St. Augustine is the oldest occupied settlement in the United States. Founded in 1565 by a Spanish admiral, it has continued to establish itself as a land of firsts. It has been home to the first ice company and the first uniquely Florida-grown distillery, among other historic places to see on vacation.
St. Augustine is layered with history over four centuries, so finding your favorite time period to relive is a breeze in this culturally rich city. Stop by these top 5 must-visit historic sites during your next vacation as one of the top St. Augustine things to do.
1. Castillo de San Marcos
It’s no surprise that this coastal city has some old-fashioned protection. This location is a stronghold, built by the Spanish somewhere around 1680, to protect it from foreign ships and pirates. Resting on 20.5 acres next to Matanzas Bay, it is now a National Monument and park. The original gate still stands, while the walls have been reconstructed to their previous glory. Check out the exhibits featuring weapons, colonial life, history, and much more with the whole family. The kids will have a great time, and everyone will learn about St. Augustine’s humble European beginnings.
2. Old City
After visiting the wall that protected it, be sure to check out Old City in St. Augustine as one of the best places to see on vacation. This area offers cobblestone streets, historic landmarks, and some original buildings for historic enjoyment. Enjoy a historic walking tour or a tour by horse-drawn carriage. Use the sightseeing trolley train, if preferred, to capture the essence of this city’s foundation. Make sure to see the Old St. Augustine Village, which is a city block devoted to houses that date back as far as 1790. You’ll get chills upon viewing these splendid homes and learning about their past inhabitants. A city this old holds its own mysteries and fascinating historical stories.
3. The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum
If houses are your interest, you’ll want to make sure you see the Ximenez-Fatio House before leaving town. Built in 1798, this is a beautiful coquina stone home, used as a boarding house for a plethora of guests. It is now a public museum, highlighting how life was lived in Florida in the 19th century when Florida first experienced an influx of tourists. Each room holds a different story about the boarding house guests, including soldiers, pirates, botanists, and much more. Discover your favorite type of visitor and their history through a self-guided tour, and take in the beginning of Florida’s booming tourist industry.
4. Fort Matanzas National Monument
After you’ve visited Castillo de San Marcos and witnessed the life of the Florida citizen, head over to this monument to read more about the life of the soldier. This monument rests on the south shore of Matanzas Bay and provides visitors with a history of Florida’s violent past. The fort ramparts are preserved here, as are the officer’s quarters, the original cannons, and the gunpowder room. There is a 100-acre park here for the enjoyment of the visitors, including a boardwalk weaving through the mangrove forest. View the barrier island ecosystem for a genuine mix of ancient history and modern natural beauty.
5. Colonial Quarter
The Colonial Quarter is a newly renovated attraction that delights visitors with blasts from the past. It is a living museum showcasing how people lived in the city in 1740 when St. Augustine remained under the control of the Spanish. Visitors tour this two-acre museum, shopping in historical buildings and enjoying a meal in some of St. Augustine’s oldest restaurants. The historic De Mesa Sanchez house, built in 1740, still stands here, and a number of tours are available. Talk to the actors who will respond in period talk, and learn more about America’s oldest city in the Colonial Quarter at this top thing to do during a St. Augustine vacation.