A Walk Through Our Nations Oldest City - St. Augustine
Our primary destination for our 2017 Winter trip was St. Augustine, Florida, and I must say we were not disappointed.
Looking at the skyline from the Castillo de San Marco, the oldest existing permanent seacoast fortification in the continental United States, over 400 years of history lay before our camera's lens.
Castillo de San Marco's existing walls have stood since the late 1690's, but even that is over a hundred years after the original fort was built, and the community of St. Augustine grew beside it.
St. Augustine, FL - Castillo de San Marcos AerialThe Castillo De San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida. By the Historic American Buildings Survey. Made of coquina, a kind of stone that had been found near the coast on Anastasia Island, it replaced earlier wood forts as a formidable fortress to withstand the heaviest of attacks. It's walls are 12 feet thick around the inland portions, and 19 feet thick facing the harbor. St. Augustine, FL - Castillo de San Marcos Bastion BirdsPhoto by Dave Alexander.
The fortress has switched hands several times over its long history, and for a long time, after Florida was sold to the U.S., was named Fort Marion. In 1924 it was designated a National Historic Monument, and was renamed back to Castillo de San Marco in 1942.
St. Augustine, FL - Castillo de San Marcos Soldier QuartersPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. You'll enjoy the exhibits, walk through the living quarters, interact with the period re-enactors, and learn from National Park presentations during your visit.
Read about the long history of the nation's oldest seacoast fortification, the Castillo de San Marcos HERE.
St. Augustine, FL - The Great CrossErected in 1965 to commemorate 400 years since the landing of Pedro Menendez de Aviles September 8, 1565, and the establishment of the Mission Nombres de Dios and city of St. Augustine.
The "Great Cross", built in 1965, stands over the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios to commemorate 400 years since Spanish Captain Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived on September 8, 1565 to establish the Mission and city.
We strolled through the city gates, the pillars of which were erected by residents in 1808. This is some of the last remaining wall that surrounded the community. In earlier days, it was the only way in and out of St. Augustine.
St. Augustine, FL - St. George StreetPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. The streets are narrow and laid out in such a way as to bring in the ocean breeze to cool the city, as well as provide advantage during attack.
St. Augustine, FL - St. George Street Shops A walk down St. George street is a tourist delight. Boutiques, bistros, galleries and gift shops line the narrow path, some of them in original buildings.
St. Augustine, FL - St. George Street Bistro's While we're not real estate experts, we would guess the rent is high in this heavily trafficked area of St. Augustine, so it's no surprise we found some of the best eateries of our entire journey on St. George Street. Being the frugal type, we passed up some real fancy dining, including restaurants established in the early 1900's, but SHOUT OUT to Pizza Time! Ranked 2nd Best Pizza in the U.S. by Trip Advisor and absolutely delicious. Burrito Works Taco Shop nearby wasn't bad either. Don't worry, we ate at each on separate days :)
Time to walk off the food with more history nearby...
St. Augustine, FL - Cathedral BasilicaThe Cathedral Basilica is the oldest church in Florida, constructed between 1793 and 1797. The church was established in 1565 with the founding of St. Augustine. After the shops on St. George Street, and walking past the Cathedral Basilica, constructed in the late 1700's, you will enter the Plaza de la Constitucion.
St. Augustine, FL - Plaza de la ConstitucionThe oldest public square in America, the Plaza de la Constitucion was laid out by Spanish Royal Ordinance in 1573. It features the Constitution Monument, which may the the only remaining Monument in the Western Hemisphere celebrating the Spanish Constitution of 1812. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
The oldest public square in America, the Plaza was laid out by Spanish Royal Ordinance in 1573. It features the Constitution Monument, which may the the only remaining Monument in the Western Hemisphere celebrating the Spanish Constitution of 1812.
Not far from the Plaza you'll find the old Ponce de Leon Hotel, now Flagler College. Built by oil tycoon Henry Flagler in 1888, the Ponce de Leon was one of several hotels that Flagler owned, as part of his goal to make St. Augustine a Winter Haven.
St. Augustine, FL - Presbyterian Church - 3Henry Flagler had the Presbyterian church built in memorial to his daughter and granddaughter. Flagler had workers build around the clock to finish the church in a year. Flagler's mark on St. Augustine wasn't limited to Hotels. He's also responsible for funding of several churches, including the Presbyterian Church, built in memorial to his Daughter and Granddaughter, who both died of illness shortly after birth.
