With its great distinction as the oldest city (founded in 1565) in the U.S., St. Augustine, Florida is unique in its mix of Old World European charm and modern flavor.
With 450 years of history under its belt, the city indeed has much in historic sites and landmarks for visitors to see. On the other hand, if you had to pick the top 4 must-see sites, the places below near our St. Augustine resort are sure spots for thousands of tourists annually. If you’re interested in absorbing some of this rich history while on vacation here, read on for a list of some of the St. Augustine historical landmarks you won’t want to miss!
Formerly the Alcazar Hotel, Lightner Museum at 75 King St. is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was a popular hotel built in 1888 but is now a full-fledged museum boasting one of the most enviable collections of 19th century art in the United States.
The building’s exterior, a prime example of Spanish Renaissance Revival style, is a visual treat by itself. Housing attractions such as an Egyptian mummy, a model steam engine, and Victorian glassblowing, the Lightner Museum is a favorite among tourists. Everyone can enjoy the art, antiques, and other curiosities housed here mostly from the Gilded Age It’s open daily year-round from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm except on Christmas Day.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument at 11 South Castillo Dr. is the oldest masonry fort in the nation and tells the story of our nation in its change of hands from Spanish to British to Confederate States of America to United States of America.
The fort dates back to 1672, when the first stone began the construction of this originally Spanish fort. Briefly taken over by the British in 1763, it was reclaimed through treaty in 1783, and finally ceded to the United States in 1821. The historic fort has changed possession 6 times, all peacefully through treaty.
Run by the National Parks Service, it is open daily year-round except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day from 8:45 am – 5:00pm. Find this National Monument on 11 South Castillo Drive.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
The oldest city in America also boasts the oldest church in the state. Built from 1793-1797, Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine at 38 Cathedral Place features an interesting façade mixing Spanish mission and Neoclassical architectural styles. It continues to function today as a cathedral and is the seat of the Catholic Bishop of St. Augustine.
Now one of the St. Augustine historic landmarks, the Cathedral continues to serve the area’s spiritual needs, and is the site of many weddings each year. It is free to visit, and open year-round from 7:00 am – 5:00 pm. All tours are self-guided.
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Another Spanish fort, Fort Matanzas located at 8635 A1A S. was built in 1740 to protect the Matanzas Inlet and the rear entrance to St. Augustine. While Castillo de San Marcos served as the main defense line for the city, the Matanzas Inlet was used by Gov. James Oglethorpe of Georgia to besiege the city for over a month in 1740. Today, the fort is maintained as a National Monument by the National Park Service, along with the surrounding salt marsh and barrier islands.
Its most famous for being built in 1742 to defend St. Augustine from British attack. The name “Matanzas” or slaughters is closely tied to St. Augustine’s founding since city founder Pedro Menendez de Aviles killed 134 French Huguenots on it shores in 1565. Admission as well as the ferry to the fort is free. It is open year-round 9:00 am – 5:00 pm except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
A Storied Past
There is something special about visiting a historical site, walking the places that our predecessors have walked, seeing the sights that they have seen, feeling that window to the past from our own point of view. As the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine history stretches back to before the United States was founded.
When on vacation on the Florida coast, make sure you visit the eye opening St. Augustine historic sites listed above and more. There’s something for everyone to enjoy in St. Augustine.
Contact The Ocean Gallery today for more information about things to do in St. Augustine – or, click around our site to see the amazing vacation rentals that we have for you. We can’t wait to see you soon!