Settled by Spanish explorers in 1565, led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, St Augustine is the oldest continuously-occupied European settlement in the USA. Landing on the feast day of Augustine of Hippo, they named the town San Agustin and quickly dug in fortifications to protect themselves. And so a town was born and continues to thrive over 400 years later with many of the original buildings still standing.
These days visitors flock to Saint Augustine for its history and beauty. Horses clip-clop through the 144-block National Historic Landmark District as the townspeople drift by in period costume. There are regular historical re-enactments and music festivals. And when you get tired of venturing into the past, there’s that long sandy beach to head for, or even Florida’s oldest alligator farm.
Day 1: Step Back in Time
If you’re in Saint Augustine you’re obviously ready to step into the past. Take the trolley tour and find out about the history, sights and attractions from a well-informed trolley conductor. Check out Saint Augustine’s oldest house; the old jail – definitely haunted; the Fountain of Youth; Lightner Museum; and the magnificent 17th century fortificiation, Castillo de San Marcos. Wander through the old colonial Spanish neighbourhoods, and sit in an old-time café and imagine it’s two, three, even four hundred years ago – although the food will be a lot fresher than that.
Day 2: Take to the Skies
To get a wider perspective, take a helicopter tour. Check out Saint Augustine, Porpoise Point and Old Downtown from a bird’s point of view. Or fly high over Saint Augustine Beach, perhaps even include neighbouring Viliano Beach, Conch Island, Bird Island, San Jose Forest and Fort Matanzas and Saint Augustine Lighthouse on a long ride through the skies. If you’re a bit of a romantic, take an evening flight and let the sunset add that extra bit of beauty.
Day 3: Beach and Island
It’s time to get back into this century with a bit of beach fun. Head out to Anastasia Island for long, sandy beaches: Saint Augustine Beach, Crescent Beach and Matanzas Inlet. Then in the evening, just when you’ve forgotten all about history, meet some of Saint Augustine’s oldest residents on the ghost trolley ride.