St. Augustine is Florida’s living museum of New World history. It is 120 miles, or a two-hour drive from Orlando, but the distance between the two cities is better measured in centuries, not miles.
St. Augustine was nearly 300-years-old before the first settlers arrived in Central Florida. It was 400-years-old beforeWalt Disney gave the first thought to building a theme park in a Florida swamp.
Florida’s first tourists came ashore at St. Augustine in 1513. Juan Ponce de Leon and his Spanish fleet were in search of gold and the legendary “Fountain of Youth”. He named the land “La Floridad”.
The actual settlement of “San Augustin” didn’t occur until 1565. Despite wars, fires, and hurricanes, St. Augustine has been around ever since, making it the oldest permanent settlement in the New World.
History beckons at every turn in the “Old City”. A weekend tour leads you back through four centuries of Spanish, English and U.S. history. On foot or by bike is the recommended way of getting around. The streets are narrow, and finding a parking space is, in itself, a historic event.
You can also get around town via several tourist trams that run through the historic district, although the $12 fee seems a little steep. Better yet, after a night out for dinner, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride along the Avenida Menendez before heading back to your room.
Check our page of historic sites in St. Augustine for suggestions of things to do and see.
The charm on the “old City” is best experienced with a stay at one of the many Bed and Breakfast Inns that can be found in the historic district. Other than Key West, St. Augustine probably houses the widest selection of B & B’s in Florida.
The rates range from $80 to $175 a night, and on weekends most require a two-night (Friday & Saturday) reservation. However we found some spots for one-night stands in the “Old City”. Check our listings and links for more information on accommodations.
Just about every weekend there are special events scheduled in St. Augustine, most of them focused around historic dates or special holidays.
St. Augustine is perhaps Florida’s only coastal city where the beach is not the main attraction. St. Johns County has more than 40 miles of coastline, and the beaches of Ponte Vedra and Anastasia Islands are relatively uncrowded, even on weekends.
A number of championship golf courses and resorts can be found on Ponte Vedra and in the St. Augustine area. But, at least for your first trip, leave the clubs and sunscreen at home. Florida has lots of great beaches and golf spots. It has only one St. Augustine, and it is truly unique. Spend a weekend as a time traveler through 433 years of Florida history.