St. Augustine Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in St. AugustineWhere to Stay
Historic St. Augustine, Florida's oldest city, has lodgings for every traveler, from family-friendly hotels to bed-and-breakfasts in preserved or renovated architectural gems. Whether luxury or budget, almost all are located close to the centuries-old downtown such as the Casa Monica, Autograph Collection, or along the wide, white-sand beaches, like the Saint Augustine Beach House. For longer stays or large groups, look into rentals of guesthouses.
Caution: The restored boutique hotels tend to have thin walls.
Avoid: Hotels that schedule evening weddings and other events, as the music can travel.
What to Eat
Pleasant, intimate and even exotic restaurants, many of them located in the old bay houses, make St. Augustine a dining destination for the culinary explorer. Flavorful international cuisine ranges from Cuban to Moroccan to Spanish. History buffs should be sure to visit the renowned landmark, the Columbia Rstaurant, a 100-plus-year-old Cuban-Spanish eatery, and Cafe Alcazar, which has been standing since 1888. If you're visiting on a humid summer day, don't neglect The Hyppo, which serves refreshing and delicious paletas (Mexican-style ice pops).
Be Sure to Sample: Local shrimp, black beans and rice, Cuban coffee, medianoche, stone crabs, conch fritters, chowder, grouper.
Things to See
Almost anything you see or do in St. Augustine is a thrill for history and architecture fans alike. From the Colonial Spanish Quarter to the St. Augustine Lighthouse to the Fountain of Youth Discovery Park, you'll be reminded that Ponce de Leon founded this place 500 years ago (as of 2013). Even the museums, such as the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, evoke a sense of living history through the immediacy -- not to mention the ribald nature -- of its artifacts.
Avoid: St. Augustine ghost tours, which are more gimmick than historic.
Places to Party
Nightlife in St. Augustine is more vibrant than you might expect from a historic district. Ranging from piano bars like Rhett's to brewhouses like A1A Ale Works (named for the beachside highway that travels up and down the coast of Florida), the venues offer everything from live music to home-brewed beer. Although not known as a live music town exactly, jazz is big here, with Stoogie's Jazz Club & Listening Room located in the old district near the bay, and the Cellar Upstairs Wine & Jazz Bar, located at San Sebastian Winery close to hotels and the airport.
Take It or Leave It: Thanks to the historic cigar factory, you'll smell smoke in bars all over town.
Where to Shop
Of course, the nation's oldest city should be filled with antique shops, and St. Augustine is. In addition to antique, thrift and consignment shops, the Antique Warehouse, located between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, is like a superstore of collectibles. Souvenir and boutique browsing is best in Aviles and St. George streets in the pedestrian-only old city, where art galleries rub shoulders with natural apothecaries.
Avoid: Ponce de Leon Mall, anchored by JCPenney, unless you want to see a movie.
Best Local Souvenir: Antiques, crafts, arts.
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About St. Augustine
Occupying a stretch of gentle coastline and white sand beaches along the North Florida Atlantic, St. Augustine attracts thousands of visitors each year who enjoy the history, community, beauty and ambience of America's oldest city. St. Augustine was first established under Spanish rule in 1565, making it the oldest permanent European settlement in the United States. In the years after its founding, the city shifted to British rule for a period and then transferred back to Spanish control in 1783. In 1821 the United States purchased the area that included St. Augustine from Spain. It wasn't until the late 1800s that the city really began to develop as a popular tourist location under the entrepreneurial eye of oil magnate Henry Flagler. Since that time much work has gone into restoring colonial structures to preserve the city's rich historic heritage. In fact, the city boasts 36 original colonial buildings and 40 reconstructed buildings within its borders. In addition to intriguing historical sites such as the Colonial Spanish Quarter and the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th century fort built to withstand enemy attacks, the city also offers many modern attractions such as the nation's first oceanarium, fine restaurants... Read more »