St Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States. It was founded by a Spanish Admiral in September 1565. St Augustine is filled with Spanish history and architectural design. At one time, St Augustine was the capital of Florida until Tallahassee took the title away in 1824. The influences of Spain and Britain’s occupation of this new country still lingers around every corner. When walking up or down the streets either in or around the city’s perimeter, you can see the obvious layers of centuries ago. It seems like everywhere you look there is a point of interest. From Fort Castillo de San Marco to the buggies that line Avenida Menendez, history will unfold before your very eyes.
We started our day’s tour in Plaza de la Constitucion, which just happens to be the oldest public park in the US. There is a statue of Ponce de Leon seemingly inviting people to the park and its open air structure. The Old Market has been a place where vendors have been selling their goods since the 1500’s. A plaque in the park notes how the Plaza was a place where slaves were brought and sold to the early settlers.
The park is the center piece of many historical structures and archaeological exhibits such as the Cathedral Basilica, the Trinity Episcopal Church and the Government House Museum. At the head of the park is the Bridge of Lions. This is only the beginning of what St Augustine holds of America’s history.
Cathedral Basilica took five years to construct. Like most everything else in St Augustine, the cathedral is the oldest church in Florida. The Government House (shown below) is a parcel of land on the west end of the park that has always been home to a governmental entity since 1598. I could go on and on regarding all the history that circles the Plaza, but there are plenty more sites to see in this beautiful city. The Bridge of Lions (pictured, lower left) crosses over the intracoastal waterway and onto St Augustine Beach where the historical Lighthouse and museum are located.
St Augustine is a year-round tourist destination where thousands of wandering visitors flood the streets everyday. With this in mind, the need for plenty of shops, restaurants and beverage destinations are a must. The Colonial Quarter (shown above) is a pedestrian friendly street that is closed to all vehicles. The inner-city promenade is filled with lots of specialty and craft shops that have something for everyone. The many eateries that line the bustling walkways offer a variety of cuisines, and of course great entertainment (shown left; guitarist Dewey Via at Mi Casa Café – Beer & Wine Garden).
Another well known iconic landmark is Flagler College (shown above). The four year, private college holds its academic studies in a structure that was built in the late 1800’s by industrialist and philanthropist Henry Morrison Flagler. Restoration efforts were organized and funded by the efforts of Lawrence Lewis, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Trustees in the early 1970’s.
Around every corner is a “Kodak moment”. Everywhere you look there is entertainment, historical landmarks and/or points of interest to be seen or experienced. St Augustine offers so much to do for couples and families alike. The people of St Augustine are warm and friendly, very inviting and the sight seeing is never ending. There are no mega resorts or super high-rises to spoil the ambience. Just quaint hotels, bed & breakfasts and various rental accommodations that will fit any budget.
A special thanks to Kathy Todd for making our visit a memorable one. Love you girl!