular restaurants, and opulent Ponte Vedra Beach is known for plush resorts and golf courses. A vast network of waterways and wetlands throughout Jacksonville also open the door to a variety of aquatic activities.

JACKSONVILLE METROPOLITAN AREA LINKS
(FLORIDA'S FIRST COAST)

Jacksonville | St. Augustine

JACKSONVILLE AREA BEACHES
Atlantic Beach | Neptune Beach | Jacksonville Beach
Ponte Vedra Beach | Amelia Island | Fernandina Beach
Hanna Park | Ft. George Island | Talbot Islands State Parks

ST. AUGUSTINE AREA BEACHES
St. Augustine Beach | Crescent Beach | Vilano Beach | Marineland
Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas N.R.

OTHER METRO CITIES
Orange Park | Fruit Cove-World Golf Village | Callahan | Yulee

FLORIDA

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:An excellent day trip from Jacksonville
  • Last visit to Saint Augustine: Jan 2014
  • Intro Updated Jul 10, 2014
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