In my last blog, I spoke a little bit about the basics of a trip to St. Augustine and this time I will name specific things to see and do while you are there.
Some of the top things to do in St. Augustine:
1. The Castillo de San Marcos. It is one of the most memorable sights in this town, or even for all of the east coast. The fort’s walls have never been penetrated by an enemy and it was built in the 17th century. Visitors can go inside and explore all the rooms. Climb the steps to the gun deck overlooking Matanzas Bay, too. The view from here, especially when there are a lot of boats on the water, is magnificent. If you are visiting at the right time, there will be costumed “soldiers” and sometimes they even fire off the cannons.
2. The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Relax here, grab a sandwich and chips at the tiny eatery that greets visitors, and then walk the grounds. Peacocks roam freely, there is a planetarium, and here is where you get a drink from the fountain. Inside the gift shop you can buy bottles of the famed water for souvenirs to give those friends not lucky enough to be visiting St. Augustine with you. This area also offers a peek into the lives of Timucuan Indians that lived here when the explorers arrived.
3. The Mission of Nombre de Dios. This old Catholic mission (Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche) is beautiful and very photogenic. Take some time to walk around the grounds where the landscaping is charming. The mission building is not the original from the 16th century but that doesn’t take from its beauty. Here is also where to see the huge cross that can be seen for miles out on the Atlantic Ocean. The cross is 208 feet in height and marks the spot where Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales offered the first Catholic Mass in America in 1565.
4. St. George Street. This is an absolutely fabulous place for shopping, taking in the ambiance of the “old city” or just getting some exercise. The narrow street does not allow motor vehicles and there is a feel of “Old Spain” here.
5. Anastasia Island. This is found directly across the well known “Bridge of Lions.” This is one place where you will have access to the Atlantic Ocean and the beach. Another place to see the ocean is found at the other end of town when you go over to Vilano Beach.
6. St. Augustine Alligator Farm, the St. Augustine Lighthouse, and the historical Fort Matanzas where dozens of French Huguenots were put to Menendez’s sword are all found on Anastasia Island.
7. Museums! There are numerous museums found in St. Augustine and they range from things like a wax museum to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not to a number of living history museums with costumed guides to show guests what life was like in early St. Augustine.
8. Check out the downtown architecture; it is unforgettable. This will include things such as the Flagler buildings and college, the Casa Monica Hotel, etc. You will be impressed even if you’ve never been interested in architecture at all. I was!
9. Victory III Cruise. Take a slow and relaxing cruise around the bay on the Victory III. You will see the landmarks such as the huge cross and the Castillo from the water.
10. Ghost walks and cruises. As you might expect in a town this old, ghost walks are offered nightly. Find the one that best suits your sense of the scary and sign up. If walking around town isn’t your thing, there is also a ghost cruise (check for times) on the Matanzas. Matanzas means “slaughter” by the way. Named thus because of what happened to those Huguenots.