By Olde Carriage Realty
St. Augustine’s a small town packed with four-and-a-half centuries of history. You may not be able to get through it all in one visit, but here’s a sampling of 26 things to see—an alphabet of choices from A to Z.
A – Alligator Farm – Founded in 1893, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm has reptiles of all sizes—from baby alligators to big bull alligators—plus all 23 species of crocodiles, a bird rookery, educational talks, and zip line courses.
B – Beaches – The beach is St. Augustine’s oldest attraction, and the first place Ponce de Leon visited! Five hundred and two years later, the allure of sand, surf, sun, and ocean breezes still holds its timeless charm.
C – Castillo de San Marcos – An unmistakable landmark on the bay front since its completion in 1695, the Castillo de San Marcos hosts an average of 3,500 visitors daily, offering interpretive programs, tours, and military history on a monumental scale.
D – Dolphin Water Tours – Get to know the locals and see some of the most popular waterfront sites on a marine wildlife tour. Family-friendly and educationally appealing, this 90-minute boat ride will open your eyes to the rich estuarine community that surrounds St. Augustine’s historic grounds.
E – Events – Like Celebrate 450! September 4 – 8 marking the City of St. Augustine’s 450 years of continuous history – In addition to our busy festival seasons in the spring and fall, people come for fun in this lively ancient city.
F – Flagler College – You don’t have to be a prospective student to tour Flagler College and learn about St. Augustine’s gilded age. The original Ponce de Leon Hotel was repurposed in 1967 from resort hotel to a liberal arts college, and while the building has been upgraded to conform to modern standards, at least two amenities have remained the same since its opening in 1888: electricity and it’s still only 2.6 miles from the beach.
G – Ghost Tours – Plenty of ghosts, plenty of tour companies to help you see them. The City of St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European and African origin in the United States. The history stretches into the paranormal. We have a number of after-dark ghost guides, including:
St. Augustine Tours – http://www.staugustinetours.net
St. Augustine Ghost Tours – http://www.ghosthearse.com/
Old Town Trolley Ghosts & Gravestones St. Augustine Frightseeing Tour –http://www.ghostsandgravestones.com
Ghost Tours of St. Augustine – http://www.aghostlyexperience.com
GhoSt Augustine – http://www.ghostaugustine.com/
St. Augustine Lighthouse – http://www.staugustinelighthouse.com
Ripley’s Ghost Train Adventure – http://www.ghosttrainadventure.com/
A Ghostly Encounter – http://staugustineghosttours.net/
Sheriff’s Ghost Walk Tour – http://sheriffsghostwalktours.com/
H – Historic District – Let St. George Street lead the way through the centuries! The Historic Downtown District holds a collection of shops, restaurants, art galleries, museums, and churches which have accumulated over the past four-and-a-half hundred years of continuous history. Closed to vehicular traffic, St. George Street is a passageway to a self-guided adventure in an ancient setting.
I – Ice Plant –Take a tour, take a taste, and transport yourself to one of the coolest places in history. Remember the early ice age when ice was cut from a single block? Taste your way back into the days of prohibition in an authentic setting at St. Augustine’s Ice Plant, circa 1927.
J – Old Jail – The local lock-up isn’t what it used to be: now you can buy souvenirs! The Old Jail has that Henry Flagler flare, but it was no tourist trap in its day. Tour the cell blocks and learn about the criminal justice system of over 100 years ago.
K – Kayaking & Canoeing – See the city from a pre-contact perspective. The scenic waterways were the highways before Europeans and Africans arrived, and are still a great way to see pristine Florida (before it was called “Florida”) and also to get a view of our “modern” city, now four-and-a-half centuries old. Watercraft rentals and guides are available through the following outfitters:
Ripple Effect Ecotours – http://rippleeffectecotours.com/
St. Augustine Eco Tours – http://www.staugustineecotours.com/KayakAdventure.html
L – Lighthouse – Two hundred and nineteen steps in a nautilus-coil lead to an enlightened view of the city atop the St. Augustine Lighthouse! A beacon of our maritime heritage, the current tower was completed in 1874, and has drawn tourists since at least 1910.
M – Fort Mose – The southern terminus of the Gullah-Geechie Cultural Heritage Corridor, Fort Mose was a destination for runaway black slaves from the British Colonies. Over one hundred years before the Civil War, the early ‘Underground Railroad’ ran south along the eastern sea islands, leading African slaves to Spanish Florida, and freedom from British plantations.
