Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in St Augustine
Located at the nation’s oldest port, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum offers visitors a chance to step back in time by exploring the active lighthouse and various educational exhibits. The black-and-white striped, red-topped lighthouse, built in 1874, welcomes guests to climb up for sweeping views of the Florida coast.
Your quest for the Fountain of Youth is over once you’ve visited this park in St. Augustine, Florida. This site where Spanish explorer Ponce de León came in search of the elusive fountain in the 16th century, founding the oldest European settlement in the US. Sip the legendary waters while you learn about the area’s indigenous history.
With its red-tiled roofs and wide landscaped lawns, the campus of Flager College features some of the most beautiful Spanish Renaissance architecture in the country. It is routinely named one of the most beautiful universities in the United States, which makes sense given that it was converted into a school from a former resort.
The Ponce de Leon luxury hotel (now the college) was first built in 1888. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was one of the first buildings to granted electricity by General Electric. Often sunny, Flagler College is also a remarkably pleasant place to stroll through. Its brick archways, gleaming fountains, and tall palm trees are reminiscent of southern Spain.
Luxurious details such as Tiffany stained glass windows and painted murals now adorn campus facilities such as dining halls, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful to behold. Don’t miss the original lobby complete with an elegant 68-foot domed ceiling.
Housed in a gorgeous former hotel built in 1887 in the Spanish Renaissance style, the exterior of the Lightner Museum is reason enough to visit. The real treats though are the various antiquities located on the inside of this three story museum.
The first floor houses a Victorian village, with shop fronts offering Victorian era wares. Take a look at the Victorian Science and Industry Room and its eclectic array of artifacts including model steam engines, stuffed birds, a small Egyptian mummy, and a shrunken head. The second floor contains samples of cut glass, Victorian art glass and stained glass work. The third floor, housed in the ball room's upper balcony, exhibits paintings, sculpture, and furniture from the time period. Overall, the museum's careful attention to details and rustic recreation of the time period make it a fun place to visit.
Don’t let the friendly pink stucco exterior fool you. Although this building might look like an old-fashioned luxury resort, it was actually one of the most feared places in all of St. Augustine—the St. Johns County Jail. Built in 1891, the jail housed prisoners until 1953, when it opened to the public for tours.
The Oldest Store Museum in St Augustine, Florida, is an interactive way to learn more about the history of the area. The Oldest Store Museum is set up to reflect a store during the year 1900.
Tour guides and other staff workers for the Oldest Store Museum will be dressed in colonial attire and they stay in character as someone who lived over a century ago in order to teach visitors about life in St Augustine during colonial times in an entertaining and engaging way.
Inside the store are over 100,000 items you may have found during the start of the 1900s. These items are marked with what they would have sold for in 1900 and you may find yourself shocked at how much prices have inflated over the centuries. You’ll also have fun perusing the items, which include worm syrup, old farm equipment, corsets and much more.
This iconic St. Augustine attraction is perfect for the whole family. With some 160 wax sculptures that run the gamut from actors and actresses to historical personalities, famous politicians and more, Potter’s is widely recognized as the first wax museum in America.
Travelers who enter this wildly entertaining museum will learn the story of the wealthy George Potter, who ventured to Europe with his family, where he paid a visit to the original Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Fast-forward to 1948, when this quirky institution was opened, and you have the short version of how Potter’s Wax Museum came to be. Visitors can wander the halls, check out top exhibits and marvel at how lifelike these figures truly are!
It is believed that the Mission Nombre de Dios of St Augustine, Florida - the oldest city in the continental United States - may be the first mission established in America. The Franciscan mission dates back to 1587 when it served nearby villages and was a center of chiefdom in the area. Today it is a well-recognized spiritual site and a large part of the history of St. Augustine (its church is also recognized as the oldest in the United States.)
A visit to the small, ivy-covered stone church is often a peaceful, spiritual refuge. A massive steel cross stands 208 feet tall beside wide walkways and manicured gardens. The shrine dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Le Leche’ dates back to the 1600s when it was built by Spanish settlers. There’s also a historic graveyard and Mission museum containing artifacts and documents found during the original excavation of the grounds. The entire site remains a pilgrimage site for many, and an important part of early U.S. history.
