St Augustine, Florida was originally founded in 1565 by the Spanish, 42 years before the colonization of Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims arrived on Plymouth Rock. It is known as oldest “continuously occupied settlement of European origin within the United States.
In the late 1880’s the city became a vacation area for wealthy travelers due to the construction of two major hotels by businessman Henry Flagler. St. Augustine continues to be a very popular tourism destination with more than two million annual visitors who come to see the historic sites, spectacular architecture and beautiful beaches.
From nature experiences to historic attractions, here are the 12 Best Things to do in St. Augustine, Florida during 2023.
Castillo de San Marcos
One of the most popular attractions in all of St. Augustine is the Castillo de San Marcos. This historic fort was originally built by the Spanish back in the late 1600’s to protect the area from the pirates and other invading countries. It is the only surviving 17th century military fort in the U.S. and is the oldest masonry fort in the country as it is constructed from coquina which is a fairly rare limestone material that is composed of shell fragments.
Castillo de San Marcos is a national monument that was used by the British during the Revolutionary War and by the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Click here to learn more about Castillo de San Marcos.
St. George Street
Historic St. George Street was the original downtown “Main Street” in St. Augustine in the 1700’s. Visitors will find a variety of historic attractions, shops, restaurants and galleries which make up this pedestrian friendly old town district. Some of the sites to see include the Oldest Wooden School House, the Old City Gate, the Pena Peck House and the Medieval Torture Museum.
Most of the attractions along St. George Street are situated between Cathedral Place and Orange Street. The street runs north-south and is located just east of Flagler College and west of the Bridge of Lions across the Intracostal Waterway.
Flagler College is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture which is located in the heart of St. Augustine. Originally built in 1888 by Henry Flagler as the Hotel Ponce de Leon, this amazing 50-acre property became a private institution in 1968 and is a National Historic Landmark. Guided tours are available or visitors can tour the campus on their own.
Tours of Flagler College depart daily from the Rotunda (main lobby) which is located at 74 King Street. Visitors will explore the grand lobby, dining all and the Flagler Room while viewing personal memorabilia from the Flagler family.
Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
The original settlement site in St. Augustine is located at the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, located north of the historic district area. Visitors will see the actual “Fountain of Youth” as well as a blacksmith shop, Timucua Indian village and a planetarium. Guests are allowed to drink from the Fountain of Youth but the water as a very poo odor and taste.
The park is open daily from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and costs $17.79 per adult, $15.92 per senior (60+) and $8.40 per child (ages 6 to 12).
Click here to learn more about the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.
St. Augustine Beach
Located just a few miles from the historic district along the Atlantic Ocean is St. Augustine Beach. There are approximately two miles of white sandy which is perfect for swimming, sun-bathing, walking or relaxing. The St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier is located at the north end of the beach and is a great spot to fish.
There are a number of hotels along the beach including the Guy Harvey Outpost Resort St. Augustine Beach.
Colonial Quarter is part of St. George Street where there is a number of small shops and restaurants that take visitors on a trip back in time where they can learn about life as an early European Settler during the 16th and 17th centuries. There are a number of experiences to see and do including witness the construction of a ship, cannon firing demonstrations, leatherworks and musket drills.
This area is perfect for those interested in history as one can explore the property on their own our take a guided tour.
Click here to learn more about Colonial Quarter.
Originally built in 1888 the Alcazar Hotel, the four-story Lightner Museum should be on the list to visit during your next trip to St. Augustine. Located just south of Flagler College in a Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture building, the museum has a number of exhibits including 19th century art and antique furniture.
The museum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and costs $17.00 per adult, $10.00 per child and $14.00 per senior or college student. Children 11 and under are free of charge.
Learn more about the museum here.
Anastasia State Park
The 1,600 acre Anastasia State Park features miles of while sandy beaches, sand dunes and salt water marshes. There is plenty of space to spread out and there are typically limited crowds. Visitors are offered a variety of activities including swimming, fishing, water sports (kayaks and paddleboards) and bicycling. There are 139 individual campsites within Anastasia State Park for overnight travelers.
The cost to visit Anastasia State Park is $8.00 per vehicle for up to eight people. Overnight camping costs $28.00 per night plus tax plus a non-refundable reservation fee of $6.70 and a $7.00 per night utility fee for non-tent camping.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm
The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park has been around since the 1800’s and housed at it’s current location on 999 Anastasia Boulevard since 1920. The park features a number of alligators crocodiles, snakes, birds and more. There is also a a 35-foot tall zip line course called Crocodile Crossing where riders fly over alligators and crocodiles.
The park is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with extended summer hours to 6:00 PM. The cost is $34.99 per adult ages 12 and up and $19.99 per child ages 3 to 11. Discounts are offered for AAA members, Military personnel and senior citizens.
Click here to learn more about the Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
The 5,000 square foot St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum takes visitors back in time 300 years to experience the “Golden Age of Piracy”. There are more than 800 pirate exhibits and artifacts including weapons and treasure chests going back to the 1600’s.
The museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM and costs $18.99 per adult, $9.99 per child and $15.99 per senior. Children under five are free of charge and annual passes are available.
Learn more about the museum here.
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
The highlight of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is the 165-foot tall lighthouse which is the oldest surviving brick structure in the city. Original constructed in 1874, visitors can climb the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse and experience amazing views of the entire St. Augustine area as well as Salt Run lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to the lighthouse, visitors will experience the Heritage Boatworks, the Eliza & Club Outdoor Exploration and the Maritime Hammock Nature Trails.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
The Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum is located in the heart of St. Augustine within walking distance to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Originally opened back in 1950 and situated in a circa-1880’s building , this amazing attraction includes 14 themed galleries that including animal oddities, artifacts, interactive games, a space gallery, jungle room and a number of stories that are just “hard to believe”.
In addition to the museum, Ripley’s features an outdoor mini-golf course, a the “Red Trains Tours” sightseeing tour, the “Night of Lights” holiday tour and a “Haunted Castle Investigation” experience.
Click here to learn more about Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in St. Augustine.