It’s no secret that I’m in love with all things old, historic, and vintage, even while traveling. I love hearing about a city’s past and how it’s affected current times; seeing the culture it instilled. My particular passion is architecture, especially buildings that show off its craftsman’s skills. However, my trips that are history heavy have usually been in the northeast like Boston, or over in Europe. Places that ooze years of history and stately character. Those trips were about learning and exploring. On the flip side, I also enjoy relaxing vacations where you can enjoy the warm sunshine and a beach. They usually don’t entail much historic tours and are more about lounging around and a bit of shopping. Well, I’ve finally found a city that’s the perfect mix of both (in the States that is).
St Augustine is a wonderfully little city full of character and history, but also has charming, walkable streets to dine and shop in, and some pretty beaches for a day by the water. Many of the avenues are cobble stone and brick, and filled with historic character. What sets it apart is it’s heavy Spanish influence, a perfect blend with the tropical setting.
The Spanish influence runs deep, starting with its founding in the mid 1500s. In the 400+ years since its founding, the city has been under Spanish rule the majority of its time. It wasn’t until 1819 that St Augustine became a part of the United States.
Being the oldest city of Florida, and the oldest continuous settlement of European origin in the United States, there is plenty of history to explore. Ryan and I immensely enjoyed the tour given at Flagler College, the once opulent hotel Ponce De Leon. Henry Flagler, an oil and railroad magnate, built this hotel among others, and had a profound influence on the city of St Augustine. I highly recommend taking this tour if you only have time for one.
If you happen to have time to explore more of St Augustine’s history, here are some more museums and tours you should explore:
*** St Augustine Trolley Tours
I saw these trolleys around town and they were super charmingly and looked like a great way to get an overall sense of the city. They make stops at all the major tourist spots.
Originally the Hotel Alcazar (another Flagler creation), it showcases stunning pieces from the Gilded Age of the 19th century. Some highlights of the museum are some works from Louis Comfort Tiffany and a cafe inside the old hotel pool.
– Spanish Military Hospital Museum
Another enjoyable part of St Augustine was the shopping and dining area. In the middle of historic St Augustine, the area is chock full of shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants, within a grid of walkable avenues. We enjoyed getting tea from The Spices & Tea Exchange, some brunch bagels at Schmagels Bagels, and ice cream/pie sandwiches at Peace Pie. I also found a beautiful dress and purse at a couple different boutiques in the shopping area. We browsed a few galleries, and were awed by the gorgeous colors and designs of the mostly tropically themed art.
I wouldn’t recommend our first dinner place, but we really liked our second dinner at the Conch House Restaurant. A charming spot on the water with a bar over the water, Andy little huts for dinner when you have a warm breeze.
One our last activities was a drive around town with our convertible top down and stopping for to walk on St Augustine Beach. Gorgeous beach and area to walk around, just a tad windy that day.