Though Florida is not generally known or revered for its historical roots, one of the oldest cities in the United States happens to sit on Florida’s Northern Atlantic Coast. Founded by the Spanish in 1565 and settled by the British in 1763, the coastal town of St. Augustine is a true American treasure.
While St. Augustine’s long stretches of pristine beaches are a draw for many of its visitors, the quaint shops, historic bed and breakfasts and independent dining establishments also make it a unique little hamlet. Whether you’re chasing the ghosts of the past or partaking in the fineries of the present there is something for everyone in this saintly town.
Here are 25 things you can do and see while exploring beautiful St. Augustine:
1. Step into the Lightner Museum and get a glimpse of 19th century daily life, from costumes and furnishings, to musical instruments and the stained glass work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
2. Get up close and personal with Florida’s favorite reptile and other exotic animals at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. Founded in 1908, the park is one of Florida’s oldest attractions.
3. Stroll through the picturesque campus at Flagler College, a four-year liberal arts college built in 1968, which has been the backdrop of several movies, including “Illegally Yours” starring Rob Lowe.
4. Explore the nation’s oldest fort Castillo de San Marcos, which is nearly 400 years old and took a quarter of a century to construct.
5. Visit the oldest wooden school building in the United States, built in 1716 at 14 St. George Street.
6. Tour the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, one of the most well preserved of the remaining colonial historic buildings, the museum includes a 1798 coquina stone house and detached coquina kitchen.
7. Observe and experience many of the oddities collected by Robert Ripley at the original Ripley’s Believe it or Not “Odditorium,” which opened in 1950.
8. Tour the San Sebastian Winery and enjoy wines from native muscadine grapes. Historians believe this area to be the birthplace of American wine, dating back to 1562.
9. Grab a bite to eat, listen to live music and enjoy the “Gone with the Wind” atmosphere at Scarlet O’Hara’s. Have a drink in the upstairs Ghost Bar and you might see where it gets its name.
10. Sign up for one of the Ghost Tours and learn about some of the local hauntings.
11. Tour the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum on the north end of Anastasia Island, built in 1874.
12. Visit Fort Mose Historic State Park, a National Historic Landmark that was the first free black settlement legally sanctioned in the United States.
13. Observe the first Spanish settlement in the new world at the Fountain of Youth Historical Park, a 15-acre, waterfront historical attraction. Visit the Planetarium and the Native Timucua Village, and take a sip from the legendary Fountain of Youth.
14. See the world’s largest collection of authentic pirate artifacts, interactive exhibits, rarely seen shipwreck treasures from the Florida Division of Historical Resources, and more at the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum.
15. Take a guided tour through the Ponce de León Hotel. Built in 1887 in the Spanish Renaissance style, the hotel was constructed entirely of poured concrete and originally wired for electricity by Thomas Edison.
16. Enjoy a view of the inter-coastal waterway while dining on fresh seafood, gator tail or your own favorite at Saltwater Cowboys. Serving up Florida-cracker ambiance for more than 35 years.
17. Play a few holes of golf, eat, drink and be Murray at Bill Murray’s Caddy Shack Restaurant and visit the World Golf Hall of Fame museum, all located at World Golf Village.
18. Explore a bevy of antique stores including Antique Emporium, Way We Were and Time Zones Antiques.
19. Stay at one of the many historic B&Bs, such as the Victorian-style Bayfront Westcott House, built in 1880 overlooking the Matanzas Bay.
20. Gobble up some of O’Steen’s Restaurant famous fried shrimp while gazing at beautiful Anastasia Island. Other menu favorites include Minorcan clam chowder and hush puppies.
21. Visit the Fort Matanzas National Monument, and explore the Spanish Fort Matanzas, built in 1740, and 100 acres of salt marsh and barrier islands along the Matanzas River.
22. Catch a scheduled concert or movie, or check out the Old City Farmer’s Market every Saturday at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.
23. Come face-to-face with your favorite celebrities and historical figures at Potter’s Wax Museum.
24. Marvel at the Memorial Presbyterian Church, an historic church built in 1889 and inspired by the architecture of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
25. Find some good buys at the St. Augustine Premium Outlet Malls featuring Ann Taylor Factory Store, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Coach, J.Crew, Movado, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and more.