St. Augustine is a beautiful city in Florida known for its fascinating history and walkable old town area with well-preserved historical sites. St. Augustine began its life as a Spanish colony in the mid-1500s. This secured the title of the oldest city in the United States. From Native Americans, Spanish, British Soldiers to railroad tycoons, St. Augustine has been home to many in the last 450 years.
Today, downtown St. Augustine has an old-world, small-town feel with narrow lanes, pretty buildings, and plentiful greenery. Wander the streets and you’ll be rewarded with unique museums, eclectic art galleries, and photo-worthy historic sites as well as modern-day shopping and some great eateries. St. Augustine also enjoys plentiful sunshine all year round and semi-tropical climate so it’s perfect for a winter getaway.
Stroll Downtown St. Augustine
Find your footing with some extensive wandering around the historic downtown area. We suggest starting out early to beat the heat and get oriented before the crowds arrive. Start your journey at the Visitor Center where you can grab a map, then set off to see all the outdoor attractions before the sun gets too intense. We suggest checking out monuments and relics such as the Colonial Quarter, Castillo de San Marcos, Old Jail, the Oldest. Wooden School House, the Tree of Love, the Old Drugstore. On the outskirts of town, make sure to wander the beautiful suburbs and the Flagler University campus. As the weather gets hotter, take some time out in an air-conditioned museum or two. We recommend the Lightner Museum (an eclectic collection of Victorian antiquities), the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum (see authentic treasure and artifacts) and St. Photios Greek Orthodox Shrine. If walking isn’t your style in the heat, there are also trolley tours available.
Shop for Unique St. Augustine Souvenirs
There are plenty of tourist-centric shops all over St. Augustine, but buying something unique can be challenging. One great idea is to visit one of the shops in St. Augustine offering chili sauces and products made from native Datil peppers. We recommend visiting Mara’s Hotter side where you can taste test sauces and spice mixes before you buy. If you like beautiful old prints and maps, stop by Bouvier Prints and Maps. You can find St. Augustine and Florida specific gems here including plenty of beautiful (and blank!) vintage postcards of the area. The Coconut Barrel, an artisan craft market showcasing locally made crafts, is also well worth checking out for beautiful handmade gifts to bring home. For more ideas of where to shop for souvenirs, check out this list.
Eat like a St. Augustinian
St. Augustine is home to some tasty restaurants with great seafood dishes. In the downtown area, The Floridian is a delicious option with an innovative menu of locally sourced southern items, my personal favorite was pickled pepper shrimp – absolutely addictive. Another tasty bite was at Catch 27 where they can whip you up a hot crab cake sandwich with a fat patty of grilled crab meat. Delicious. Not so into seafood? Make sure to give the biscuits and gravy at Maple Street Biscuit Company a try for their daunting biscuits piled with sausage sauce, bacon, fried chicken, cheese and anything you fancy. Beware – these are very filling!
Get a bargain at St. Augustine Flea market
Wandered the picturesque historic downtown to your heart’s content? How about experiencing a bit of an “Old Florida” flavor at the local flea market? St. Augustine Flea market is a big, covered market with individual vendors selling a variety of mostly used items: antiques, vintage, knickknacks, old records, books, comics, plants, tools and so much more.
Budget an hour or two to do some digging and see what gems you find and how many interesting characters you can chat with. When you need a break, grab a cheap hot dog and so some fascinating people-watching.
Beautiful Beaches in St. Augustine
If you’re craving some beach time, St. Augustine has a series of gorgeous public beaches right on the doorstep. The closest to the historic downtown is Vilano Beach just a five-minute drive away. Vilano is famous for beach-combing and has a boardwalk, pier, park for picnics and restaurants. Further South is the livelier St. Augustine Beach close to many shops and restaurants with a Splash Park for kids, volleyball courts and a fishing pier. Even further South is Crescent Beach, great for wildlife enthusiasts and perfect for camping and boating.