N – Mission Nombre de Dios – Sacred in history and in faith, the great cross landmarks the founding site of the City of St. Augustine, and of the first Mass. Walk the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios to retrace the steps of early Spanish explorers and pioneer priests, the place where western culture and Christianity first took root in North America.
O – Oldest House – Boasting tabby floors and coquina walls, the Oldest House is authentic Spanish Colonial with a British make-over. Dating to the early 1700’s, this house (Gonzalez-Alvarez House) is an archive of occupation as one nationality of home owners gave way to another, with differing tastes and needs manifested in changes to the structure. In 1918 it was restored and renovated by the St. Augustine Historical Society, and became part of the Oldest House Museum Complex.
P – Pirate Museum – Go for an adventure that’ll transport you and your crew back to the Golden Age of Piracy. Learn about pirate movie legends, and discover St. Augustine’s own pirate history with such scallywags as Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles.
Q – Colonial Quarter – Exactly what you’d expect of St. Augustine…in 1750. The Colonial Quarter offers a look at Colonial life—from a blacksmith forge to a typical kitchen—with re-enactors throughout, plus there’s a tower with a tall view of the Castillo de San Marcos.
R – Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – An extravaganza of oddities, the collection at Ripley’s has everything you didn’t expect. Housed in the Castle Warden or Ripley’s Castle, you’ll wind your way through sensational displays, with some interactive exhibits demonstrating the extremes of human ability and perception. This museum is best suited for those with an enthusiasm for the bizarre.
S – Segway Tours –The City of St. Augustine has the oldest street plan in America, dating from the late 16th Century, and we have a great new way to view it—by Segway! No walking required for this stand-up journey through the historic streets. The following companies offer guided Segway tours:
St. Augustine Bike Rentals Segway – http://www.segwaystaugustine.com/
St. Augustine Segways – http://www.staugustinesegways.com/home.html
T – Tolomato Cemetery – St. Augustine is America’s original melting pot as evidenced by the burials in the Tolomato Cemetery—American Indians, Spanish, African, Italian, Greek, Corsican, German, Irish, Haitian, Cuban and Canadian. The Tolomato Cemetery has also been the burial site of a Governor of Haiti and of Father Felix Varela, whose push for human rights and independence in Cuba has inspired an ongoing campaign for his sainthood. http://www.tolomatocemetery.com
U – Usina Bridge – The Francis and Mary Usina Bridge rises up for a birds’ eye view where the Matanzas River opens to the Inlet which opens to the Atlantic Ocean…or go beneath the bridge on the east side and follow a quiet boardwalk for close encounters with birds and turtles and fish and touch-tile mosaic displays.
V – Vilano Pier –Vilano Drive has been revitalized with shops and restaurants leading west to the Vilano Pier—site of fishing, bird watching, scenic views, and numerous events including a Sunset Celebration the first Saturday of every month. You’ll find the Bluebird of Happiness here!
W – Water Sports – Until the Atlantic Ocean dries up, boating, fishing, swimming, surfing and all manner of water sports are bound to be a strong part of our identity as an Ancient City and a modern destination. St. Johns County boasts fourteen boat ramps and forty miles of coastline, plus the St. Johns County Pier. If you haven’t found the water yet, you’re not far from it!
X – Ximenez-Fatio House – One of St. Augustine’s older homes, meticulously researched and lovingly restored, this one’s not on the market, but it is open to the public as a museum. Each room tells a different story of by-gone days in the Old City. Through on-site archaeological excavation, the stories continue to be revealed.
Y – Fountain of Youth – Before National Geographic, Fodor’s, and Smithsonian put St. Augustine on their top-places maps, Ponce de Leon arrived here and gave the place a favorable review, calling it ‘Pascua Florida’ or Festival of Flowers. Sip from the Fountain of Youth and discover a lasting history through replica buildings and historical re-enactments, not to mention the authentic setting.
Z – Villa Zorayda Museum – Built as a scale replica of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, the storyline of this structure includes private residence, casino, and continues today as an art and antiquities museum. The Moorish Spanish Revival architecture landmarks the City of St. Augustine’s imported heritage, and combines Ancient World design with the innovation of poured concrete construction.