St. Augustine is the oldest town in the United States and believe me they will let you know. Victor and I had been here once before during a work trip so we did a little exploring but didn’t really get the full experience. I will say though the first time we went it was during “winter” with decent weaher and this time it was HOTTT. We swam in the hotel pool everyday….it was necessary…
St. Augustine has a whole lot to offer between the history and beaches. We opted to pay for the Old Town Trolley. This is a great option because it takes you to most of the major attractions and allows you to hop on and off. You do not have to drive around town trying to find parking and they give all the interesting facts about the city. We did the 2 day tour for $35 dollars per adult and children 5 and under were free. My only complaint was it felt like they needed to make sure they had a certain amount of stops so some of them were unnecessary or weird. At times I’m pretty sure we were going in circles. I will say it gave us breaks from the heat and walking. When you are toting around small kids a break is definitely necessary. Here is a list of the stops.
We stopped here and walked around in old town. They have left its architecture intact and converted many of the buildings into shops and restaurants. We saw the Oldest Wooden School House but in order to go in you must pay.
The Pirate Museum was pretty cool. It had actual artifacts found on sunken pirate ships and movie memorabilia that reminded you of your childhood. I was surprised by how small it was but they do give free guided tours so you can get the most bang for your buck. The coolest part for the kids was a section where you could “shoot” a cannon.
Flagler College is in the heart of St. Augustine and holds a ton of history. It is so beautiful and makes you want to be in college again so you can roam the campus. They do give tours of the campus.
The St. Augustine Distillery was pretty cool. I do not really drink but the rest of my family had the opportunity to taste their whiskey, rum, gin, and vodka and they even made mixed drinks for everyone to sample. They offer free tours where we were able to see the process. You can take children. I gave my 2 year old a tablet to entertain her so that I could hear everything. My older one did well with paying attention and during the sampling they give out lemonade for under age tourists. They also have a restaurant that is highly reccommended called the Ice Plant but we weren’t able to check it out.
The San Sebastian Winery was very interesting as well and like the distillery, they give free tours and samples. I don’t feel like you see quite as much but it is still interesting and I did taste test the wine.
The Whetstone Chocolate Factory does offer tours of the facility but it is a charge. We did not do the tour but we did indulge in their vast chocolate selection in the store front. Everything we tasted was great and we had one of their signature frozen hot chocolate drinks that gave us a great cool down and probably a sugar comma.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument was a very cool fort that could explore. It sat right on the water’s edge and had things to explore inside and out. It was very hot so it was nice to walk into the rooms within the concrete building to cool off. You could go up to the top of the fort walls and see the amazing views of the water and the drawbridge. We did get to see the drawbridge raise. They had a junior ranger program where the kids could earn a ranger badge and folks dressed up and told stories.
The Old Senator is a really old tree right in the middle of the Howard Johnson hotel parking lot. It made me laugh but it was a very beautiful tree and as you turn out of the parking lot you see the most beautiful street in town. It is on the top 10 most beautiful streets in America. I would love to take professional photos on this street one day.
One of my favorite things we did was visit the Alligator Farm! It was fascinating and scary at the same time haha! They had a swamp area that for sure had to have at least 100 gators in it. We were able to watch while they were being fed and I can definitely tell you that if you fell in there you would not survive! I also saw a guy feeding an alligator inside an enclosure! No way!
The Lighthouse Museum is fun for everyone. They have a great play area for kids to explore and multiple buildings with tons of history about the light house. You can also climb to the top of the lighthouse just be prepared to climb to over 200 steps to get there. Children under 3 cannot go to the top so we took the older kids while we let my youngest play on the playground. The older kids did a great job climbing to the top with only minimal complaining. The view is gorgeous!
The beach was beautiful and not overly crowded. The waters were a little rough but with floats/lifejackets and parental supervision it is great for families!
I am not going to lie we ate at a few places that were disappointing…we ran into a girl who was from Austin going to college there and she helped lead us in the right direction. Texas food is most definitely better than Florida! Haha…so I will highlight some places that we did enjoy.
Meehan’s Irish Pub & Seafood House
One great thing here is we didn’t have to wait long to be seated! It was in the heart of old town and most places there had a really long wait. It was family friendly but maybe by the outward appearances people weren’t sure. We had seared salmon with a berry sauce, Shepard’s pie, fish and chips, and chicken strips with mac and cheese for the kids. I will definitely say mine was the best! Eating downtown does come with a price most dishes ran between $15-$25/plate.
Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille
This was recommended by several friends so we knew we wanted to try it out. Our first attempt at eating here was a bust. It was an hour and a half wait and NO ONE has time for that! So we came back the next day around 2 p.m. and waited around 20 minutes. Because we came during the lunch hour we did not get to fully experience their dinner menu options but it was a little cheaper. It has a Louisiana Cajun twist to it and was very yummy. We actually fed the kids pizza prior to arriving at the restaurant which probably saved us quite a bit of money! We had boudin balls, redfish, andouille crusted grouper, and catfish etouffee. Lunch prices ranged from $13-$20/plate.
This was more of a quick service stop but it turned out to be quite tasty! We are always very weary of whether Mexican food will be good or not when we visit other states but this place surprised us! It reminded of Freebirds with a farm to table twist. They even served locally made Kombucha and Dole Whip! You could choose from a bowl, taco, salad, or nachos. Most meals were under $10.
Hyppo Gourmet Popsicles
They were a great treat to cool off with during the summer heat! They had tons of flavors! You find them in the old town area. I had a blackberry and goat cheese that rocked my world! The kids stuck with fruit flavors and strawberry cheesecake that was amazing as well.
Mayday Ice Cream
I am sucker for a good ice cream spot and this place was so good that we went twice! They have cool funky flavors that are served with homemade sprinkles and a mini waffle. My favorite flavor was the lemon ice box!
We had a great time but my advice to St. Augstine is to invest in a City Pass. They have a bunch of really great attractions but when you pay for them all seperate they add to more tham what most people want to spend. Especially because a lot of them are for smaller museums and sights. A comprehensive package with a flat rate would be more appealing. The summer is extrememly hot and busy but manageable. I would stay away from old town and enjoy a hotel close to the beach.
Jacksonville is the closest airport but we flew into Orlando because the fares were much more affordable. The drive is about an hour and a half to two hours depending on traffic. You drive up the coast so you can stop and see some beautiful springs and beaches along the way!