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Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Visitors Guide to St. Augustine - Sites, Video, and Where To Eat!

A long weekend in historic St. Augustine, Florida was just what I needed to kick off 2018.  Some sunshine, exploring, and Katie Wander-esque sites to see.  Add in some fantastic food and a road trip to see some manatees and you have a wonderful four days away.  Why visit St. Augustine?  The history and the charm of visiting the oldest continuously settled City in the United States, St. Augustine.  Stay for the food, the alligators, the historic lighthouse, and the free boozey tours.  

You probably know my favorite way to give you a taste of a new place is A) through a post like this and B) through a recap video.  Here is my video recapping a fantastic four day in Northern Florida.  

And after that video got you all excited to visit, here is my guide to whats worth seeing, whats worth eating, and the few extras I did not have time to do (but maybe you do!). 

Perfect for the young - and the young at heart.  While alligators are the main attractions, there is a ton to do here including zip lining over the alligator swamps, feeding the young crocodilians, and visiting the other bird and mammal exhibits.  A great way to learn about a popular Florida native and see every species of crocodilian. 

Free tour.. free booze... amazing food and crafted cocktails, do I even need to say more?  A great distillery in a historic ice plant.  Take the 45 minute tour and sample a few cocktails and their rum, vodka, gin, and bourbon. 

You can't come to the city who claims to be the oldest city in America and not learn some history.  Castillo de San Marcos fort is the perfect place to stroll on a sunny Florida day and learn all about the area.  Stay for the cannon and musket demonstrations.  If you miss it, your pass is good for seven days, be sure to catch this historic reenactment before you go!

You had the liquor, but how about the wine?  San Sebastian offers a free "walking" tour through their winery.  Sample a few wines before heading to the "Cellar Upstairs" to enjoy jazz, food, and sunshine on their gorgeous roof deck.  Don't forget to take a bottle (or two) home. 

I find it best to even out all that eating and drinking with something physical.  A trip to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse is the perfect way to stretch your legs and enjoy some fresh air.   219 steps and a lot of fun facts at all the landings.  There is also a great museum and gift shop.  View from the top isn't bad either. 

This is a classic way to see the old city.  Hop on and off as you tour the city and some of its sites.  With 23 stops, there is a ton to see in St. Augustine and this just may be one of the best ways to see it all. 

Walk the Pier and St. Augustine Beach
Did you even go to Florida if you didn't walk on the beach?  Take a walk out to the end of the pier.  Soak in the salty air and dip your toes in the sand.  This is northern Florida, but it's still Florida! 

If you have time...

I was only in the city for a few days and let's be honest, you cant do it all.  Here are some other highly ranked attractions in the area. 

  • Lightner Museum
  • Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
  • St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
  • St. Augustine Wild Reserve
  • Potter's Wax Museum
  • Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Let's Eat!

Comfort food, brunch, low key and down to earth is the vibe of Gas Full Service Restaurant.  Stop in for Sunday brunch and try their quiche or their cinnamon roll special (true story, I came in for a salad and left with this cinnamon roll it looked too good to pass up).   Be sure to wash it all down with a mimosa ;)

This was the last thing I had in St. Augustine and I think it was the best.  Smoked fish dip, mushroom burger and a pork sandwich with homemade chips were absolutely amazing. And their crafted cocktails?  Amazing.  Best meal I had in St. Augustine (all that free booze may have been to blame). 

We got a group together to have dinner and drinks at Black Fly.  I wanted something local with some Florida Flair.  The vibe inside was trendy with amazing art and a lively scene.  However, it was hard to find local on the menu (salmon, Maine lobster, New England scallops, etc).  Regardless the (non) local food we all had was amazing.  

When a deli has 76 reviews and 4.9 stars- you go. You have to go.  And I am so glad we did.  Amazing subs for less than $10.  Fast service geared towards "to-go" as the only real dining space is outside.  This Italian style sub was the first thing I ate in St. Augustine and it set the bar high.  Insanely affordable and by far the best sandwich iv'e had in a long time.  

When I can, I always prefer to book an AirBnb.  They are generally more affordable with better accommodations.  I have rented houses that came with bikes, even a house that came with a paddleboard.  The best part?  Having space to move and a kitchen to cook a few meals, helping even more with trip costs.  Here are a few different AirBnb options in the St. Augustine Area.  Prices below were for 3 nights, Saturday to Tuesday in January, 2018.  Book through this link for $40 off first reservation
  • Just for 2 : Link ($350)
  • Beach Bungalow: 5-10 min drive to downtown Link ($458)
  • Downtown options   Link 1    Link 2   Link 3 ($579)
  • Walking distance (10 min or less) Link 1 = ($563) Link 2 Link 3 = ($523)  Link 4 =($743)   Link 5 =($625)
  • Stay on a Sail Boat!  Link  =($426) 1/13 to 1/16

RV Rentals
Another great option is a camper van. Solve the issue of a rental car and lodging in one easy fix! Have the ability to travel at your own pace and always having everything you need with you. Outdoorsy is like the AirBnb of camper vans and a great place to find an RV in your area.

        Outside the Area 
        If you have time, I highly recommend a side trip out to Crystal River to swim with the manatees.

        Its about 2:45 from St. Augustine and will take you right across Florida to the west coast.  Stop at La Hacienda in Ocala for some amazing Mexican food on your way, and cap off your manatee with some local seafood at Charlie's Fish House Restaurant. 

        Charlie's Fish House Restaurant -- Crocodile Bites and Conch Fritters- simple local seafood

        La Hacienda Restaurant and Supermarket -- Affordable (and amazing) Mexican food.  Again, the ratings. 4.5 stars out of 583 reviews. Everyone thinks its great.

        There you have it.  A trip to the old city with a day excursion out to Crystal River to see the manatees (and eat amazing Mexican food).  A whole lot of charm and plenty to do for everyone in your group.

        I finally finished all my St. Augustine posts just in time for the next trip, a week in Banff, Canada.  Check back in as the palm trees are traded for the Canadian Rockies. 

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