Oh, how I love St. Augustine, Florida. This small city was never on my radar until Mom recommended it after I became more interested in history. She’d been before when she was the age I am now and, like the amazing mom she is, she wanted to share it with me. Off we went to St. Augustine for a day!
From the winding pedestrian-only cobblestone streets to hundred-year-old canons, the oldest city in the USA oozes charm at every turn.
In my (albeit short) experience, these are some of the top things to do in St. Augustine. Let’s explore!
Where to Stay in St. Augustine
St. Augustine Historic District
In the historic district of St. Augustine, bed and breakfasts are on every corner and in every alley. St. Augustine bed and breakfasts are utterly adorable, with floral-draped balconies and names like Casa de Sueños.
Had I stayed overnight in the historic district, I would have chosen a locally owned and operated bed and breakfast or boutique hotel! In fact, that’s my plan for the next time I’m in town.
St. Augustine Beach
Since we arrived late at night from Georgia, Mom and I chose to drive down to St. Augustine beach and stay near the coast for the night. We found a great price at the Courtyard by Marriott St. Augustine Beach. We loved the décor and location of this hotel, but the beds weren’t Marriott quality.
We both slept well, but my 25-year-old bones got the better end of the deal.
When we woke up the next morning, we went to the beach for a stroll before making the short drive to the historic district. If you’re interested in a beach day, this hotel is a great place to stay for easy beach access!
I personally recommend it, but I wanted you to know about the beds up front.
Parking in St. Augustine
When this post was still a draft, I had one word typed in this section on parking in St. Augustine:
I’d say that sums up our experience with parking in St. Augustine’s historic district.
I know what you’re asking right now: Is there free parking in St. Augustine?
The answer is no. The budget-savvy traveler in all of us is not happy about that, I know.
The best option visitors have is to get to the historic district early and grab a spot in one of the cheaper paid lots in the area. For these, you can expect to spend $10 for all-day parking.
But, if you’re not interested in driving around in circles and want a surefire option, head to St. Augustine’s Historic District Parking Garage. Spots in this garage are $15 per entry.
Try this Amazing Vegan Restaurant in St. Augustine
If you’re vegan like me or if you enjoy a health-conscious, fresh meal, I highly recommend getting lunch at The Sprout Kitchen.
I ordered their vegan “lox” bagel with carrot “salmon,” cream cheese, capers, and lemon juice. I wanted to try a dish like this for a long time, so my hopes were high.
The Sprout Kitchen blew my expectations out of the water. This dish was SO good. The café also has smoothie bowls, juices, soups, salads, and desserts. You’ve got to try it!
If you’re craving some caffeine or your sweet tooth is dreaming of a treat, check out both of these local businesses in the St. Augustine Historic District:
The Kookaburra Coffee
I ordered a regular coffee with oat milk, which was just right. After lots of driving, working, and writing, I was grateful for the boost!
Mayday Ice Cream
At this scoop shop, they offer a dark chocolate almond butter flavor for vegans. Yum!
If you want to see my travels in real time, you can follow along on my Instagram Story!
Things to Do in St Augustine
Castillo de San Marcos
Known colloquially as St. Augustine Fort, the Castillo de San Marcos is a 450-year-old landmark of cultural convergence.
The fort was originally built by Spaniards to protect Florida when it was still their colony and to defend the Atlantic trade route.
Now, you can see where soldiers lived, their kitchens, centuries-old turquoise canons, and several exhibits about colonial life. My personal favorite was an exhibit about women in colonial St. Augustine, who were often real estate investors and passed their holdings from mother to daughter.
There is also a timeline explaining when the fort changed ownership from Spain, to Britain, and eventually to the USA.
Included in this exhibit is a snapshot of the fort’s more sinister history, because it has been used as a prison both for POWs and for Native Americans.
The National Park Service manages the fort due to its historical importance to the U.S., so you can find more info about your visit on their website.
I enjoyed this self-guided tour, but I wouldn’t do it again. It’s more of a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. That being said, I do recommend it and loved how much it helped me understand St. Augustine!
Self-Guided Walking Tour of St. Augustine’s Historic District
If the main event of St. Augustine’s Historic District is the Castillo de San Marcos, the rest of the area is a lovely backdrop to spend a relaxing afternoon.
The map below shows where the Historic District technically is. You’ll see it includes the Castillo de San Marcos, but there’s so much more to explore in the area!
Once you’ve had your fill of the fort, I recommend following your arrow through the pedestrian streets full of shops, cafés, and other historic gems.
You’ll hear live music as you pass by, see flowers draped over balconies, and saunter past relics of the oldest city in the USA. There’s an old schoolhouse you can visit (entry was $6 when we went, but we didn’t go inside) and an old cemetery within a park.
St. Augustine is one of those destinations with fewer structured things to do that ends up being the perfect place to figure it out as you go. Take the pressure off and enjoy!
Things to Do in St. Augustine If You Have More Time
If you have more than one day to spend in St. Augustine, here’s what I recommend to see and do:
- St. Augustine Beach: Spend a day soaking up some rays once you’ve seen the historic district!
- St. Augustine Ghost Tours: I’m not one for spooky stuff like this, but if you are, St. Aug has plenty to choose from.
- St. Augustine Lighthouse: We decided to skip this one and instead went to the second-tallest lighthouse in the USA —Ponce Inlet Lighthouse— but I recommend going to St. Aug’s if you’re staying in the area longer.
- Flagler College Historical Tour: Flagler wasn’t offering this tour to the public on our visit, but it’s at the top of my list for a return trip! It covers the architectural aspect of the Hotel Ponce de Leon, a National Historic Landmark. See the college’s website for details.
Plus: Check out these tours and experiences in St. Augustine!
Bucket List Item: Christmas in St. Augustine
The St. Augustine Christmas lights are known far and wide for their unique blend of holiday and history.
Their Night of Lights festival originated from a Spanish tradition of displaying a white candle in the window during the Christmas season. If that sounds like a holly, jolly time to you, there’s more info on this website!
A return trip to St. Augustine is on my holiday travel bucket list, right below a European Christmas Markets adventure!
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This day trip was part of a larger road trip where Mom and I covered 1,465 miles in 6 days. Whew, this was a jam-packed week! If you’re ever in the same boat and would love some planning assistance, check out my Travel Planning Spreadsheet.
For more general travel tips that can help you plan for a day in St. Augustine, check out these blog posts:Start Here page: a.k.a. the motherboard of my travel planning prowess
5 Steps to Book the Perfect Accommodations
The Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking
8 Tips to Manage Money While Traveling