St. Augustine is a city rich in American history and the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse is the ideal place for travelers and families to take a step back in time. According to locals, this small structure made of wooden slats with an American flag waving high nearby is the oldest of its kind in the U.S. The building is made of aging bald cypress and red cedar and is chained to the ground to protect it from hurricanes.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour of this unique attraction every day, and listen in as a robotic professor and student share historical information, stories and little known facts. In addition to the school house, travelers will see well-kept gardens, a traditional outhouse and an historic kitchen.
Test your mettle at St. Augustine's Medieval Torture Museum, the first museum of its kind in the United States. This trove of recreated torture instruments, enriched by academic research, demonstrates just how much suffering humanity infllicted during the Middle Ages. Uncover how these deadly objects were employed and why they were used.
More Things to Do in St Augustine
The historic Governor's House Cultural Center and Museum has played many roles in the state of Florida since being built more than 400 years ago. During the colonial period of the 16th century, it served as the official residence and offices of the Spanish governors of Florida. The mansion was then rebuilt in 1710 after being destroyed by British forces. British governors of East Florida ruled from the structure during the American Revolutionary War, often throwing lavish parties. In 1821, history was made here when the Spanish governor turned over the control of Florida to the United States.
Once a part of the new nation, it served as a U.S. post office, courthouse, and customs building before opening as a museum in 1991. The structure itself holds centuries of history, though its exhibits go into further detail the significance of the house and the area. Many archaeological artifacts, including Spanish gold and Native American canoes, tell the stories of the multiculturalism that influenced Florida and St. Augustine as it is today.
The idyllic town of St. Augustine is an ideal destination for travelers who want to see history come to life. Few places showcase the past quite like the Spanish Military Hospital. Visitors can wander the halls and outdoor areas of this popular attraction, which includes the Hospital West building, the Apothecary and the Hospital East. Travelers will learn about medical practices from the Second Spanish Period. Visitors can follow an expert guide and learn about medicinal herbs in the well-kept garden, see a surgical demonstration and learn about ancient apothecary. This one-of-a-kind destination offers up the perfect way to experience the life of a local during the 1700s.
Fort Matanzas was built in the mid-1700s to protect the Spanish colony of St Augustine. St Augustine was vulnerable by river access to the south and Fort Matanzas helped the French protect it from the threat of British attacks. At the time, Florida was a much sought after area of the world due to being a profitable shipping lane from the Caribbean. The fort successfully protected St Augustine on multiple occasions and eventually became property of the United States. In 1924, it was declared a national monument.
The construction of Fort Matanzas is interesting to behold as it’s made from coquina, a type of limestone that is made of tiny pieces of shells and sand – a likely choice considering the geography of where Fort Matanzas was constructed, but one that can also be quite fragile. Despite that, it has upheld and today visitors can take a ferry to the fort, which is located on Rattlesnake Island and tour the grounds. The ferry has a guide who will tell you about the history of the fort on your way over. Once at the fort, be sure to climb the ladder to the observation level for excellent views of St Augustine and the ocean.
This stunning contemporary church is widely considered one of the eight religious wonders of the world. Perhaps that’s because its stunning façade with towering spires, royal arch and smooth white stone are truly a sight to behold.
Visitors who appreciate breathtaking architecture and attention to stonework detail with find a stop at Memorial Presbyterian Church worth the trip. Trained docents can unlock the art and history of the interior during a free tour, and religious travelers can participate in a Sunday morning worship where all are welcome.
Chocolate lovers can rejoice, because this incredible local sweets factory has one of the best tasting tours around. Visitors can get a behind the scenes look at the Whetstone Chocolate factory operations and learn about the history of this local institution.
Visitors will have the chance to sample a variety of items crafted on the premise and learn how cocoa nibs are transformed from bitter cocoa to decadent truffles and treats. There’s even a well stocked shop to pick up times to take home once the tour ends.
Enjoy IMAX movies from educational documentaries to the latest Hollywood blockbusters on the largest IMAX 3D screen in the Southeast at the World Golf Hall of Fame IMAX Theater. Featuring the latest digital projection system and state-of-the-art sound system, the theater delivers an incredible immersive movie experience.
This quirky museum offers up plenty of fun for travelers who want to take a look at strange oddities and rare specimens. Its colorful galleries filled with wild and bizarre exhibits are perfect for the entire family. And while Ripley’s is a well-known establishment across the globe, the St. Augustine location is the first permanent Ripley’s in the U.S.
