A completely random conversation on a flight to Cleveland with a very nice girl from Florida, led me to visit St Augustine a week later while in Florida.St.
Augustine is the oldest European settlement in the USA. Founded and settled by Spanish in 16th century. It has a number of historical buildings – the Cathedral of St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas or St. Augustine Lighthouse.
The city is beautiful and has a unique character. At every turn you can find a piece of history. In some places it nearly seems like the time has stopped long time ago. So park your car in the central parking garage and walk around, there is no need for a car in town.
I had a very limited time to see St Augustine, however, even that little time was great. If you are driving into the city on the weekend, I would recommend starting early to arrive there early morning, this will give you a chance to enjoy your morning coffee in a few coffee shops around. I picked an Australian one – The Kookaburra . Very friendly, great coffee and scones that actually do resemble those from back home. Overall nice breakfast.
Close by is the Cathedral of St. Augustine. I missed on seeing the interior as there was mass in progress, since it was Sunday.
If you prefer a more American coffee, there is also a coffee shack and you can smell that coffee from far away.
Once I got some food and coffee, I strolled over to Castillo de San Marcos.
Old fortress build in St Augustine is a part of the National Park network, so bring your cards or buy a ticket on-site. There are ranger-led tours as well as you can do a self-guided tour. You should set aside about 2 hours for visiting the site, it allows you to see all at leisurely pace. The best part of the visit is to be able to soak in the atmosphere and imagine yourself a few centuries back. You get nice views of the marina and the city. One of the highlights is firing of the canon just like in the old days done by guys dressed in period costumes. It is loud so be prepared but definitely worth seeing.
There are a number of interiors of the fortress to see, like sleeping quarters, gun powder room, storage rooms.
As most of the San Marco castle is exposed, make sure to bring sunscreen and a hat in summer, raincoat or some warm clothes and a hat in fall and winter.
Once you have seen the fortress, head back into town and the main walking street is closed to traffic, it has quite touristy feel to it but there is a bit of historical feel there too. There are many small little shops, there is a historical tour you can take as well.
That was pretty much all I managed to see in just over 2 hours in St Augustine. If you have a bit more time, take a trip to the Anastasia Island and the lighthouse as well as to the Rattlesnake Island to see Fort Matanzas. Overall, it is a great little town to see with interesting history and well worth visiting if you are nearby, Daytona Beach, or Jacksonville. Thanks to the stranger from the plane I had a great morning.