This year my husband, Tim and daughter, Lilly and I decided to journey to St. Augustine, Florida for a fun and history filled beach vacation!
I highly recommend spending a day in downtown St. Augustine exploring the numerous shops and restaurants as well as the history of the city. It is awe inspiring to be walking on streets and seeing houses and merchant shops that have been there since the late 1500s. Many are still lived in and/or used for business today. The main street for shopping is St. George Street and the side streets around it. Downtown is very walkable. We parked at the Memorial Presbyterian Church parking lot near Flagler College. Parking is $10, cash only for all day. We found this to be one of the most reasonable places to park and all the money goes to the church. If you are lucky, there is some free parking on side streets but a lot of it is meter parking or restricted to residents only with parking permits.
Flagler College (photo curtsey of visitstaugustine.com) is a huge part of the city. The shops and houses surround it and there are tours you can take of the college and its grounds. We did walk around this building and it is simple breathtaking in person. The students are used to tourists walking around taking photos.
One place that we really liked was Stubbees. This is a wonderful shop on Charlotte Street that sells small batch local honey including flavored honeys such as Bourbon Orange, which is wonderful to say the least. They also sell their own brand of lip balms, creamed honey and several honey beauty products. Another sweet shop we liked was Zenos World’s Most Famous Taffy on St. George Street. They make the taffy and it is so fresh and soft! I was truly amazed at the numerous flavors they have. You can buy it by the pound, or you can get one the boxes already filled. They also have chocolates and other sweets as well as taffy. They even let you try a piece!
We spent a day exploring the St. Augustine Lighthouse in the morning and that afternoon visiting the Fountain of Youth Park and Mission Nombre de Dios and the Shrine Our Lady of La Leche. While visiting there, one can spend time praying and walking to different sites placed on the sacred acre. The sites are laid out like a rosary. There are also graves and memorial trees planted with plaques to honor those who have passed away. The Shrine and Sacred Acre are located very close to where the first Spanish settlers landed in 1565 to establish the city of St. Augustine. Not far from the Shrine is the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and historical site. You do have to pay to see the park, but parking is included with the price of admission. The park is well worth seeing! I was very surprised at how much I learned about the settling of St. Augustine as well as history about the Native Americans who lived there.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is worth taking the time to see. They have turned the lighthouse keeper’s house into a museum with scale models of the various types of sailing ships and a wonderful miniature lighthouse that reminded me a lot of Sophie Blackstall’s book Hello, Lighthouse. They also have a wonderful shop where you watch volunteers build real boats like the ones the lighthouse keepers used to rescue shipwrecked sailors. There is a wonderful playground area for little kids to climb and play as well as walking trails to take to see something of the local fauna. We spent easily 2-3 hours there. They do offer free parking and it is in the shade!
Castillo de San Marcos along the Matanzas Bay is a National Park and is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. It is well worth the price of admission and the price of metered parking. If you keep your receipt, you can return as many times as you like for 7 days! Lilly loved seeing the cannons on the top level of the fort and the views of the bay and the town are breathtaking.
This is a photo of one side of the Castillo from the roof top.
A great place that we found for free was Fort Matanzas National Monument. Every day weather permitting you can take a mile-long ferry ride out to the fort. The stay is 45 minutes long and a National Park Ranger is your guide for the whole trip. This was the second defense for St. Augustine and was built much later than the Castillo de San Marcos. The Fort Mantanzas also has hiking trails and a nice little gift shop.
Great places to get a meal or even better homemade ice cream!
Red Frog & McToads Grub-n-Pub has wonderful food. We loved the shrimp and they even do breakfast in the morning with very fluffy pancakes!
If you are in the mood for real Irish food check out Meehan’s Irish Pub & Seafood House. They are wonderful. The service is great, and they give huge portions.
Tedi’s Olde Tyme Ice Cream is really yumy! They are on St. George Street. Lilly and I stood outside of the building under the awning eating ice cream while experiencing a normal afternoon rain shower. It was a great way to cool off on a hot afternoon.
Coneheads Ice Cream is located along the A1A Beach Blvd. They have a huge selection of flavors to choose from and they make their own waffle cones and bowls. They only take cash! We went there twice during our vacation.
We had a blast at Fiesta Falls Mini Golf! They even sell ice cream treats for you to enjoy while playing mini golf. We went at night and it is a magical sight to see.
The best part of St. Augustine is the beach! I loved being able to be out on the beach and walking in the surf looking for seashells. If you go in April like we did, beware of jelly fish! Numerous jellies washed ashore with each tide the entire time we were there. The water is a bit cold, but it is great for walking and getting your feet wet. The best time to be there is in the summer when the Atlantic is much warmer and you can go swimming in the ocean without freezing. The Pier is a fun place to visit. You do have pay $2 to go out on to the pier itself. It is worth it. The cost of admission goes to keep the pier in good repair. They have a nice beach there and a splash area for little kids to keep cool as well as a grill and bait shop.
I can’t wait to return to St. Augustine!
Written by Maria Parker, Children’s Librarian at the Erlanger Branch of the Kenton County Public Library