Site of the longest continuously inhabited European settlement on American soil, the historic Spanish outpost of Saint Augustine was established in 1565 and is located only a short two-hour drive from the city of Orlando. Situated on the same stretch of Atlantic coastline where early French and Spanish explorers battled both Native Americans as well as each other, walking around the cobbled streets of the downtown area is a throwback to days of lawlessness, imperialism and colonial excitement.
More than just a former Spanish colony, St. Augustine also once housed Seminole prisoners, was a British territory, and was a founding city in the modern civil rights movement. All of this history is evident as you meaner the old Spanish neighborhoods and Victorian-era homes, or perhaps as you enjoy a coffee from an outdoor patio along the coastal town’s downtown promenade.
Various tours from Orlando provide transport for those who want to fortify their trip with some American history, and numerous upgrades are also available such as taking a cruise on the Matanzas River from which early explorers first navigated the coast. If you were able to drag the kids away from the theme park for a bit of holiday education, they’ll be happy to know that they can still find entertainment at the Black Raven Pirate Adventure where professional actors tell tales of the pirate’s place in St. Augustine history and the real-life pirate raids that took place in these very waters.
Or, to truly feel like you’re visiting the Atlantic, a few St. Augustine tours from Orlando will make a stop at Marineland where you or your kids can swim with or feed playful groups of bottlenose dolphins before setting off to explore the Spanish architecture of downtown.