I confess I knew next to nothing about St. Augustine before we hit the road. But when my cousin planned his wedding in his now-wife’s hometown, we jumped at the chance for a long weekend exploring the oldest city in America! Logan was studying for the bar and couldn’t come, but I headed down south along with my parents, and my brother drove north from his place to meet us for the weekend.
A word of warning: St. Augustine is HOT. No ones is surprised by this. I think we spent the whole weekend sweating. My dad kept making references to how this must be how my husband felt at Basic Training last summer, and how at least we didn’t have to wear fatigues all day.
The heat didn’t stop us from enjoying the city! St. Aug has a ton to offer. We skipped the overly touristy stuff (think Fountain of Youth, Myrtle Beach-style attractions) in favor of the Castillo de San Marcos and the historic Old Town area.
First stop: Castillo de San Marcos. We figured we’d get the full-outdoor stuff done first, then cool down with lunch in an air conditioned place in Old Town.
We were there on 4th of July weekend, so things got super crowded. However, the fort is big enough that we didn’t feel squeezed by people.
Built in the 17th century by the Spanish, it’s one of the oldest forts in the country. From the top floor, the view stretches across the Matanzas River and to the ocean beyond. On the opposite side, you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful spires of the churches and schools in the historic district. The feel of the place reminded me a lot of the Spanish fortress I visited in Puerto Rico, but where Castillo Felipe del Morro hugged the curving point of the coastline, Castillo de San Marcos stands at attention with its sharp right angles and pointed corners.
The ground floor has displays in every room which highlight its original purpose. Some are set up as interactive bedrooms or chapels, while others detail the history of the fortress and area. It’s changed nationalities several times over its long history – Spanish, British, back to Spanish, and finally American.
After a sweaty hour wandering the grounds, we headed across the street to the historic district for some shade and a cold drink.
Stepping into Old Town feels like stepping back in time. The cobblestone streets are mostly pedestrian-only, with ancient buildings hosting artistic boutique and tourist shops alike.
You’re spoiled for choice on food options. There’s anything from street food to gourmet dining within 200 feet of wherever you stand. We opted for a bar in the very end of one of the strips of stores called Rendezvous Beer Bar, and it turned out to be a fantastic decision!! We nibbled on a charcuterie board with our beers before digging into sandwiches with refreshingly good ingredients: no meager pub food here. We all got sandwiches, full of fresh ingredients and an impressive level of imagination in the concocting!
We spent a few happy hours wandering the streets, ducking into shops and checking out the campus buildings of nearby Flagler College. I went into the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, right off the main square, and found myself in one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve seen in the US! The bold colors and dark ceiling beams were captivating. I snapped a quick iPhone photos – I never want to be disrespectful with clicking my shutter, but it was too gorgeous to not grab a shot or two.
After our day downtown, we snuck back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. It was a gorgeous wedding, and so much fun to see all my cousins in one place!
St. Augustine has a ton to offer and is definitely worth a visit. It would be a great place for a beach vacation that has lots of non-beach options!
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