If you plan to visit Florida soon, consider adding a visit to the charming and historic town of St. Augustine to your itinerary! Despite being very popular with American tourists, this place is still relatively unknown to Canadians and deserves to be explored. The Spanish architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and hanging balconies of St. Augustine will transport you to another world, a magical extension of Spain in Florida!
Here are some great reasons for you to go!
1. To visit the oldest city in the United States
Regardless of whether you are a history buff or not, this destination with a fascinating past will intrigue you! The city of St. Augustine is considered the landing place of the first European explorer on the continent (Christopher Columbus and John Cabot had landed on islands in the previous century). More precisely, the Spanish explorer Ponce de León was the first to sail the coast of Florida and gave the peninsula the name "La Florida."
Founded in 1565 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilé for the Spanish crown, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. Over the years, this Spanish colony was attacked repeatedly, especially by the British. In 1819, the Americans bought Florida from Spain, and St. Augustine became the state's capital for a few years before Tallahassee took over as the capital in 1824.
2. To be enchanted by the beauty of the historic district
With its cobblestone streets, St. Augustine has an old-world charm that makes it a great place to visit. Take a stroll down these narrow streets, and you'll feel like you've stepped back in time! Flagler College is an excellent example of Spanish Renaissance architecture and the first cast-in-place concrete structure in the United States. There are also many quaint shops and restaurants to visit on St. George Street.
3. To enjoy the breathtaking beaches
Whether you want to sunbathe, swim, surf, or simply take a long walk, St. Augustine's beaches are some of the best in the state. With its white sand beaches and dunes, the St. Augustine area offers visitors breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas and Tolomato rivers. Beaches such as Vilano Beach, St. Augustine Beach, and Anastasia State Park are among the most beautiful in the region.
4. To enjoy culinary delights
Restaurants in St. Augustine's colonial district offer both traditional and modern fare to suit every taste. Here is a list of some of the best restaurants in St. Augustine:
- The Floridian: A popular dining destination for lunch or dinner, the Floridian serves Southern-style dishes.
- Columbia Restaurant: Enjoy the best Spanish cuisine at this iconic restaurant built when the hotel was founded in 1905.
- St. George Restaurant: This lovely fresh seafood restaurant offers local specialties and breathtaking harbour views.
- Prohibition Kitchen: You can enjoy classic American cuisine and craft cocktails at this prohibition-style speakeasy.
- Burrito Works Taco Shop: This Mexican taco shop is great for a quick meal (there is usually a line here because it is so popular).
- Brisky's BBQ: A tasty selection of homemade sides and smoked meats await you here.
5. To discover a haven of art and culture
Thanks to its numerous museums and galleries on almost every corner, St. Augustine is considered a hub of art and culture in the United States. The St. Augustine Art Association, Flagler College Art Museum, and Lightner Museum are among the best art venues.
6. To explore one of the most photogenic places in Florida
There is no better place to take photos in Florida than St. Augustine! Pack your camera, smartphone, or iPad because you won’t want to miss your shot! Whether you're snapping pictures of the burning sunset over the Atlantic Ocean or of Flagler College, the area has plenty of photo opportunities.
You should also check out Magnolia Avenue, one of the most photographed streets in the US, near Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. This beautiful street is famous for the arched shape of the oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Walking or driving through it will feel like you are going through a tunnel of lush greenery, and it will be an experience you won't soon forget.
7. To participate in the nightlife
If you're looking for a good time, St. Augustine has it all! With a large variety of pubs, cocktail bars, and live music venues, this small city is able to cater to all kinds of nightlife enthusiasts.
These are some of the best places to go in St. Augustine:
- Tini Martini Bar: Enjoy delicious martinis and cocktails while listening to live music at this bar.
- Stogies Jazz Club & Listening: The unpretentious atmosphere of this jazz and blues club is perfect for listening to live music.
- No Name Bar: Relax with a beer on the terrace of this bar, which overlooks the Castillo de San Marcos.
- Trade Winds Lounge: Long popular with sailors, this bar is an iconic place to hear live music in a retro atmosphere.à
8. To see the oldest masonry fort in the United States
If you're visiting St. Augustine, remember to visit the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Built in the 17th century and surrounded by a moat, this fort remains intact today and offers visitors a fascinating insight into history. The Spanish built the old stone fort in St. Augustine to defend Florida and the Atlantic trade route from invasion. This is the perfect place to visit for those who wish to learn more about the city's history.
9. To cruise aboard a traditional schooner
There's nothing like sailing on Matanzas Bay aboard the Freedom Schooner, whether in the afternoon, at sunset, or under a full moon. The picturesque Bridge of Lions will open up so the tall, two-masted sailing ship can pass through. Several dolphins reside in the canal year-round, so keep an eye out for them along the way. A cruise on this historic ship is an experience you will never forget and will leave a lasting impression on you long after your return home.
10. Spend time in nature at Anastasia State Park
Just a few minutes away from the historical centre, Anastasia State Park provides a great opportunity to reconnect with nature. You can enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities while you are here. More than 1,600 hectares of pristine beaches, marshes, and sand dunes make this an exciting destination for visitors. You can hike along marked trails or stroll along the coast to see birds and other natural wonders.
How do I get to St. Augustine, Florida?
St. Augustine is easily accessible by car and plane, making it a great weekend getaway or day trip destination. There are two major airports near St. Augustine: Jacksonville, about an hour away, and Orlando, about two hours away.
If you're already in Florida, it's an easy day trip from other tourist cities such as Daytona, Cape Canaveral, Kissimmee and Melbourne.
Plan your getaway to St. Augustine now!
The charming city of St. Augustine is one of Florida's greatest treasures and a must-see destination in North America because of its fascinating history, colourful streets, breathtaking beaches, distinctive restaurants and bars, and beautiful Magnolia Avenue.
If you plan a Florida trip, make sure you speak with a soNomad agent about travel insurance!