Why Go To St. Augustine
No matter where you go in St. Augustine, odds are you’ll stand face-to-face with American history. Founded by the Spaniards in 1565, this town in northeastern Florida is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S. Alongside narrow cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, you’ll find Romanesque Revival-style buildings, many of which were designed by railroad and oil tycoon Henry Flagler, who played a key role in developing St. Augustine and the rest of Florida’s east coast. With so much history, it should come as no surprise that St. Augustine also has a penchant for the paranormal: Many of the town’s top attractions, which are believed to be haunted by Spanish settlers and original inhabitants, tout nighttime ghost tours.
Though the main draw here is the abundance of landmarks that date back to the Spanish occupation, the Ancient City also offers various boutiques, eateries, live music venues, and art galleries. Travelers with children should check out the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum and the St. Augustine Wild Reserve. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the Lightner Museum’s eclectic collection, while shopaholics cannot pass up a chance to peruse the boutiques on St. George Street. And once you’re ready to relax, grab your gear and head to the beach. As with many coastal Florida towns, St. Augustine offers prime access to the Atlantic Ocean and year-round sunshine.
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit St. Augustine is between March and May. During this time, you’ll find fewer people, comfortable temperatures, and low hotel and airfare rates. Crowds are typically at their largest from June to August, while temperatures can drop into the 40s between December and February. You’ll also enjoy favorable temperatures and score accommodation deals from September to November, though these months fall within the Atlantic hurricane season, which starts in June and lasts until the end of November.
What to Eat
St. Augustine sits by three rivers, a lagoon, and the Atlantic Ocean, so you’ll find plenty of top-notch seafood served at the town’s restaurants. Florida seafood specialties found on St. Augustine restaurant menus include grouper, shrimp and mahi-mahi. To sample some of the region’s fresh seafood, pay a visit to popular eateries like Sunset Grille and O’Steen’s Restaurant.
Though you’ll find casual American fare at most St. Augustine restaurants, several internationally influenced cafes, bakeries and eateries are available as well. Some of the town’s most popular restaurants include Casa Benedetto’s Ristorante – an Italian dining establishment – and Mango Mango’s Caribbean Grill & Bar. And on St. George Street, diners can enjoy Cuban classics like pan con bistec (steak and grilled onion sandwiches) and papa rellenas (stuffed fried potatoes) at The Cuban Cafe & Bakery, Spanish tapas at Columbia Restaurant and British-inspired pub fare at the Bull & Crown Publick House.
Getting Around St. Augustine
The best way to get around St. Augustine is on foot and by trolley. Most of St. Augustine’s top attractions are located within the town’s historic downtown, while other sights like the Old Jail and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park can be reached by the local sightseeing trolley. To get to and from Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), the area’s closest major airport, visitors can drive or take a taxi. The Northeast Florida Regional Airport (UST) is a closer option, about 5 miles north of the city, but offers very limited flight options through just a few lesser-known carriers. The city’s Sunshine Bus Company can be used for half of the journey, but travelers will need to use two or more Jacksonville Transportation Authority buses for the other part of their trip. The Sunshine Bus Co. can also be used to get around central St. Augustine. Driving within St. Augustine is not recommended due to limited street parking.
Many of St. Augustine’s shops, restaurants, art galleries and attractions sit within the historic city center, making it easy to get around the city on foot. At the northern edge of the downtown area, travelers will find the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Visitor Information Center, plus must-see spots like the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. The Lightner Museum and Flagler College are located in the southern part of the neighborhood. Connecting both ends of the area is St. George Street, which can only be accessed on foot. To make walking on St. Augustine’s cobblestone streets a bit more comfortable, pack a sturdy pair of shoes.
Old Town Trolley Tours – an independently operated hop-on, hop-off trolley service – stops throughout St. Augustine. The trolley makes 22 stops at or near popular destinations like the Old Jail, the Colonial Quarter and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Two stops are situated along St. George Street. A beach shuttle, which is free for trolley ticket holders and takes visitors to St. Augustine Beach, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, can be boarded at the No. 14 trolley stop.
Trolley tours depart every 15 minutes between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tours are offered every day except Christmas. Basic trolley tours cost $32.59 per adult and $17.77 for children ages 4 to 12 and include complimentary admission to the St. Augustine History Museum. Trolley tour packages are also available, which start at $57.72 for adults and $36.79 for kids and include tickets for popular attractions like the Old Jail and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Children younger than 4 ride for free. Tickets can be purchased on the Old Town Trolley Tours website for the prices listed above. (Tickets purchased at the St. Augustine Visitor Information Center or elsewhere may cost more.)
The Sunshine Bus Company operates six lines, two connector routes and a circulator in and around St. Augustine. Bus fares are $1 or $2 per ride, while one-day passes can be purchased for $2 or $4. Operation times vary by line and other factors, though all run between Monday and Saturday each week. Service is not offered on Sundays and select holidays.
Several taxi companies service St. Augustine and St. Johns County. Taxis can be hailed by phone or on the street. A one-way taxi ride to St. Augustine from Jacksonville International Airport starts at around $75.
If you plan on staying outside of central St. Augustine or traveling throughout Florida, consider renting a car. You’ll likely also want a car on travel days to help you get to and from the airport. Keep in mind that the city’s narrow cobblestone streets and limited street parking will make it a challenge to park downtown. For those who decide to drive, your best parking option will be at your hotel or the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Visitor Information Center Historic Downtown Parking Facility, which is open 24 hours a day and sits within walking distance of St. George Street. Parking in this garage costs $15 per vehicle, per entry. A few metered street parking spaces are also available on a first-come, first-served basis. Rental cars can be found at Jacksonville International Airport or the Northeast Florida Regional Airport.
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