St. Augustine is part of Florida’s Historic Coast and includes St. Augustine, Ponte Verde and The Beaches. The area boasts 42 miles of pristine beach and offers guests 10,000 units in 171 hotels and motels. Forbes Magazine named St. Augustine one of the “10 Prettiest Towns in America” in 2012 and National Geographic Traveler named the city one of “The World’s 20 Must See Places” in 2013.
Most people know that St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States (founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers) but you may not know that it offers more than 60 historic sites and attractions. It’s the perfect place to combine education with fun for a truly memorable vacation for your family.
St. Augustine has retained much of its Spanish past in the homes and larger architecture. It’s a lovely city for strolling with cobblestone streets and small alleys that beg you to explore. Outdoor cafes and small boutiques line Old Town St. Augustine.
Several tour operators offer “off and on” tours that make getting to know the area easy. The tours are a great way to get the layout of the city and learn about its history. But do be aware that it isn’t hard to park at almost any of the major attractions. My advice is to pick a few attractions that really appeal to your grandchildren and keep things simple.
WHERE TO STAY
St. Augustine boasts a variety of hotels that will meet the needs of families including several chain motels ideally located on the waterfront and in walking distance to attractions and restaurants.
• Castillo de San Marcos. This 17th century structure was built by the Spanish to defend “La Florida” and it is the country’s oldest fort. Located on 20.5 acres in Old Town, the reconstructed section of the walled defense line surrounds what was the original city gate. Schedules for ranger talks, historical reenactments and other events can be found on the website. A stop at San Marcos at sunrise will yield beautiful photos and the opportunity for a quiet, contemplative walk along the water.
11 South Castillo Drive, St Augustine, Florida 32084 • (904) 829-6506 • www.nps.gov/casa/
• Colonial Quarter. The newest addition to St. Augustine attractions, the Colonial Quarter opened in March 2013 and is a two-acre living museum with exhibits, shows, taverns and restaurants. You’ll find a working blacksmith and gunsmith as well as a 35-foot watchtower to climb.
33 St. George Street, St. Augustine, Florida 32084 • (904) 342-2857 8 www. colonialquarter.com
• Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. This historical site is situated on 15 acres of waterfront a short drive from Old Town. The park was once the site of a Timucuan Indian Village as well as the original site of the settlement of St. Augustine. Children especially will enjoy the Spanish colonial military cannon firings, an authentic 16th-century boat works and a replicated Timucuan village. Plus, you get to drink from the Fountain of Youth!
11 Magnolia Avenue, St. Augustine, FL 32084 • (904) 829-3168 • www.fountainofyouthflorida.com
• Pirate and Treasure Museum. The museum boasts the largest collection of authentic pirate artifacts including an actual pirate flag and treasure chest. There is also an exhibit devoted to Hollywood pirates.
12 South Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, Florida 32084 • (877) 467-5863 • www.piratesoul.com
• St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. Completed in 1874, the Lighthouse is the oldest surviving brick structure in the St. Augustine area. To reach the 365-degree view, you climb 219 steps on a metal spiral staircase. Children taller than 44 inches can make the climb. Once you reach the top, a volunteer docent is available to answer questions. The walk is a bit strenuous but doable for anyone in decent physical shape. Guided tours of the property are offered, including “Dark of the Moon” tours that are very popular. A Children’s Shipyard is on the property and offers fun for children who aren’t tall enough to make the climb.
81 Lighthouse Ave., St Augustine, Florida 32080 • (904) 829-0745 • www.staugustinelighthouse.com