Off The Beaten Path: St. Augustine, Florida

Sun, good food, history, and even ghosts… If you are looking for a vacation with more than just beaches, look no further! I have family in Florida and used to spend every summer there. I’ve spent a lot of time all over the state: from Jacksonville, to Daytona Beach, to Orlando, to the Gulf Coast. Still one specific place has been and always will be my favorite place to visit in all of The Sunshine State.

St. Augustine, Florida.

Founded in 1565, it is the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States. And being that it is just forty miles south of Jacksonville Beach, it is convenient to get to. There is so much to do, and it’s a great place for families! Here are my favorite things to do in St. Augustine…

Looking out at the Matanzas river in St. Augustine
Looking out at the Matanzas river in St. Augustine

The Beach

This is an obvious one: Spend a day by the ocean soaking in the sun. I highly recommend staying near St. Augustine Beach if you are planning a visit to the area. Here you can walk out of your hotel, cross the street, and be at the beach. Catch the sunrise over the ocean without having to drive to it.

St. Augustine Beach
St. Augustine Beach

Castillo De San Marcos

I love visiting this place. Built in the 17th century, this monument site is credited with being the oldest masonry fort in North America – and thus, every history buff’s dream. It was built initially to protect Spanish Florida from the British and was later used to imprison Native Americans during the Second Seminole War (in the early 1800’s). During the civil war, it was occupied by Confederate soldiers until the mayor surrendered the city to the Union. Needless to say, its past is rich, and a visit is definitely worthwhile.

Inside the Castillo de San Marcos
Inside the Castillo de San Marcos

The St. Augustine Lighthouse

Built in the late 1800’s Victorian-era, the lighthouse offers amazing views of St. Augustine. There is a museum onsite and tours available to inform you all about the history and work associated with being a lighthouse keeper. Still, with all this, most people know it better for something else… Ghosts. It’s been featured on shows like Ghost Hunters and My Ghost Story due to its supposedly high paranormal activity. We decided to take the “Dark of the Moon” tour, a night excursion that takes you out and allows you to explore the grounds and lighthouse at night – in the dark. While we didn’t see any ghosts, it was lots of fun running around an old lighthouse in the dark.

The inside of St. Augustine lighthouse at night
The inside of St. Augustine lighthouse at night


Of course St. Augustine has a ton of museums. I mean, with such an extensive history, would you expect anything less? You can explore an old jail, brush up on your pirate history, or have some fun over at Ripley’s. Here are a few we really loved…

– Colonial Corner: It’s essentially a reenactment of three different centuries. You can watch a blacksmith crafting swords, see a ship being built, experience some cannon and musket drills, or enjoy a brew at the old style English public house. It’s fantastic for kids.

– Old Jail: This is an authentic 1800’s jail. Experience what is was like to be a prisoner in St. Augustine, complete with the original cells and hangman’s platform out back. My husband especially liked all of the old pistols they had on display. Take the tour and enjoy learning about its history.

– Old Drug Store (in Old City Remedies): See the original concoctions that people were prescribed back in the day! Plus, entrance is free, so you really can’t beat that.

– St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum: Learn about real pirates and see historical artifacts. The museum is also interactive throughout. It’s a great time!

– Ripley’s Believe It or Not: It’s creepy. It’s fun. And we always have a blast going through these types of museums. Check it out for sure if you’ve never been.

…and the list goes on and on!

One of the bottles in the Old Pharmacy (a cure-all no doubt)
One of the bottles in the Old Drug Store (a cure-all no doubt)

– Shopping on St. George Street

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I’m listing it because the shops here are amazing. They have everything from delicious homemade chocolate to shark tooth necklaces. Browse around and look at all of the art for sale. And don’t forget to stop by Vino Del Grotto (a winery) to pick up some Florida tropical fruit wine.

A schoolhouse on St. George Street, built over 200 years ago.
A schoolhouse on St. George Street, built over 200 years ago.

So there you have it. If you ever make it to Florida for any amount of time, I highly recommend looking into St. Augustine. It’s guaranteed to be a fun time!

– Holly

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