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The first stop on my quick central Florida road trip with my parents was St. Augustine for two days. We knew we wanted to visit Castillo de San Marcos and do a ghost tour while we were there, but that was about it. We went for one day right away, then went back for one more day on our way back to Gainesville from the Orlando area. The first day it was SO COLD and windy, but we still went out and did stuff because, well, we were already there.
We ended up stopping by Fort Matanzas and Castillo de San Marcos, doing a ghost tour, climbing the St. Augustine lighthouse, and walking around town. I really like St. Augustine and was able to see it with the Christmas lights still up. We were there the last day they were allowed up, so it was perfect timing. Instead of just doing a regular post, I decided to do a post on spending a weekend in St. Augustine, which is the perfect amount of time to spend there on a Florida road trip.
What to do in St. Augustine
There are a few things you just have to do in St. Augustine and these are some of the best things to do there if you’ve got a limited amount of time, like a weekend. St. Augustine is also the perfect city for history buffs because of how old it is (it was founded in 1565!)
Wander around the Old Town
This is a must-do, especially since St. Augustine is the oldest city in America. St. George Street is the main pedestrian street with a few more branching off of it. You can find tons of stores, cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants in this area. They tend to be typical tourist shops, but there is a cool used bookstore and a steampunk store if that’s your thing.
Collect Shells At Anastasia State Park
It’s no secret I love collecting and looking for shells. Anastasia State Park is a great place to look for shells and is a short drive from downtown St. Augustine. If it’s nice out, spend an hour or two just relaxing on the beach, too. I haven’t found any conch shaped shells here, but I have still found some cool ones. You can admire the St. Augustine Lighthouse from the boardwalk to the beach here, too.
You know I love Geocaching and this is a great place to try for some more urban caches. There are quite a few Geocaches around St. Augustine to keep you busy for a day if you’re really into it. The state parks are all great for looking for caches, too. They actually mention it on their website and have caches in the park boundaries, which is really cool.
Visit Fort Matanzas
Just outside of downtown St. Augustine on the A1A you’ll find Fort Matanzas, a much smaller and less busy fort compared to Castillo de San Marcos. They have a nature boardwalk through a hammock with a nice little view of a beach and signs talking about the history of Fort Matanzas. There are also ferries that will take you over to the fort. We didn’t take the boat because we missed them and would have had to wait too long and it was just way too cold and windy. But if you love history, I would definitely visit.
Both of these beaches are along the A1A and within five minutes of downtown St. Augustine. No matter which you choose, you can’t go wrong. Both offer fishing piers and plenty of restaurants. Vilano Beach might not be as busy.
See Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest and largest masonry fort in the continental United States on the shore of Matanzas Bay. This is right by St. George street downtown. Construction started in 1672 and finished in 1695 and has been occupied by several different groups. This is a must-see for history buffs.
At the north end of Anastasia Island, you’ll find the St. Augustine Lighthouse. It was built from 1871-1874. The grounds around the lighthouse have been turned into a maritime museum that is open 360 days a year. You can climb the 219 steps to the top for views of St. Augustine and the coast. My favorite part, aside from the view, was learning that every lighthouse is painted different so sailors don’t get confused about where they are.
You can find the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine at the corner of Charlotte and St. George Streets. It was built between 1793 and 1797 with an architectural combination of Spanish mission and Neoclassical styles. If you like history and visiting different churches, you can’t miss it.
If you didn’t do a ghost tour in St. Augustine, did you really go to St. Augustine? Yes, you did, but really, you need to do a ghost tour in St. Augustine. I would highly recommend the Secrets of St. Augustine ghost tour with Dion, which is a walking tour. There are a shocking number of tours to choose from, but I loved ours. With how old St. Augustine is and its history, there are plenty of stories for a lot of ghost tours. You’ll even learn how “saved by the bell” came about. After your ghost tour, you’ll have to go check out Tolomato Cemetary during the day, too. If (when) I go back, I would consider this Ghost Hearse Tour, because how could you not?
Enjoy the San Sebastian Winery
If you enjoy a good stop at a winery, look no further. The San Sebastian Winery is your answer. Just a few blocks from downtown St. Augustine, you’ll find the San Sebastian Winery and its jazz bar with appetizers and live music on the weekends. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a day at the beach or walking around the old town.
The best time to visit St. Augustine
I would have to say winter because of the weather. It isn’t as humid as summer and if you time it right, you might get to see it with the Christmas lights up all over town. If you don’t mind humidity, summer will still be great, especially for the beach. Winter can get pretty cold with the wind, too, so I guess it depends on your preference and what else you’re planning to do.
Where to stay in St. Augustine
There are plenty of options on where to stay in St. Augustine. Whether you like hotels or Airbnb’s, you’ll find the perfect place. If you want to stay right downtown, plan to spend a bit more. If budget is a big concern, stay outside of downtown. We stayed at this Hampton Inn and it was really nice and about a 5-10 minute drive from downtown. And if you want to sleep beachside, then look for a place on St. Augustine Beach like this Hampton Inn.
There you go. That’s the perfect way to spend a weekend in St. Augustine. Whether or not you’re a big history buff, it’s an awesome city to visit with tons of awesome things to see and do.
Have you been to St. Augustine? What is your favorite thing to do there? Do you want to go? Have you done a ghost tour? How was it?