St. Augustine, FL - Presbyterian ChurchPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. We learned on our tour of the city that Flagler made an arrangement with all the other town churches that the Presbyterian Church would be the only one to ring a bell. Considering his sizeable impact on the city they obliged.
Learn more about the impact the Spanish, and later Henry Flagler made on this historic city.. Read St. Augustine - Oldest U.S. City Here.
St. Augustine, FL - Ripleys Museum Match Stick Space Station In addition to the city's great history, you'll find more fun and entertainment for the entire family at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditiorium. Visitors will marvel at exhibits like this space station model made entirely of matchsticks.
St. Augustine, FL - Ripleys Museum Shrunken Head This actual shrunken head was part of Robert Ripley's original collection of oddities that made him famous worldwide. This isn't just any "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" museum -- this is the first permanent Odditorium started by the Ripley family just a year after Robert Ripley died.
St. Augustine, FL - Ripleys Believe it or Not Museum Even the building has an interesting history, starting as the winter "Castle" of William G. Warden in 1887, then a decade as the Castle Warden Hotel, before becoming the museum.
Read more about the history of the Warden Winter Home and Robert L. Ripley in our article Ripley's Original Odditorium Here.
St. Augustine, FL - Colonial Quarter Gude We also took an excellent guided tour of Colonial Quarter, a living history outdoor museum depicting life in St. Augustine over three centuries.
St. Augustine, FL - Pirate Museum - 2 Next door we toured St. Augustine's Pirate and Treasure Museum, which includes items used in several movies, like Johnny Depp's Pirates of the Caribbean.
St. Augustine, FL - Pirate Museum - 4 This isn't just any Pirate Museum either -- it houses the largest authentic collection of pirate artifacts in the world.
See more about Colonial Quarter on their website here.
See more about the Pirate and Treasure Museum via their website here.
St. Augustine, FL - Red Train TrolleyRipley's Red Train Tour is a 90 minute ride through St. Augustine's more notable historic and entertaining attractions. The trolley stops at many places, allowing you to hop on and off as another one comes to each stop every 20 minutes. Worth your time and money is the Red Train Tour offered by Ripley's. This trolley stops at many locations around the city as the driver gives interesting tidbits on the history of St. Augustine. The entire ride is about 90 minutes, however it stops at several places along the way, allowing riders to hop on and off, with another trolley coming by every 20 minutes.
Find out more about the Red Train Tours via their website here.
St. Augustine, FL - Alligator Farm SignAlligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Finally, before we left we had to catch the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park on Anastasia Island.
St. Augustine, FL - Alligator FarmAlligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. The Park, established in 1893, began as a small collection of Florida Reptiles, and now serves as a modern zoo, providing important research and conservation efforts, in addition to just being a fun and informative stop.
St. Augustine, FL - Alligator Farm TurtleAlligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida. Photo by Dave Alexander. No visit to St. Augustine is complete without a visit to this fun place. Read our article on the long history of St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park Here.
We also produced a video from our time here in St. Augustine that includes more about the history and a few other extra's.
In addition, here's our St. Augustine Slideshow
There are many sites we didn't get to during our visit, so make sure to plan some quality time in St. Augustine. We would suggest the winter months if possible, not only to avoid the major crowds during tourist season, but also the Florida heat during the summer months.
We want to thank Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Colonial Quarter, Pirate & Treasure Museum, Ripley's Red Train Tours, the Alligator Farm Zoological Park, and the Lightner Museum (sorry we didn't make it). Each helped out tremendously during our tours and gave a warm Florida welcome.
During our time in this portion of our journey, we stayed about 40 miles away from St. Augustine next to the town of Crescent City in Sned Acres RV Park. We'll give this park a 4 out of 5 on RV Park Reviews. Good location for the price (New monthly rate of $350 plus electric, which was very reasonable) Good facilities and close to store. Wifi had issues while we were there, but we understand things will likely change in that department this year. Friendly staff. Would stay there again. Ps. Since we were there in January, didn't have a chance to use the pool, but we can imagine it being packed in the summer months.
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Keywords: Castillo De San Marcos, Florida, Pirate Museum, Red Train Tours, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium, Slide Show, St. Augustine, St. Augustine Video, St. George Street, history, photos, prints, travel
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