Tips for Touring St Augustine, Florida

By on February 27, 2019
St Augustine

St Augustine, Florida is one of America’s most romantic cities. A city to be savored, it is best explored on foot. Forget about your car and stroll along narrow streets admiring the houses of the US’s oldest city – where coquina walls retain ancient secrets and placards note those who lived and worked there once upon a time.

Tired of walking? – There is always a trolly waiting to wisk you around to all the historic sites. Or better yet – hop on a skiff, a kayak or a catamaran with St Augustine Eco Tours knowledgeable guides who will reveal the natural wonders of St Augustine Bay and secrets of the city both ancient and new, as you photograph the city and the aqua inhabitants of shore birds, turtles and dolphins from the water.

Tip #1 Stay in one of the town’s historic lodging venues

Bed and breakfast venues in historic buildings complete with rockers on porches and hidden gardens abound in St Augustine. By staying in town, everything is within walking distance. The streets are so narrow you will want to park your car and walk the oak lined streets to fabulous restaurants and historic sights. My favorite is The St. Francis Inn, a collection of historic homes with the main Inn offering all guests fabulous breakfasts and a hidden garden pool and a decanter of Spanish sherry awaiting you in your room.St Augustine

Tip #2 See the Top 3 Sites

The city’s defining historic site is not the Fountain of Youth, but rather a National Monument called the Castillo de San Marcos. It is the oldest fort in the continental United States built out of a semi-rare form of limestone called coquina, carved out of the sea and dense enough to absorb cannon balls rather than shatter like the wooden forts of the northern colonists. Located on the western shore of Matanzas Bay in the city of St. Augustine, Florida, the fort repelled several sieges from the British in the 1700s.

The bloody, malarial-ridden colonial ages slid like an alligator off a muddy bank straight into the Gilded Age as St Augustine’s legacy families, beginning with Henry Flagler, built the railroads and industries that opened Florida to modern tourism.

Flagler ran a railroad through St Augustine and down to the Florida Keys and Florida’s “Winter Tourist Season” was established with golf courses and winter ballroom dances the talk of the town.St Augustine

Sign up a day in advance for the student led tour of Flagler College highlighting the architectural heritage of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, listed as a National Historic Landmark. Built by railroad magnate, Henry M. Flagler in 1888, the Ponce is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture and was one of the most exclusive resorts of its day.

A surprisingly fun place to visit is just across the street from the historic St Augustine Lighthouse. The Alligator Farm boasting a population of alligators from around the world in a series of ponds beneath a canopy that attracts flocks of white Great Egrets and pink-feathered Roseate Spoonbills much to the delight of birding photgraphers who come for the annual St Augustine Birding and Photo Fest. Harness up to the park zip line and fly over the entire park, literally seeing live crocodilians, lemurs, and tropical birds from above.

Tip #3 Dine like a Local

Settlers from the tiny island of Minorca, introduced the hot datil chile savored by the Mediterranean chefs of long ago and left a legacy to local chefs who craft it into entrees with varying degrees of heat.

The datil legacy can be tasted in Minorcan clam chowder – one of St. Augustine’s signature dishes. Its deep red color comes from the tomato base filled with vegetables, clams and seafood stock, with a little kick from the datil pepper, its key ingredient. The best Minorcan Clam Chowder to be had? According to locals, the St Augustine Seafood Company claims the title.

Care to dine in a swimming pool? The Cafe Alcazar is a favorite locals place for special occasion lunches offering local, organic food. It was once the Lightner Museum Pool. Be sure to check out the photos of the pool along the hallways.

St AugustineMy favorite place for dinner is Michael’s Tasting Room – a casually elegant dining experience with a celebrated chef and passion for exquisite flavors and world-class wines. Michael’s Tasting Room has received numerous honors and accolades. The Wine Spectator has awarded Michael’s Tasting Rooms wine list it’s Award of Excellence for the eleven years in a row.

By J “Kat” Loren

 

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Tips for Touring St Augustine, Florida