St. Augustine Vacation: Florida’s Historic Coastal Gem

Vacationing in St. Augustine, FL, presents a unique opportunity to delve into the rich history of America’s oldest city, where history and coastal beauty intertwine seamlessly. 

This enchanting destination is well known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture and beautiful Atlantic coastline. From exploring the ancient streets of the historic district, brimming with museums, quaint shops, and restaurants, to relaxing on the sun-kissed beaches, St. Augustine is a perfect blend of cultural richness and leisure.

Spring, from March to May, is the best time to visit St. Augustine, Florida, as the weather is comfortably warm, and the city is adorned with colorful blooms. From June to August, summer brings the sunniest and hottest days, making it perfect for beach lovers, but be prepared for some crowds. 

Fall, from September to November, offers pleasant weather and fewer tourists, making it an excellent time for a quieter visit. Finally, winter, from December to February, brings mild temperatures, and the city is beautifully decorated for the holidays, offering a cozy and festive atmosphere.

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Hotels in St. Augustine, Florida

Casa Monica Resort & Spa in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: {@Heather Shimmin/Shutterstock]

St. Augustine has many different options for accommodations, including historic and beachfront hotels, charming bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals on Airbnb or Vrbo. You’ll also find your favorite hotel brands like Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt. Here are a few great places to stay in St. Augustine. 

Casa Monica Resort & Spa (Luxury and Location): Originally built in 1888 and beautifully restored, it is located in the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district. It is a luxury hotel known for its striking Moorish Revival architecture and lavish interiors. The resort offers guests a full-service spa, gourmet dining options, and close proximity to the city’s attractions.

The Ponce St. Augustine Hotel (Location and Value): Less than a mile from St. Augustine’s historic district and attractions, this hotel offers guests a comfortable stay with amenities such as an outdoor pool and on-site dining. Being just outside the Historic District, it’s a great way to stay near St. Augustine’s attractions without paying premium prices.

Villa 1565 Hotel (Budget Friendly): Less than a mile from the historic district, this hotel is a budget-friendly option for those not planning to spend much time in their hotel room. It is also the site of the Old Senator, a 600-year-old live oak tree, and within walking distance of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.

Castillo Resort Hotel (Beachfront): Just a short walk to the Atlantic Ocean and St. Augustine Beach, this is an excellent option for those wanting a beach vacation. The hotel offers Spanish-inspired rooms with balcony and hot tub options and includes an outdoor pool, sauna and steam room, and fitness center. It is located near Anastasia State Park, a 6-minute drive to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and about 10 minutes from the Historic District. 

Restaurants in St. Augustine, Florida

Columbia Restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

The city’s culinary scene includes seafood restaurants specializing in fresh, locally sourced catches. Many establishments serve traditional Southern and Floridian cuisine, featuring fried green tomatoes, gator tail, and key lime pie.

St. Augustine has several Spanish, Italian, and Mediterranean restaurants for those interested in international flavors. The city also offers cozy cafés, charming restaurants, upscale fine dining options, casual eateries, historic taverns, and bars. Favorites from our St. Augustine, Florida, trip include:

  • Columbia Restaurant
  • Harry’s Seafood, Bar & Grille
  • The Floridian Restaurant
  • Casa Maya
  • Beachcomber St. Augustine

Things to Do in St. Augustine, Florida

St. George Street in the Historic District in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: [@sepavone/DepositPhotos]

St. Augustine, Florida, offers many activities and attractions that cater to a wide range of interests. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, an art lover, or simply looking to relax by the coast, this historic city a little bit of everything.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Castillo de San Marco National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is a remarkable example of 17th-century military architecture and is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. 

Constructed by the Spanish between 1672 and 1695, this historic fortress is made from coquina, a unique sedimentary rock composed of compressed seashells, which has endured centuries of battles and sieges. 

The fort’s history includes periods of control by the Spanish, British, and Americans, reflecting the region’s tumultuous past. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction, offering a glimpse into St. Augustine’s storied past.

Pro Tip: Some have reported seeing Spanish soldiers and orbs in photos taken at Castillo de San Marcos at night, so be sure to snap some photos!

Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park

Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is known as the original site of the 1565 settlement of St. Augustine. The park offers a unique opportunity to explore various exhibits and demonstrations that depict the lives of the first Spanish settlers and the Native American tribes they encountered. 

One of the park’s most famous features is the legendary Fountain of Youth, a natural spring that has been a source of enduring myth and storytelling, famously associated with Ponce de León’s quest for eternal youth. 

The park also includes a planetarium, a reconstructed Spanish watchtower, and living history reenactments, making it an educational and entertaining experience.

Alligator Farm Zoological Park

Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: [@JennLShoots/Shutterstock]

The Alligator Farm Zoological Park is a unique and fascinating attraction that offers an up-close look at various species of alligators and crocodiles, making it a one-of-a-kind experience. 

