St. Augustine, FL is known as the nation’s oldest city- the Ancient City. And beyond just history, this seaside destination has something for everyone. There are beautiful beaches and more than 100 historic and unique things to do in St. Augustine that will create a memorable vacation on the East Coast of Florida.
Here are 33 ways to experience history and entertainment on Florida’s Historic Coast. Whether it’s your first time, you are traveling with kids, you’re searching for the beach, or just looking to enjoy the culinary scene – St Augustine has it all.
Old Town Trolley Tour is St. Augustine’s best sightseeing tour where you are free to get on and off at any and all attraction stops. The trolley conductors are a wealth of knowledge covering the history of over 100 points of interest. The Old Town Trolley stops at 22 places over the 70 minute round trip ride and your ticket is good for three days of riding.
I cannot recommend this more! It’s a fantastic way to get the layout of the land before you venture into the Historic District, which has been drawing visitors since the 19th century. You’ll learn fantastic nuggets of knowledge about seemingly mundane spots within the city, which would otherwise go un-noticed (like the 600 year old Old Senator….not a person, but a tree!)
Flagler College was one of the most interesting stories we learned about on the tour. Without the story, you might think this is just another (gorgeous) college campus. In its former life as Hotel Ponce de Leon, the dining room was of special focus. Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, he added a number of magnificent details, including a number of stained glass windows. When I say they will take your breath away, I mean it. They are gorgeous. If you have time, take a tour of the college (given by students for credit) after your trolley tour.
Old Jail was built in 1891 by Henry Flagler to look like a hotel, so the city prisoners’ building would blend in with the rest of the city. Taking a tour from guides dressed in period garb gives you a real life look inside the jail cells, maximum security and the sheriff’s living quarters.
It’s located at Trolley Stop #1, which offers free parking, so don’t miss it. Admission is included with many of the trolley packages. You’ll also find the Old General Store here, too. A walk-through guided tour takes you on a shopping experience with a salesman from the past. You will be shown new inventions – from the animal powered washing machine to corn shuckers, bicycles and elixirs.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is one of the most visited attractions in St. Augustine – and was another of our favorites. It is the oldest masonry fort in the continental US, located on the western shore of Matanzas Bay in the heart of the St. Augustine Historic District. You tour it at your own pace, climb to the top of the fort where the cannons were shot, and explore inside to see living quarters and more.
Before you go, check their events calendar. There are frequently exhibitions of period weapons, or costumed actors re-enacting the life of the colonists who once lived in the area. Finally, if you are visiting with kids, be sure to check out the Junior Ranger program.
Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park MUST be on everyone’s itinerary!! There is so much more to do here than just drink from the Fountain of Youth.
This park showcases over 15 acres of exhibits including a 16th-century Spanish settlement, historic village site replicas, a planetarium, Spanish watchtower to climb, and live canon shootings daily. My boys loved all the wildlife walking around-especially the peacocks!
St Augustine with Kids
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is on St George Street which is, for most, the main attraction of St Augustine. This museum offers an engaging way to learn about the era of piracy. The world’s largest collection of real pirate artifacts are exhibited in this beautiful old building. There is a treasure hunt that kept my son interested in each room, and we were all fascinated to see a real pirate treasure chest!
Alligator Farm will top your list of things to do in St. Augustine with kids. Having opened on May 20, 1893, it is one of Florida’s oldest continuously running attractions. I can see why. My kids were in awe of the number of alligators and crocodiles here. Getting such an up close view, it is a great place to really see the difference in these two reptiles. My son still talks about how he got to “feed hundreds of alligators.”
Colonial Quarter is where the kiddos (and adults!) can roam 2-acres, taking in how it would have been to live in the city in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. In this living museum you can see “residents” crafting a new boat, firing cannons, and more.
Marineland and Dolphin Adventure is the world’s first oceanarium and the perfect place to check off a bucket list item: swimming with dolphins! There are 1.3 million-gallons of dolphin habitats here with a number of ways to see and experience the dolphins. MORE DETAILS: Find more info here in our exclusive post about Marineland.
Even if you are not prepared to dive with dolphins, it’s still a great place to stop. Our behind-the-scenes tour included watching them feed the sharks, watching the trainers work with new dolphins, and learn about its beginnings as an underwater film studio. And of course we love their relationship with our very own Georgia Aquarium.
Take a Tour
Ghost & Gravestones Night Tour is voted the best ghost tour of St. Augustine. Board the Trolley for the spooky ride through the sinister past of St. Augustine. As you pass all the known haunted spots, the animated guide will share stories of the ghosts and ghouls believed to still wander the streets of the town.
Scenic Cruise is a relaxing way to soak up some St. Augustine history. The seventy-five minute narrated boat ride takes you down Matanzas Bay where you may also see dolphins and birds in their natural habitat.
St. Augustine Lighthouse is an iconic structure that is worth a visit and climb up the black spiral staircase to the very top for a fantastic 360-view of the area. There is a nature trail, interactive museum and shipyard playground in addition to the beautiful lighthouse. Tours run on the hour from 11am – 3pm…or adventure on your own.
You can do this during the day, for sure…but the fun here is taking their premium tours. The Dark of the Moon ghost tour gets you into the tower at night, and the monthly Sunset Tour includes a champagne toast and light appys.
