Along highway 95, into Florida and past Jacksonville, on the eastern side facing the Atlantic Ocean, lies the oldest and most engaging city in the United States. Known for its 43 miles of pristine beaches, its 19th century architecture, and Spanish influence, lies the timeless beauty of St. Augustine. More than 20 years before the English settled Roanoke in Virginia, and 42 years before Jamestown Virginia, St. Augustine became a permanent settlement in 1565 thanks to the Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles. While some from Quebec City, Canada might argue, St. Augustine is truly the oldest city in North America. St. Augustine boasts the oldest standing wooden school house, and is home to the first ever Christian mass held in North America. Its history is as rich as its beauty. However, its allure doesn’t only come from being the oldest city, it comes from its way of life and tribute to it’s historical past.
Also referred to as the “Ancient City”, St. Augustine makes you feel as though you have traveled back in time. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, greets you as you cross over the Bridge of Lions and into the old city. The monument is a timeless Spanish fort that was once the subject of ghost stories on NBC’s once popular “Unsolved Mysteries”. Across from the fort, lies the entrance to the city gates, two pillars that welcome you into the old district. Every night, people stroll along its corridors, enjoying the cool salty air, and stopping to shop at any one of the small stores or boutiques. The fort itself took over 23 years to build and the city gates, and fort, are made from “coquina”, a stone made of corals, sand and sea shells. Walking along the fort, you’ll read about the history of this incredible fortress. From its beginnings as a Spanish settlement, to its occupation by the British, and its eventual succession from the Union in the American Civil War, there is an abundance of history to learn and read about. The old city itself is both engaging and relaxing. There are several tours and guides that are willing to take you around to see the beautiful architecture and rich history. For those of you interested in all things spooky, St. Augustine boasts a number of ghosts as its residents, and there are specially guided tours willing to show you the resting place of some of these lost souls. There is one unique aspect of the old city that you don’t often see in North America; the respect and preservations of its history is of utmost importance. There are no billboards adorning any of the streets or within city limits of the old city. Despite the fact that a number of its buildings were built in the early 1960’s the importance and influence of Spanish appeal is ever present. There are museums, and other national monuments that are all rich in history.
When deciding to vacation in Florida, it is always best to enjoy everything it has to offer. St. Augustine is no more than 40 minutes from Jacksonville, and easily within driving distance. Its long and beautifully sandy beaches are never over crowded. From fishing, snorkeling, diving, golfing, or simply going for a leisurely drive along the Intracoastal waterway, there is no end to the number of things you can do when visiting St. Augustine. It’s appreciation for its rich history and old time charm, make it an ideal vacation destination.