St. Augustine: America’s Oldest And Most Photogenic City

November 15, 2019
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Located on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Florida, St. Augustine is known as the oldest city in the U.S. after being founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers.

It’s also known as the most photogenic city and for good reason because of its well-known sites, charming cobblestone streets, historical landmarks and pristine beaches.

The oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. and a National Monument, the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is the focal point of historical St. Augustine.

The historic seawall is located along the bayfront of the Castillo de San Marcos. Construction began on the Castillo in 1672 after the Spanish crown approved it.

Visitors can explore all rooms of the fort. Just don’t touch the 315-plus hundred year old coquina walls. Living history demonstrations happen at the Castillo on various days of the week.

There’s plenty of things to do at the Castillo, from the numerous rooms that once housed soldiers and prisoners, to the large interior courtyard and gun deck, which offers a great view of the city.

Regular daily programs and ranger-led tours are free with admission, as are cannon firings and weaponry demonstrations, which are offered (weather and staffing permitting).

So what’s the best way to visit the Castillo and the rest of the historic city? Hands down it’s via the Old Town Trolley Tours.

For more than 30 years, Old Town Trolley Tours has brought the best of the city to life through what it calls “Transportainment,” a unique blend of transportation and entertainment.

A great value for visitors because it saves them on parking fees, Old Town Trolley Tours features exclusive stops at the Old Jail, Potter’s Wax Museum, Oldest Store Museum Experience, St. Augustine History Museum and Old Drug Store.

Old Town Trolley Tours guests can hop off and hop on at 23 stops throughout St. Augustine.

Old Town Trolley’s Nights of Lights Tour is also a must-do during St. Augustine’s Annual Nights of Lights.

Guests can experience the glow of the season and the more than 3 million lights adorning every corner of the city’s historic district by taking a ride on the trolley tour, which is a holiday tradition for locals and visitors.

Another one of the main attractions visitors come to see is the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, where guests can climb 219 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the nation’s oldest city and the Atlantic Ocean.

For the wild side of St. Augustine, there’s the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.

Founded in 1893, the Alligator Farm is located on Anastasia Island. The Alligator Farm features natural exhibits, wildlife shows and educational demonstrations. It is the only place in the world where visitors can see all 24 species of alligator, crocodile, caiman and gharial.

One of the top draws at the Alligator Farm is Maximo, a 15-foot 3-inch, 1,250-pound saltwater crocodile. Maximo even recently drew the attention of Karen Allen of Raiders of the Lost Ark fame, who fed the largest animal at the park.

For the real adventurous who want to zip through the zoo, there’s Crocodile Crossing Zipline, which is located within the Alligator Farm.

Across seven acres on two challenging courses, brave adventurers will see live alligators and crocodiles right under their toes, tropical birds at eye level and red-ruffed lemurs nearly at arm’s length. More than 50 different obstacles will have guests flying, climbing, and zooming through the zoo.

For the sweet side of St. Augustine, visitors who want a decadently delicious experience
can indulge in Whetstone Chocolate Tasting Tour.

St. Augustine’s “Original Chocolate Tour” led by Whetstone Chocolatiers. Guests will be introduced to the history and making of chocolate and the Whetstone story.

A 4-tiered tasting distinguishes the characteristics of the company’s dark, milk and white chocolate, cocoa nibs and more. Guests can taste freshly made chocolates and confections while they walk through the factory. This tour is for the chocoholic with a discriminating palate searching for the subtleties that define artisan chocolates.

For those who want a swashbuckling good time, there’s the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, which transports visitors back in time to more than 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the height of the golden age of piracy.

The world’s largest collection of authentic pirate artifacts is located smack dab in the heart of historic St. Augustine, directly across the street from the famous Castillo de San Marcos.

The pirate museum is within easy walking distance of the shopping district, the city’s Historic Downtown Parking Facility and it sits along local trolley tours’ route.

For those seeking to stop aging, there’s the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, which details Ponce de Leon’s legendary search for magical waters that could keep him young and vigorous in 1513.

While the story may be a myth, it’s still fun to drink from the fountain at this garden-like park hoping for a miracle. Beyond the fountain, visitors can walk around the pretty grounds and learn about the first Indian inhabitants and see colonial re-enactors build camps and fire muskets. The peacocks that roam here add to the exotic air of the place.

With nearly 500 years of history, including rule by Spain, Britain, and the U.S., St. Augustine is full of sights and attractions that entertain and educate.

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Eric Tiansay is a freelance writer with more than 20 years experience working as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor as well as writing for numerous Christian publications. Originally from Reno, Nev., Eric moved to Florida, where he became a Christian. An avid angler, film aficionado and fitness buff, Eric is an active member of his church along with his wife and five children.

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