St. Augustine, the oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States, is a time capsule that showcases nearly 500 years of American history.
Situated on the northeastern Atlantic Coast of Florida, the colonial city has kept a bygone era suspended in time with 144 blocks of historic houses, many listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The area’s history, however, is only the start of the fun. Visitors can choose from some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Florida to one-of-a-kind attractions and tours. St. Augustine, the beaches of Anastasia Island, outstanding golf, tennis and water sports facilities at nearby Ponte Vedra Beach and the exciting new World Golf Village, northwest of St. Augustine, combine to make the area a world-class fun-filled playground for visitors.
A visit to St. Augustine is an adventure with traces of yesteryear depicted by authentically clothed Spanish fusiliers and colonial craftsmen. Knowledgeable tour guides lead visitors through the centuries via horse and carriage, trolleys and trains, river cruises and walking tours.
Historical characters of the past whose legacy endures in St. Augustine include Ponce de León, whose spirited search for the legendary Fountain of Youth still captures the imagination, and renowned Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who founded the city more than 435 years ago.
The architecture of St. Augustine provides a cross section of life spanning nearly five centuries of Americana. There are more than 85 historic sites and attractions, including a massive fort, missions and living history museums.
St. Augustine’s historic district
The heart of St. Augustine can be found in the 11 pedestrian-only blocks of St. Augustine’s historic district. The main thoroughfare is St. George Street, lined by 18th-century Spanish Colonial houses that are now historic landmarks and dotted with boutiques laden with arts and antiques. Within the restored area lies the Spanish Quarter, a living history museum featuring settlers clad in 1740s-style britches and bonnets busy blacksmithing, spinning and woodworking and also soldiers who tell of life long ago.
Ornate collections from the past are showcased in the Lightner Museum, including one of the world’s most impressive cut-glass displays. Visitors in search of an aerial view of St. Augustine’s distinctive skyline can get a spectacular vista of the Old City and the beaches of Anastasia Island from the top of the candy-striped Lighthouse Tower and Museum (1874). Travelers eager to seek more about the historical aspects of St. Augustine can explore the city’s colorful past at the Government House Museum.
The many attractions of St. Augustine offer unique visitor experiences ranging from America’s first alligator farm to the world’s original oceanarium. Attractions accenting the unusual are Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and Potter’s Wax Museum. For visitors with a sweet tooth, the Whetstone Chocolate Factory tour offers a close-up view-and sample-of chocolate treats in the making.
Just across the historic Bridge of Lions from St. Augustine lie the beaches of Anastasia Island, where sabal palms and sea oats grow wild on 20-foot-high dunes. The 24 miles of unspoiled, sandy beaches on Anastasia Island provide a pleasant and unexpected surprise for visitors.
The natural attraction of St. Augustine is accented by three state parks. Anastasia State Recreation Area, on Anastasia Island, is a 1,700-acre bird sanctuary rich with five miles of beach, lagoon waterways, wildlife and sweeping sand dunes. Faver-Dykes State Park, on the southern tip of St. Johns County, serves as a 752-acre forest for endangered bald eagles and wood storks, and boasts trails and camping along meandering marshes. Guana River State Park in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach is a pristine 2,200-acre preserve with a five-mile coastal strand, an ancient Spanish well and 2,000-year-old Indian shell bluffs.
Beyond the water’s edge, the waves are sprinkled with water enthusiasts surfing, boogie-boarding, ocean kayaking and even windsurfing. Farther out, charter boats and private yachts carry deep-sea anglers and three piers lure fishermen.
Straight-from-the-docks, incredibly fresh seafood and delicacies are served in more than 150 eateries on the beaches of Anastasia Island and in St. Augustine.
Every day is eventful in St. Augustine with more than 40 spirited year-round celebrations staged annually.
Not surprisingly for a city intent on sharing its past, many accommodations, including gracious Victorian bed & breakfast inns and seaside guest hotels, are affordably priced and within the budget of most vacationers traveling to Florida.
Ponte Vedra Beach
Fashionable Ponte Vedra Beach provides a sporty diversion only 20 minutes north of St. Augustine on coastal Highway A1A. Ponte Vedra Beach is Florida’s playground of classic resorts and spas, world-famous fairways, world-acclaimed tennis, and miles of ivory, shell-sprinkled shores and towering dunes. As the prestigious home of the PGA TOUR® Headquarters and the ATP Tour® International Headquarters, Ponte Vedra Beach is one of America’s finest sites for golf, tennis and water sports.
Golf takes center stage at World Golf Village, located only eight miles northwest of St. Augustine. Here, the World Golf Hall of Fame presents golf’s story in more than 70 separate exhibits that combine historic artifacts with the latest in golf interactive technology. Awaiting golfers are the acclaimed “Slammer and Squire” par-72 championship course and the “King and Bear” course designed exclusively by golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. The resort’s lodging centerpiece is the 300-room World Golf Village Resort Hotel, which adjoins the new 40,000 square-foot St. Johns County Convention Center.