Located in northeastern Florida about one hour north of Daytona Beach, St. Augustine is one of the oldest cities and is known as the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the US. Filled with historical attractions, great shopping and dining it made for a great stop on our Florida road trip. In this post, we share a guide of things to do in St. Augustine Florida.
A Look at Florida’s Historic Coast
While there are many attractions for families in Florida’s Historic Coast, I found this region of Florida great for adults and a particularly great stop for our girls getaway.
Transportation and Getting Around St. Augustine
Ripley’s Little Red Train
Take a tour around the city with stops to all the attractions in St. Augustine. The entire loop takes about an hour and a half if you stay on. The driver offers commentary on the city’s history and the attractions as it drives through the downtown area.
The red train was great for getting oriented and figuring out where the hot spots were and because it is a hop-on-hop-off it provided us with transportation around the downtown area and back to our hotel. Getting off at the Winery stop we were able to walk back to the Tryp hotel in just a few minutes.
The red train also offers discounted attraction tickets and shuttles to the island to see the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Alligator Farm. For details visit Ripley’s Little Red Train website.
Explore Pickups and Tours
For $3 you can get anywhere within the downtown area. We called and asked them to pick us up and were dropped off just before the A1A a 2-minute walk from our hotel. These vehicles do not have permits to ride on the highway, but they are great to get around the downtown area and also offer tours.
For details visit Explore Pickups & Tours website.
There were no shortages of Uber drivers, until late at night. Once the downtown shops start closing, there are less and fewer Ubers around, especially mid-week. That said we did Uber to and from our hotel a few times during our vacation.
St. Augustine Florida Historic District
Shopping and the Historic Village
Hands down the main attraction in St. Augustine is the downtown area or historic district. Here you will find many pedestrian streets lined with tiny shops, cafes, restaurants and historical attractions.
We loved browsing the streets during the day and especially in the evening when the roads were lit up and packed with people. You’ll find many shops filled with souvenirs, fashion and jewelry.
Shops to keep an eye out for:
- Red Pineapple
- Mermaid Shop
- Dutch Convoy Purses
Salt Spa St. Augustine
There is a lot of talk about St. Augustine’s famous fountain of youth, but for a real health and wellness retreat you should visit the Salt Spa of St. Augustine. Here you will learn about the benefits of salt treatments like floating in a salt tank and relaxing in a salt cave. A detailed post of my experience is coming soon.
For more information visit their website.
St. Augustine Florida Attractions
There are more than 60 historic sites in the St. Augustine area which made it difficult to see them all. There are so many things to do in St. Augustine that even with two days in the region we were not able to see it all. Here are some must-see favourite St. Augustine attractions.
Castillo de San Marcos
Images of the famous Spanish fort is what initially drew me to St. Augustine. Located by the Matanzas river the fort gives you a look at life during the 1600s with several rooms on display showing soldier’s quarters and more.
There are some daily activities at the fort including canon firings, tours and people dressed up and sharing stories and offering demonstrations. I recommend if you are visiting the area during the summer or when it is sweltering, to make your way to this attraction early in the morning before the Sun has fully risen.
For more information visit the Castillo de San Marcos website.
Flagler College Tour
I have to admit I didn’t think I was going to be wowed by Flagler College. After our Red Train driver spoke about it and we drove by my interest peaked more. Once the Hotel Ponce de Leon a luxury resort built by Henry Flagler this tour was fascinating.
A local student of the college walked us into a room which is set up as a museum to feature some of the histories of this fantastic property.
Later she walked us to the lobby where we learned about the fantastic entrance way and the work put into its ceiling and floor tiles.
The tour concluded in the college dining hall where Flagler and his guests would sit. The windows in this dining hall are Tiffany stained glass so old they cannot be valued.
Across the street from Flagler College is the Lightner Museum which was once the sister hotel to the Ponce de Leon. Here you will see what remains of the Hotel Alcazar also built by Flagler and a collection of displays featuring antiques from this era.
The highlight at this museum is the world’s largest swimming pool which is now drained and home to the Café Alcazar.
St. Augustine Eco Tours
We took a boat ride with Zack which felt more like a research mission than a boat tour. Many of the guides at St. Augustine Eco Tours are also Marine Naturalists who are working at monitoring and protecting the waters.
In fact, St. Augustine’s coast guard may rely on the crew to check out marine entanglements and other emergencies during the tour. We picked up trash from the ocean and spotted a few bottleneck dolphins. Mostly I learned a lot about the marine ecosystem all while catching some breathtaking views of the St. Augustine coastline.
For details visit St. Augustine Eco Tours website.
