Skip to main content
FloridaNorth AmericaUnited States

St. Augustine, Florida’s Charming Must-Sees: A Journey Through Time

There’s something familiar, cozy and laid-back about Florida. It often draws me in when I want to get away for a while. It’s familiar and breezy to navigate, yet feels far enough to be a tropical getaway. I usually spend time on the Gulf coast for trips, or near Daytona Beach to see family. But this time I checked out a new destination.

The current St. Augustine Light Station

St. Augustine is nestled on Florida’s Historic Coast, known for its interesting past of Spanish colonial occupation, battles, and indigenous traditions. It’s a pleasant destination for a winter trip away from snowy landscapes and winter dreariness. I recommend at least a long weekend to fully appreciate the wonderful assets of St Augustine. Here’s my personal choices below!

Walk around the historic district of St. Augustine

There’s much to see in the famous district of St. Augustine. Check out the oldest wooden school house dating back to the late 1700s, or simply stroll the pedestrian St. George’s Street and maybe catch some live music at the Colonial Oak Music Park.

If you want to stop for a casual bite, the St. Augustine & Seafood Company has a few fresh items that are delicious and local. A blackened fish sandwich paired well with some chowder fries and some oysters from the raw bar.

Also, during the Night of Lights festival from November to January, more than three million white lights shine and illuminate 20 blocks of businesses. It’s a sight to see especially surrounded by warm breezes and palm trees even in the evening. You can definitely just take a stroll. But as a treat, I caught the spectacle via trolley, complete with caroling, cookies, and pretty views from all angles.

Looking at the Historic Coast’s past

The Fountain Of Youth Archaeological Park

Besides the iconic fort and Spanish-style architecture, this is the other main attraction of history coming to life. You can learn about Ponce de Leon’s landing in this area of Florida and the subsequent Spanish occupation of the land. There’s also some information and re-creations of the indigenous Timucua people’s communities that lived in the St Augustine area for centuries. We enjoyed a small show at the planetarium, and the little ones loved feeding the myriad of friendly peacocks on the property.

Castillo de San Marcos

One of the most iconic areas to wander is the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th century fort. It’s the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States and is located right on the coast with ocean views.

Local wildlife to support and celebrate in Florida

First stop was the GTM Nature Reserve (@gtmresearchreserve). The welcome center has an array of creatures, including spotted turtles and hermit crabs. My toddler lost her mind at the hanging replicas of whales above. We went on the seashell walk that’s run by the reserve too at the beach next door. We had a good time, but there’s a long lecture at the beginning, so keep in mind if you have little kids. The preserve itself covers 76,000 acres of land.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park

How can you experience Florida without alligators (and a couple of crocodiles?) To be honest when you first walk into the park, there’s a few small tanks and I wondered if the eco initiatives would be up to snuff. But the rest of the property was sprawling and well kept, featuring a wide array of creatures big and small. The highlight was definitely the massive alligator area. There’s walkways over the lagoon and pink spoonbill birds dotting almost every tree above.

Visit Crescent Beach and beyond for food and sunny fun

There’s some lovely options for accommodation in downtown St. Augustine, but there’s just as many options along the neighboring beaches.

cresent beach florida

Two beautiful stretches of sand south of the city are Crescent Beach and Butler Beach. They both have public access options as well as plenty of private entrances if you stay at a hotel or vacation home along the water. While technically there are options in St. Augustine to enjoy the sand and sun, there’s more space to spread out the farther south you wander. Even better, both beaches are less than 20 minutes drive from town.

While soaking up the splendor of these beach spots, you’ll want to take a moment to have a delicious, local meal too. Here’s an array of options to suit many tastes.

Mango Mango’s  

corn cakes at mango mangos st augustine

To start with a favorite, there’s a Caribbean kick to Mango Mango’s that was a welcome surprise on a rainy evening. We had no issue getting a great seat amongst colorful decor. My cold beer, coconut shrimp and a pulled pork corn cake starter was so flavorful and fun.

Surfside Kitchen

I often walk into a spot not knowing what to expect, especially in a shopping center. But the whole family had a wonderful meal, complete with a brunch board of fresh made chicken and waffles, and a memorable BLT-avocado pizza.

The Kookaburra – Dondanville

kookaburra coffee st augustine Florida donaville

I’m always on the hunt for something really strong to get my day started on a trip. Luckily, this local find has half dozen  locations in the St Augustine area and celebrates a fun, Aussie-style breakfast tradition. The breakfast hand pies were good, but the strong brewed iced coffee made it worth the stop.

Back 40 A1Aa

This is the first meal we had on our drive into St Augustine. A friendly server, calm atmosphere and hearty lunch made us return on the way back too.

baby in sunglasses florida

Have a peek at our other great articles on Florida

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

More posts by Eileen Cotter Wright

Leave a Reply