Despite the fact that St. Augustine is the oldest city in America, it has somehow managed to remain both young and vibrant. Taking a day stroll through the streets of St. Augustine, it is easy to see that tourism is thriving. More importantly, the city and its residents seem to be comfortable with embracing change—modern pubs and an exciting nightlife envelop young and hip wanderlusts. I planned this trip to St. Augustine to give my wife and I a little get away, and honestly, I was surprised with how seriously romantic a trip it turned out to be.
Below are seven ways my wife and I made the most of St. Augustine:
There is one important factor most people ignore, or perhaps, they do not realize about Florida, but the weather can be temperamental. Florida weather is known for changing constantly and quickly—rainy in the morning, bright and sunny in the afternoon, struck with thunder just moments later. The best time to travel to St. Augustine is between mid-March and mid-April when the temperature is not a “microwave” and the rain clouds stay at bay for most of the day.
I always tease people who have planned trips to Florida. I tell them, “If you’re going to vacation in Florida, you’ve got to do it like they do it here—rent a convertible!” From anywhere in Florida, the roads to St. Augustine are gorgeous. Quiet, canopied with trees, and flanked by farms, the roads to the oldest city in America are both beautiful and relaxing with the top of the car down. Make sure you allow yourself to enjoy the ride!
The city of St. Augustine is young and vibrant. And, because it’s a pretty popular place for both family vacations and student travel, it can be a challenge to find affordable accommodations. But, it’s worth it to stay near the city center. Prepare in advance and use AirBnB.com to book a room near Flagler, downtown, or one of the many museums available to visit.
At just $24 a person for a 24 hour period of time, renting a bicycle is a reliable and easy mode of transportation to get around the city. Renting a bike allows you to steer away from the over-priced group tours that are available to you, avoid the heartache of finding a place to park in a not-so-car-friendly city, and most importantly, it gives you the freedom to wonder about the city as you wish. Claim your freedom to wonder the city freely. Equipped with a chain for security, they are easy to manage, and they allow you to ride around town (or stop to explore) the sometimes narrow, crowded side streets lined with historic buildings. They truly offer a different twist to the city. Don’t forget, however, to pack your hat, sunscreen and water!
- Experiment with your palate and night life.
Because of the age group and lifestyle of the people who populate and visit St. Augustine, the nightlife is a blast. The city offers a lot of pubs that serve craft brews (mostly Floridian)—a nice way to beat the heat. The majority of restaurants offer many options for a healthy and/or alternative diet. Should you have a picky palate, do not worry. The variety that each restaurant ensures is on the menu will satisfy even the pickiest eater. For breakfast, we enjoyed Gaufres & Goods. While their signature breakfast items sounded delicious, I decided to change things up a bit with a stuffed cabbage served with tomato sauce. Yum! Do not be afraid to try something new; you might just like it.
- Watch the sunrise at Vilano Beach.
If you are an early riser like me, this is for you. Vilano Beach offers the best venue for early morning time lapse photography of the sunrise—something I have become more and more excited about, as of late. Further, it is perfect for an early morning stroll with a loved one. What makes Vilano different from other beaches? You can drive your car right up to the waterfront. Just make sure you don’t get stuck in the soft sand!
- Visit the following sites:
- The Castilo de San Marcos. It is a masonry fort which was built to defend the city from intruders. The fort offers weekly demonstrations of the firing of the canons (usually Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The fee to enter the fort is ten dollars and is valid for seven consecutive days.
- The Mission of Nombres de Dios and Our Lady of La Leche. This stop is located just a short bicycle ride north of the fort. Popularly known as America’s most sacred acre, it is peppered with ancient graves and is the home of the oldest chapel, Our Lady of La Leche.
- Visit Fort Matanzas, a fort built many years ago by Spanish soldiers. The drive down A1A is chill, and the walk around the river banks is a perfect photo opp. right before taking the free ferry to the fort. Note: The ferry departs only so often, and you must collect a ticket from the Park Ranger to board.
- Visit St. Augustine Beach. The water has a lot of jelly fish, but do not be alarmed, they don’t sting. If you’re not into getting into the water though, no worries. The Pier has seats that will allow you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the ocean.
- Last but not least, do not be afraid to indulge yourself with some delicious chocolate selections at the Whitestone Chocolate Factory and some tasty adult libations at either (or both) the San Sebastian Winery and the St. Augustine Distillery—both of which offer free tours and tastings. But better than all of those places—The Chocolate Turtle. An eatery known for its signature chocolate desserts, the café-like atmosphere offers a variety of craft beers and a great selection of table games you can play while you enjoy your tasty desserts and drinks.