Established in 1893, it stands as one of Florida’s oldest continuously running attractions, providing entertainment and educational insights into the lives of these ancient reptiles. The park features a range of exhibits, including the thrilling Crocodile Crossing zip-line adventure and the exotic bird rookery. 

It’s known for being the only place in the world where you can see every living species of crocodilian. Alongside the crocodilians, the park houses a variety of other animals, such as lemurs, monkeys, and a range of snakes and birds, offering a comprehensive and engaging wildlife experience in the heart of St. Augustine.

Lightner Museum

Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

The Lightner Museum is a true cultural gem housed in the former Alcazar Hotel built in 1888 by Henry Flagler. This architectural marvel is an exquisite example of the Spanish Renaissance Revival style. 

The museum’s collection is as diverse as it is unique, featuring everything from fine and decorative 19th-century art to curious artifacts of the era, such as cut glass, Victorian art glass, and the intriguing music room with rare mechanical musical instruments. You can wander through the museum’s spacious halls, exploring rooms filled with Tiffany glass, delicate porcelain, and intricate stained glass works.

Ghost Tours in St. Augustine, Florida

Tolomato Cemetery in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Taking a ghost tour in St. Augustine is a spine-tingling adventure that allows you to delve into the city’s eerie and haunted history. With its centuries-old buildings and tumultuous past, St. Augustine has numerous haunted locations that come to life under the cloak of darkness. 

Visitors can go on guided tours that lead them through dimly lit streets and atmospheric alleys, visiting haunted locations like the Castillo de San Marcos, where ghostly apparitions have been reported, the Tolomato Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, and the Old Jail, known for its tragic history. We enjoyed a walking tour with A Ghostly Encounter.

Old Town Trolley Tour

Old Town Trolley Tour in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: [@VIAVAL/DepositPhotos]

Old Town Trolley Tours of St. Augustine offers visitors an engaging and convenient way to explore the historic city’s rich heritage and landmarks. Since 1989, this iconic tour company has provided narrated trolley rides that take guests through the centuries, showcasing St. Augustine’s fascinating history. 

With knowledgeable guides and hop-on-hop-off flexibility, tourists can discover attractions such as the Castillo de San Marcos, the Lightner Museum, and Flagler College while learning about the city’s Spanish colonial past and Gilded Age.

Flagler College Tour

Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Located within the former Ponce de León Hotel, a magnificent Gilded Age structure, the college’s student-guided golf cart tours provide an opportunity to explore the lavish halls, Tiffany stained-glass windows, and beautiful courtyard of the campus. 

Led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable student guides, these tours offer insights into the college’s academic programs and delve into the fascinating history of the building itself, once a luxurious resort. You can learn about the legacy of Henry Flagler, the college’s founder, and gain a deep appreciation for the preservation of this architectural gem.

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum
Photo Credit: [@sepavone/DepositPhotos]

At the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, you can climb the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse for breathtaking views of the Atlantic coast and the historic city. The maritime museum artifacts and exhibits about the area’s nautical past. 

For those intrigued by the supernatural, the lighthouse offers nighttime ghost tours, where you can delve into its haunted history and possibly experience paranormal activity. 

St. Augustine Beach

St. Augustine Beach
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

It’s the perfect destination for beachgoers looking to soak up the sun, swim in the Atlantic Ocean, or engage in water sports like surfing and paddleboarding. The St. Augustine Beach Pier is popular for fishing and enjoying scenic ocean views. In addition to the beach itself, the area features a vibrant beachfront community with a range of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options. 

Anastasia State Park

Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: [@Christina_Marie_Saymansky/DepositPhotos]

Anastasia State Park is a natural haven that beckons outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. For those looking to explore the great outdoors, there are nature trails that wind through maritime hammocks and salt marshes, perfect for hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting. 

The park also has opportunities for kayaking and paddleboarding, with the picturesque Salt Run waterway providing a serene backdrop for aquatic adventures. Camping enthusiasts can enjoy a stay in the park’s campgrounds, immersing themselves in the beauty of the coastal environment.

St. Augustine, Florida Vacation

St. Augustine, Florida
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Vacationing in St. Augustine, Florida, is an enchanting experience that blends history, natural beauty, and coastal charm. From exploring the city’s historic district and iconic landmarks to relaxing on the sun-soaked beaches and trying local cuisine, St. Augustine offers a range of activities for travelers of all interests. 

Whether you’re drawn to the rich cultural heritage, the opportunity to witness centuries-old architecture, or simply seeking a tranquil retreat by the sea, this historic city has something to offer just about everyone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers with trip ideas, travel guides, and news. She travels to experience, eat, explore, and escape! Alex’s mission is to help you find the perfect vacation destination.