Florida is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States due to the climate, the coastline, and the many huge attractions. Many people head straight for Orlando, Miami, or the Tampa Bay area, without even considering other destinations. One city that you should consider visiting that is often overlooked is St. Augustine. This city is located in northeast Florida, and it lays claim to being the oldest city in the United States. Although the history of the city is the focus of many attractions in St. Augustine, there is plenty of things to see and do to suit all tastes and interests. If you are visiting this city for the first time, here are the 20 best things to do in St. Augustine for first-timers.
20. Take an Ecotour
Although it is a city, St. Augustine also has many areas of natural beauty, such as the coastline and wetlands. These areas are home to many species of wildlife and flora. Many tour companies operate boat, walking, cycling, and kayaking tours that allow you to explore areas such as Islamorada or the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Esurine Research Reserve.
19. Visit St. Augustine Distillery
If you are interested in the production of spirits, then a visit to St. Augustine Distillery is the perfect activity for you. At St. Augustine Distillery, you can learn about the production of rum, gin, vodka, and whiskey. However, this attraction teaches you so much more than the distillery process, as you will also learn about the history of the city. The distillery is housed in a former ice factory. The century-old building has been meticulously restored. Tours of this facility are free, so it is a great option for those who are on a budget. It is important to note that only those aged over 21 years of age can take part in the tours. There is a chance to sample and buy the products.
18. St. Augustine Wild Reserve
A great day out for all the family is a trip to St. Augustine Wild Reserve. Just a short drive from the historic district of St. Augustine, you will feel as though you have been transported to an entirely different world when you enter the reserve. It was founded by a zoologist called Deborah Warwick as a habitat for exotic pets that needed a new home. All the animals began life living in domestic situations and are now cared for by the founded in an environment that is a replica of their natural habitat. Many of the animals have been given to the reserve after their original owners realized that keeping a tiger in the living room wasn’t the best option. Other than tigers, you will also see lions, wolfs, egrets, coatis, and bears
17. The Whetstone Chocolate Factory Tour
Chocolate lovers will enjoy taking a tour of The Whetstone Chocolate Factory Tour. Located on King Street, visitors can take a tour of the factory to learn how chocolate is produced. Guests have the chance to sample the produce during the tour, and they can buy the products when the tour has finished. During the tour, visitors will learn from the chocolatiers the differences between various types of chocolate.
16. The Pirate Ship Black Raven
You will find may pirate-related activities to enjoy while you are in St. Augustine, but one that you should not miss is a ride out on the Pirate Ship Back Raven. This pirate ship offers daily voyages out to sea, one in mid-afternoon and another in the early evening. Some of the voyages are an adults-only attraction, as food and alcoholic beverages are served on many of the voyages. On the other hand, some voyages are targeted at families as they offer a lot of fun for people of all ages. There are also special voyages held regularly, such as Blackbeard’s Treasure Hunt.
15. Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
US News explains that Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is the site of the original settlement in St. Augustine. A mythical spring is said to exist in the park that has anti-aging properties. Visitors can walk through the beautiful grounds, and they will see blue and white peacocks wandering freely through the park. There is also a planetarium which is an interesting attraction to visit in the evenings.
14. World Golf Hall of Fame
If you are a golf enthusiast and you are visiting St. Augustine, then a great attraction to visit is the World Golf Hall of Fame. It is located just outside St. Augustine at the World Golf Place at the World Golf Village. It is a 35,000 square foot museum that houses a large permanent collection along with many temporary exhibitions. Both male and female golfers are covered, and the topics include equipment, the history of golf, golf course design, and golf attire.
13. Old Florida Museum
St. Augustine has played an important role in the history of the United States, so you should spend some time learning more about this during your visit. You will find this museum on San Marco Avenue. There are interactive elements to the displays in this museum, which is something that the younger visitors enjoy. There are also educational programs and many interesting exhibitions covering a wide range of topics relating to the history of the area.
12. The St. Augustine Amphitheater
One of the best places to enjoy some live entertainment is the St. Augustine Amphitheater. The amphitheater is close to Anastasia State Park, and it was built in 1965. It is a popular venue for concerts that sits in 16 acres. If you want to watch a live performance at the amphitheater, you should check out what is on before embarking on your trip and book tickets in advance.