Lighthouse and Museum
The historic lighthouse in St. Augustine can is seen from miles away. If you would like some breathtaking views of the St. Augustine area prepare to walk up the 219 steps to the top. The tower itself was first built in 1874 and is restored and upgraded.
In 2002, the entire property became a non-profit museum. You’ll find in addition to the lighthouse itself which is the main attraction; there are some historic buildings including the Keeper’s house.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not
This is the original Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum which has been open for over 50 years. If you like those weird and strange phenomena, you’ll love the over 800 exhibits inside this museum. Outside covered up by “vanity” hedge is a very naked replica of the famous David statue. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Fountain of Youth Park
This historic settlement park features the famous location of the fountain of youth and replicates life of the first settlement in the US. Be sure to pack bug spray as there are some wooded areas and keep an eye out for the many peacocks who are wandering around freely.
Restaurants in St. Augustine Florida
As there was no shortage of incredible places to eat during our vacation in St. Augustine I will go through these in more detail in a future post featuring the best places to eat in St. Augustine.
Michael’s Tasting Room
This family-run restaurant is perfect for casual fine dining. The menu changes seasonally as its food ingredients are sourced locally. The restaurant features Latin-inspired cuisine paired with a collection of great wines and craft beers.
You can’t visit Florida’s Historic Coast and not eat seafood. Catch 27 had some fresh fish to prepare for us, and better yet they were more than able to accommodate my Keto requests! I had a fantastically grilled snapper served on a bed of zoodles.
Sometimes you find restaurants by accident. We had planned to have dinner at the Floridian which was closed on Tuesday evenings, so instead, we made our way to the Ice Plant which was located around the corner from our Hotel. This modern bar and restaurant was built inside the old St. Augustine ice plant and featured delicious craft cocktails and yummy eats.
Maple Street Biscuit Company
While this is a chain type restaurant in the Florida area, it was an excellent recommendation by our Uber driver for an early breakfast spot. I mean as a Canadian it is always nice to go somewhere that serves real maple syrup with breakfast! I have to confess I caved on Keto that morning when I saw their delicious biscuits on display!
Swillerbees Craft Donuts & Coffee Bar
I’ll make this easy. If you like donuts, especially handcrafted specialty donuts, then you are going to love Swillerbees. If you are afraid to make the splurge, they have two sizes of donuts so you can get a mini and not feel guilty about it. See their website for more information.
Be sure to grab a Hypo popsicle as you browse the streets of St. Augustine. This became my favourite cold treat during my trip to Florida. These treats are made with real ingredients and available in too many flavours to mention this is a must have on a hot St. Augustine day.
St. Augustine Florida Beaches
St. Augustine Beach
Across the bridge on the island, you’ll find the St. Augustine Beach and Pier. We didn’t do any sunbathing on the beach but made sure to be there for a spectacular sunrise. It was worth the early morning wake up call. The long beach was the perfect place for a morning sunrise stroll.
Farmer’s Market at City Pier
On Wednesday’s be sure to stick around for the Market at the City Pier which opens at 8:00 AM. There you will find many vendors featuring fresh fruits and vegetables and some artisans sharing their crafts.
Ponte Vedra Beach
We managed a stop at Ponte Vedra Beach on our drive from St. Augustine to Amelia Island. There are some stops along the coastal highway where you can park and cross the street to a beach entrance. Note parking is by the honour system, and we noted rangers were visiting these parking lots regularly so consider this fair warning.
St. Augustine Florida Hotels
Tryp by Wyndham
Located along the A1A highway just outside St. Augustine’s downtown area, the Tryp by Wyndham featured spacious rooms, a great salt-water pool and a quiet out of the way location.
|Tryp by Wyndham||Hilton|
|My Review | TripAdvisor Reviews||TripAdvisor Reviews|
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|Trip Advisor | Hotels.com | Travelocity||Trip Advisor | Hotels.com | Travelocity|
Hilton St. Augustine
One of the most beautiful downtown St. Augustine hotels I saw was the Hilton St. Augustine. Located across the marina, it has excellent access to the downtown district with some rooms offering a view of the Matanzas Bay.
Getting to St. Augustine
Air Canada Direct to Jacksonville from Toronto
We flew into Jacksonville airport on a direct flight from Toronto on Air Canada. This is a short two hour flight from Pearson YYZ. It was actually perfect for our roadtrip which included stops along Northeastern Florida locations including St. Augustine, Amelia Island and Jacksonville Beach. We picked up a rental car and found that all our destinations along the coast were about an hours drive from the airport. Way more convenient and affordable than flying into Orlando.
Disclosure: Travel assistance provided by Air Canada, Florida’s Historic Coast and Visit Florida on a press trip that was part of a 4-day vacation prize package. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.