Visitors can explore more than 800 interactive exhibits that are stationed inside this historic castle. Whether it’s a rainy afternoon or a too-hot day, this iconic museum is an ideal place to unwind, relax and discover!
An ideal stop for history fans, the St. Augustine History Museum features everything from replica ships and vintage toys to treasures discovered off the Florida coast. Find artifacts, photographs, and ephemera showcasing an ever-evolving St. Augustine, dating to the days of Spanish and British rule—all displayed in the museum's galleries.
Founded in 1565 by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés of Spain, St. Augustine is America’s oldest continuously inhabited city settled first by Europeans. In the historic downtown, the Spanish Quarter, the Castillo de San Marcos, and the old schoolhouse and jail offer a glimpse into the past.
Learn all about the game of golf, its history, and its top players at the World Golf Hall of Fame. Located near historic St. Augustine at the World Golf Village resort, the museum celebrates the game and its greatest contributors through historical and interactive storytelling and exhibits that include memorabilia, artifacts, artwork, photos, audio, and videos.
Travelers don’t have to worry about walking the plank at this popular attraction located in St. Augustine. The Pirate and Treasure Museum is filled with galleries and exhibits that showcases the life and times of sea greats like Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles. Visitors can learn about the role pirates played in early colonial America and gain a deeper understanding of life on the high seas.
Travelers will venture back some 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica when they enter this unique museum that’s perfect for the whole family. Children will love the well-designed treasure hunt that leads the younger set on a real life adventure.
St Augustine has grown up and around the González-Alvarez House, and so the home stands as an architectural time capsule of the city’s evolution. The two-story coquina stone house, built in the years after the English burned the city in 1702, is now a registered National Landmark with elements that typify the city’s varied occupants. Early Spanish colonial elements such as the house’s orientation to take advantage of winds and tabby floors—blend with later changes. A second story was added during the British colonial period, and a framed second floor porch and glass windows were included during the second Spanish period prior to statehood.
Though archaeological evidence suggests the site has been occupied since the 1600s, the current home dates to the early 1700s. Its “oldest house in America” title has been contested and has since reverted to the “oldest surviving Spanish colonial house in Florida.” Regardless, visitors to the Gonzalez-Alvarez House will find plenty of unique historical elements here including some of its resident’s possessions: chipped Romanesque statues, simple wooden furniture, clothing, an ornately carved four-poster bed and a British tea setting. Outside, a replica coquina colonial kitchen features a brick hearth and period cooking implements. The larger Oldest House Museum Complex includes an ornamental garden and two separate museum buildings: the Mauncy Museum detailing the history of the country’s oldest city, and the Page L. Edwards Gallery’s rotating exhibits.
Built in 1691, the Father Miguel O'Reilly House is not only the second oldest structure in St. Augustine (the Castillo de San Marcos being the first), but also one of the oldest buildings in the United States. While recognized now as a symbol of Florida's long connection to Catholicism, the house did not take on that status until 1785. In that year, the Irish priest Father Miguel O'Reilly purchased the house and converted it into a Catholic parish rectory and made sure that it would continue to serve as a center of education and religion for years to come.
Today, the house O'Reilly House Museum focuses on three main themes. The first is the story of the house, the second is St. Augustine's Catholic tradition (which began when the area was first settled by the Spanish in 1565), and third are the Sisters of St. Joseph who have been the guardians of the O’Reilly House and educators in St. Augustine since their arrival in 1866. A visit to the O'Reilly House Museum allows you to admire its beautiful architecture, and immerse yourself in St. Augustine's proud and antiquated history.
When you're in a city known for being one of the oldest in the country, you'll naturally be curious to know what it was like to live there when it all began. Now you can find out for yourself when you visit the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum, St. Augustine's only living history museum. Stroll along the streets of this recreated 1740s town and meet the local townspeople (all costumed actors).
Watch a blacksmith welding, see a carpenter at work on his latest craft, or converse with a solider and his wife. The museum is the ideal place to discover what life might have actually been like for people living in St. Augustine in the 1740s. All of the houses and landscaping have been fashioned to transport you back to the era. When you're done with your walk through the town, be sure to stop by the Taberna del Gallo, a 1740s Spanish tavern located down the street. With no electricity, candles provide the only light source, making it a truly authentic drinking and dining experience.
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