11. Sample the Seafood at Catch 27
Florida is fast building a reputation for its culinary scene, and there are many outstanding restaurants in this state. In St. Augustine, seafood and fish are some of the key ingredients used to create the menus of the restaurants as there is a ready supply of locally sourced fish and seafood available throughout the year. Many of the restaurants specialize in seafood, and one of the top options in this city is Catch 27. If you plan to dine out in restaurants during your stay in St. Augustine, make sure to make this one of the restaurants you visit.
10. St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
Something a little different from the usual attractions and museums you find in cities across the world is the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. According to Time Out, this ship-shaped museum contains a collection of shipwreck booty and rare pirate artifacts. It is the largest collection of its kind anywhere in the world. There are artifacts including maps, rare books, and weapons. Visitors can also take part in a treasure hunt.
9. Colonial Quarter
When you visit the Colonial Quarter, you will get a glimpse into the lives of how people lived in this city during the 16th and 17th centuries, says US News. There is a living museum that is divided into four areas according to different periods. Visitors can see how aspects of life such as construction and industry evolved throughout each of the periods.
8. Anastasia State Park
Anastasia State Park lies five miles south of St. Augustine, but it is worth making a day trip to admire the pristine beaches of the park. You will also see dense mangroves and tidal marshes. There are 1,600 acres of ecosystems to explore, and these are full of wildlife. Activities you can enjoy during your day at Anastasia State Park include bird watching, hiking, swimming, and beachcombing. It is a lovely place to have a peaceful day simply enjoying the beauty of your surroundings. It is possible to hire a sailboat or a kayak if you want to take to the waters during your visit. There are also 139 campsites if you would like to spend the night.
7. Fort Matanzas National Monument
One of the most important landmarks in St. Augustine is the Fort Mantanaz National Monument. It was built in 1742 by the Spanish to watch over the river through St. Augustine. This landmark is now a National Monument that people visit to learn more about the early and violent history of Florida. Visitors can tour the fort, which has been fairly well preserved.
6. St. George Street
Many people consider St. George Street the main area for attractions in St. Augustine. You should set aside at least one day of your visit to make sure you have enough time to explore St. George’s Street thoroughly. An interesting attraction to visit in this part of the city is its oldest house, which was built in the 1600s. You should also visit the Spice and Tea Exchange of St. Augustine.
5. The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum
There are several museums in St. Augustine, and one of the most interesting to visit is The Ximinez-Fatio House Museum. Originally built for the Ximinez family in 1798, this building is now open to the public as a museum. The main focus of the museum is highlighting life in Florida during the 19th century. Each of the rooms in this house tells a story about a significant person that stayed in the house, including adventurers and pirates. This museum is located on Aviles Street.
4. Old City St. Augustine
A fascinating place to explore is Old City, as this reflects the history of this city. There are cobblestone streets lined with interesting places to visit, such as museums, bars, cafes, shops, and restaurants. To view this area, you can take a walking tour, book a horse-drawn carriage ride, or go sightseeing on the trolley trains. It is a fantastic way of appreciating different architecture throughout the ages.
3. St. Augustine Alligator Farm
If you are visiting St. Augustine as a family or you are an animal lover, an interesting attraction to visit is St. Augustine Alligator Farm. This park was first established in 1893 on Anastasia Island. It is now home to all 23 species of crocodiles as recognized by biologists. You can learn more about each of the species, and watch displays with the animals. An interesting feature of this attraction is the Crocodile Crossing, which is a zip-line that gives you an aerial view of the crocodiles and the park.
2. The Lightner Museum
One of the top museums to visit while in St. Augustine is The Lightner Museum. It is housed within the Hotel Alcazar, which is located in downtown St. Augustine on King Street. The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Included in the museum’s collection are historic items from the Victorian period and are divided into sections including Victorian Village and Victorian Science and Industry. There is also a music room filled with old and interesting musical instruments. The exterior of the property is also interesting. The Spanish Renaissance Revival style building sits in a pretty courtyard filled with palm trees, a stone arch bridge, and a fishpond.
1. Castillo de San Marcos
According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in St. Augustine for first-timers is a visit to Castillo de San Marcos. St. Augustine was originally only a tiny garrison town, but the Spanish decided they needed to fortify the area. Therefore, they built the Castillo between 1672 and 1695. It is now a National Monument and one of the top attractions in the area. The Castillo sits on the shore of Matanzas Bay, and it is surrounded by 20.5 acres of green spaces. Children will love exploring the fort’s casements and seeing the exhibitions of old weaponry.
Written by Dana Hanson
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