St. Augustine, FL is known as the nation’s oldest city — the Ancient City. Beyond just history, this seaside destination has something for everyone.
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 90 minute round trip ride.
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 trolley 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.
(NOTE: Tours of Flagler College are currently canceled through May 2021 due to COVID-19.)
The St. Augustine Old Jail was built in 1891 by Henry Flagler to look like a hotel, so the 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, weapons, and the sheriff’s living quarters.
The Old Jail is 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 U.S., 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, a Spanish watchtower to climb, and live canon shootings daily. My boys loved all the wildlife that was walking around — especially the peacocks!
Things to Do in 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 a 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 75-minute, narrated boat ride takes you down Matanzas Bay where you may also see dolphins and birds in their natural habitat.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is an iconic structure that is worth a visit! Climb up the black spiral staircase to the very top for a fantastic 360-view of the area. There is also a nature trail, interactive museum and shipyard playground. Tours run on the hour from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., or you can 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 St. Augustine Lighthouse Side Quest is an escape room-type experience in which families, friends, and groups work together to solve a mystery or save the day.
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 100-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.
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 three…) 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, and you get delicious ice pops! 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. PS. Fido is welcome here!
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 too.
South Ponte Vedra Beach sits north of St. Augustine in an ideal spot for little ones, offering wide open play areas and beachfront picnic spots. The 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.
The 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 were 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. Here are a few other great places to stay during your St. Augustine visit.
St. Augustine Hotels
Best in Historic District: Casa Monica Resort & Spa features Moorish-style architecture that dates back to 1888. The hotel is located in historic St. Augustine, only a 1-minute walk from Flagler College and 12 minutes’ walk from Castillo de San Marcos. Guests can lounge in the heated outdoor pool or indulge in the relaxing services and treatments at the Poseidon Spa.
Best on the Bay: Hilton Saint Augustine Historic Bayfront offers views of Matanzas Bay and Saint Augustine’s historic district. Guests can take a dip in the outdoor pool or relax in the hot tub. Castillo de San Marcos is a 6 minutes’ walk from the property.
Best Near the Beach: Located on Highway A1A, the Best Western St. Augustine Beach Hotel features an outdoor pool and offers rooms with free WiFi and a cable TV. The historic St. Augustine Lighthouse and the public beach at Anastasia State Park are both within a 10-minute drive of this hotel. Marineland Amusement Park is 13 mi away.
St. Augustine Campgrounds
Best Near Downtown: Find sunshine and old Florida charm at Compass RV Resort, one of the best RV parks in St. Augustine, Florida! Numerous site options are available including full hookups, patio sites, shaded sites, and buddy sites. They’ve got hiking trails, a pool, two dog parks, a fitness center, community campfires, and activities all year long.
Best Near the Beach: Ocean Grove RV Resort is a destination camping resort located just blocks away from St. Augustine Beach and only 7 miles south of the historic district. You can also enjoy a variety of wonderful restaurants along with the convenience of having unique shops, grocery stores, churches, and other entertainment venues nearby.
St. Augustine Vacation Rentals
Here are several more top-rated Airbnb St Augustine rentals for you to consider.
Cozy for Couples
Step back in time in this tastefully appointed historical residence. The apartment features pine floors, cozy furnishings and decor, a farmhouse style aesthetic, and a covered front porch. Built in 1927 this house has 3 apartments. This one is on the ground floor (there is another being renovated and a third above you with a separate entrance.)
Details: 2 guests · 1 bedroom · 1 bed · 1 bath · Rental Info
Tucked away on a quiet cul-de-sac, The Salty Pineapple provides a warm, private and relaxing total beach experience. With convenient beach access, the ocean and its majestic sunrises are calling. It’s just a short 5 minute stroll (2 blocks) on a private sidewalk to reach the natural, sea-oat dunes and out onto the white, sandy St Augustine Beach.
Details: 8 guests · 3 bedrooms · 4 beds · 2 baths · Rental Info
Plenty of Space for Large Groups
Enjoy this new custom-designed oceanfront vacation rental with panoramic views. Relax in a saltwater heated/cooled Mediterranean blue pool. A huge center island, two professional-grade fully equipped kitchens, and indoor + outdoor seating for 18 make everyone feel welcome. 15 minutes from Historic St Augustine.
Details: 16 guests · 7 bedrooms · 7 beds · 9 baths · Rental Info
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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. 365 Atlanta Traveler is a Visit Florida Digital Marketing Program Partner.