St. Augustine, America’s “Oldest City” is a quaint historic community with a storybook quality, off busy interstates and away from the flash of a theme park atmosphere. Located in the northeast corner of Florida in a landscape of moss-draped live oaks, sabal palms, palmetto, marsh grass, sand dunes and miles of beaches, it brims with interesting and fun things to see and do.
In a young country like America, where old is a relative term, the city of St. Augustine is really old and has sites to prove it. Founded by the Spanish in 1565 as a defense bastion during their New World exploration, it offered protection to the armadas as they traveled the Gulf Stream transporting riches from Central and South America. It pre-dates the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 and even the 1607 Jamestown settlement and, much to the fascination of visitors, elements of the Spanish period remain to experience.
Location is the reason the area was so desirable to the Spanish and to the indigenous Timucuan Indians before them. Location is why it was fought over and controlled off and on by both the Spanish and the British from the late 1600s through the 1700s, and was finally acquired by a fledgling America in 1821. Location is why railroad magnate Henry Morrison Flagler built it into a winter resort for the wealthy during the gilded age of the late 19th century. It is also the reason visitors flock there today.
St. Augustine offers a wonderful combination of past and present, old and new. A walk through the historic Ancient City peels away the cultural layers of the past. For history buffs of all ages, a remarkable collection of historic landmarks chronicles the passage of time, beginning in the 16th century, and offers unequalled immersion experiences. As such, St. Augustine is a must see destination for young people and adults alike.
Walk down narrow cobblestone streets lined with diminutive buildings of coquina stone and wood. Peer through the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in continental North America and imagine how the Spanish guarded their settlement. Discover the oldest wooden building in the United States, a schoolhouse dating to the early 1700s, and learn about life in the remote outpost in the Colonial Spanish Quarter.
Among these relics from the Spanish period, find examples of the rugged yet simple life of the Florida Crackers, hardy American pioneers who homesteaded the newly acquired territory beginning in the early to mid 1800s. In contrast, marvel at the lavish excess of America’s industrial wealth of the late 1800s at one of the greatest architectural specimens in the Southeast, the heavily ornamented Spanish Renaissance Flagler College, at one time the Hotel Ponce de Leon. The gilded Rotunda with ornate carvings and the Dining Hall dappled in the glow of 79 Tiffany stained glass windows are astounding.
While strolling from one fascinating venue to another, hunt through antiques shops, browse through art galleries, find the perfect curio along St. George Street or something special in trendy boutiques. Enjoy the culinary pleasure of diversely tasty food served in casual bayside or oceanfront restaurants, in curbside bistros, Spanish tavernas, sleek contemporary dining venues, or opulent dining rooms.
There is more than history in St. Augustine. For water, sun, and beach lovers, expanses of sandy beaches to the north and south offer swimming, surfing, shelling or a wonderful spot to just lie in the sun with a good book. For naturalists, there are tidal salt marshes and nature preserves to explore. A golfer’s dream, great golf courses are scattered throughout the area, including Sawgrass, host of the PGA Players Championship, the Ponce de Leon Golf course, the oldest in Florida, or the World Golf Village.