Fort Matanzas National Monument is part of a large park that spans 100 acres. Take a ferry to explore the preserved officer’s quarters, fort ramparts, and original cannons. You can also see the ecosystem of the barrier island by walking the half-mile long boardwalk through a mangrove forest. MORE DETAILS: Find more info here in our exclusive post about Fort Matanzas.
Follow the Culinary Trail
St. Augustine Distillery is uniquely located in a one hundred year old ice factory that was renovated. The free tours take place daily and give you a thorough view of how cooking and distilling small-batch gin, vodka, rum and whiskey happens. After your tour, be sure to head upstairs to Ice Plant (a nod to the building’s origin) for a drink and a bite. MORE DETAILS: Find more info here in our exclusive post about the St Augustine Distillery.
Eat Your Way Through History at the Colonial Quarter. Three restaurants tell the history of the city through food:
Taberno Dell Caballo is a 16th century Spanish outdoor tavern, featuring traditional Spanish fare and pan-Latin cuisine. It’s great for kids, with a covered patio and misting fans. I loved the sangria here!
You can also dine at the Bull and Crown which features British dishes, and the St. Augustine Seafood Company with its menu of traditional St. Augustine shrimp and fish specialties.
Whetstone Chocolate Factory has been making chocolate in St. Augustine for 40+ years and is a local favorite. Daily tours are given where you can learn where chocolate comes from, see how the beans are roasted and taste the chocolate!
San Sebastian Winery sits in one of Henry Flagler’s old East Coast Railway buildings. We didn’t make it to the winery, but we did enjoy a bottle (or 3) while we were there and it is PERFECTION! Tours and tastings are free, and you’ll want to make time to enjoy The Cellar Upstairs (on the rooftop,) which plays live music and draws the locals. Shhhh. Most tourists don’t know this, so keep in on the down low.
The Hyppo is your go-to place for hand-crafted, gourmet ice pops. 450 different flavors all start with fresh (never pre-frozen) fruit…add some herbs, unprocessed cane sugar syrup…it equals delicious! And the name? The city of St Augustine was given its name because it was discovered on the Feast of Saint Augustine of Hippo…or Hyppo!
Crescent Beach is a beautiful stretch of the coastline off of A1A just south of St. Augustine City. It offers a wide sand space, creating a peaceful atmosphere with loads of open play area.
Vilano Beach is a secret beach, located just north of downtown St. Augustine’s historic district, on the north side of the Matanzas Inlet. Note that though in a charming area, this beach has a steep drop-off, a heavy surf, and a strong current due to its location near the inlet, making it ideal for surfing (when the tide is coming in) and skimboarding…but less attractive to families with small kids.
St. Johns County Ocean Pier is popular with both tourists and residents, with a pier offering access to the main beach as well as beachside restaurants, shops and more. It’s in the city of St Augustine Beach, where we stayed at Embassy Suites.
Don’t miss “A Street” access where cars can drive on the beach and park for a nominal fee between March 1 and Labor Day. A Street also offers public parking with outdoor showers and restrooms.
Anastasia State Park is a full-range park facility, ideal for camping families and beachgoers. Located on Anastasia Island, you will not only find 4-miles of pristine beaches but native Florida hammocks and tons of wildlife.
South Ponte Vedra Beach sits North of St. Augustine in an ideal spot for little ones, offering wide open play and a beachfront picnic. Find beach has grills and picnic tables. It’s located just two miles south of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Off the Beaten Path
Potters Wax Museum is a unique wax figure exhibit that began in 1947. What sets this wax museum apart from others we have visited is all the facts scattered throughout the museum. Most figures have a short biography next to them to keep you engaged. Like all wax museums, this is a great place to practice your selfie skills!
Ripley’s Believe It or Not in St. Augustine opened in 1950, one year after Ripley founder Robert Ripley passed away. It is the first permanent Ripley’s collection and is housed in Castle Warden. The “castle” was originally built in 1887 for William G. Warden, partner of oil and railroad moguls Henry Flagler and John D. Rockefeller .
World Golf Hall of Fame is an impressive 35,000 square foot museum that honors famous golfers. Not only will you get to see exhibits focused on the history of golf, equipment and course design, but you get the opportunity to play a round on the 18 hole course.
Old Wooden School House is a small attraction that will only take a few minutes to experience but is extremely interesting to see. My elementary age son was in disbelief by the punishment kids went through during that time. Kids will receive a little diploma upon exiting.
St. Augustine Wild Reserve lies North of the Historic District and is home to many exotic pets that needed new homes. This reserve rescues wild animals that were living as pets but then given up by their owners when they realized that an exotic wild animal is not a great fit for domesticated life. When you visit the Wild Reserve, you will have a chance to see bears, wolves, lions, tigers, egrets and more.
Lightner Museum is inside what used to be the Alcazar Hotel built by Henry Flagler. Collections of antique furnishings, costumes, musical instruments, glass artwork and more fill three floors of this impressive museum.
Where To Stay
We know you’re excited to head to St Augustine now! We stayed at Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort, and adored it. MORE DETAILS: Get more info about Embassy Suites St Augustine in our exclusive post here.
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Disclosure: Thank you to St Augustine for hosting my family and me. Opinions here are all my own, as always. This post may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Additionally, the article was originally posted by Mandy Carter in 2017, and has been significantly modified to reflect our recent visit.
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.