There’s just nothing like hitting the open road and setting across this great, diverse country in search of adventure and freedom. A person could spend a whole lifetime touring across the United States, and still not see a fraction of all there is to see.
In this first installment of our series on top road trip destinations in America, we thought it was only fitting to highlight this nation’s oldest city: St. Augustine, Florida.
St. Augustine – America’s Oldest City
Historic sites, shopping, dining, beaches, museums and even a few ghosts—St. Augustine is a city that truly has it all. Located along Florida’s northeastern coast, the “Oldest City” in the US dates to 1565.
Today, the city welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year from all around the world. One trip to St. Augustine and you’ll simply fall in love with every inch of it, from its charming historic district to the laid-back sandy beaches.
While you’re there, be sure to check out some of the city’s most popular attractions:
Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas
History buffs will want to tour two of the city’s most famous landmarks. The Castillo de San Marcos was built between 1672 and 1695 for the Spanish empire in the New World, and throughout the centuries, it withstood everything from war to hurricanes. Visitors can tour the facility, which is part of the National Parks system, and attend weapons demonstrations and other events.
A less popular but equally as historic site, Fort Matanzas, was built between 1740 and 1742 and sits just south of the city on the Matanzas River.
To get a more in-depth look at the city’s history, stop by one of the many museums in the area. The Lightner Museum is one of the most popular. Once the Alcazar Hotel, O.C. Lightner purchased it to house his collection of unique items. You’ll find artwork from the Gilded Age, shrunken heads, Tiffany glass, mummies, and much more.
The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is home to rare pirate artifacts, items from Florida shipwrecks and interactive exhibits.
At the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, you can climb to the top of the 1874 lighthouse and look out over the city.
Of course, you can’t pass up a trip to see some of the downright bizarre collections at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the first established Ripley’s collection in the world.
When it comes to shopping, you have plenty of choices in St. Augustine. Just minutes from downtown, you’ll find two large outlet malls featuring some of the biggest brands in the Old and New World. Shop at Ralph Lauren, Nike, Coach, Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, Gap, Michael Kors, Gucci and Saks Fifth Avenue, among others.
If you prefer unique items to big brands, check out one of the city’s many antique shops. You’re sure to find a vintage treasure to take home. The city’s historic district is also home to several specialty shops that sell everything from clothing and jewelry to souvenirs.
After shopping and sightseeing, you’ll need to stop for a bite to eat. Luckily, St. Augustine has a lot to offer. From fresh seafood restaurants to intimate pubs, you’ll find something to suit every taste. Some popular options include:
- Sunset Grille – offers a beautiful ocean view to go along with locally sourced meals.
- Spanish Bakery – find rustic baked goods in the heart of the historic district.
- Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille – an old favorite that serves up delicious New Orleans-style cuisine.
- Raintree – an award-winning restaurant that features internationally-influenced food in an old Victorian home.
- Salt Water Cowboys – built like an old fish camp and nestled along the Intracoastal Waterway and saltwater marshes, you’ll fall in love with the food and the ambience here.
- Barnacle Bill’s – been around since 1981, and it’s a local favorite for fried shrimp.
Swimming, sailing, fishing, surfing and sunbathing are just a few activities you can enjoy at one of St. Augustine’s gorgeous white sandy beaches. No matter how you want to spend your day in the sun, you’ll find a beach that’s perfect for you. Crescent Beach is one of the most pristine natural beaches in the state, while St. Augustine Beach has a playground, pier, restaurants and more.
The 1,700-acre Anastasia State Park and Recreation Area includes five miles of beaches, nature trails and picnic and camping sites. It’s an ideal place for fishing and canoeing.
Not sure where to start? Consider taking a tour of St. Augustine by foot, trolley or boat. You can even travel via horse and carriage. General tours will take you throughout the historic district to check out the architecture, culture and sites.
Other themed tours are available, such as the food or pub crawl tours, ghost tours that take you to the most haunted sites in the city and boat tours where you’ll go out on the water to see the natural side of St. Augustine.