By Vanessa Slade and Christy Fischer

ny visit to Florida will be greatly enhanced by a trip to venerable St Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the United States. Founded in 1565, (some 55 years before the Pilgims arrived) by Spanish explorer, Pedro Menendez de Aviles. Menendez found the harbor on the Matanzas River that led up to the Indian village of Seloy on September 4th and named the area after the Catholic patron saint, Saint Aug

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of downtown St. Augustine

Bed & Breakfasts

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Historical Museums & Attractions

Tours & Sightseeing




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Visitor Info

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The City soon became a center of Spanish control along the eastern seaboard, but eventually went back and forth many times between Spanish and English rule. Its colorful history includes episodes such as being burned by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, and the building of the enormous Fort Castillo de San Marcos in 1595. Another fort, Matanzas, was completed in 1742. Both are open to the public.

The Oldest Wooden
Schoolhouse in the U.S.,
on 14 St. George Street.

The Oldest House in America
photos courtesy of St. Johns County CVB

There's a wonderful sense of antiquity to be found here, and there's naturally lots to see and do. Fascinating walking tours of the Oldest City, led by guides in period costume, take you down the narrow streets. In fact, the whole downtown area, comprising 144 blocks, is a treasure trove of beautifully preserved historical sites, tracing American history back to its earliest days. Some of the most popular sites are:

    The Oldest House in the US. ( 1727)
    The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse (1763)
    Spanish Military Hospital (1791)
    Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth (1903)
    Mission of Nombre de Dios (1565)

Narrated sightseeing tours are also available on delightful open-air trolleys or antique trains and horse-drawn carriages, and cruises are available on scenic Matanzas Bay. There are 26 charming Victorian and Spanish-style Bed and Breakfast inns, some centuries old, in St. Augustine, such as the elegant Augustin Inn, and the lovingly restored St. Francis Inn. Click here to access our St. Augustine Bed & Breakfast listings.

Discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513, the
Fountain of Youth contains foundations and
artifacts from the first mission and colony.
photo by Christy Fischer

Of course, any mention of St. Augustine must include Ponce De Leon's quest for the "fountain of youth." This fascinating National Archeaological Park contains foundations and artifacts from the first St. Augustine mission and colony, the Landmark Spring, the Cross of Discovery, burial grounds of the first Christian Indians and a planetarium.

There are over 40 annual festivals and events, many featuring costumed historical re-enactments that are great fun to watch.

St. Augustine has restaurants and bars on almost every block of the historic old city. Eat at one of the many colorful area restaurants like Harry's, A1A Ale Works, or the Conch House. Afterwards take a stroll along the riverwalk in the evening's scool ocean breeze.

For the shoppers, there are beautifully adorned stores along St. George Street, Cordova Street, and Charlotte Street with Christmas ornaments, kids' toys, Spanish tile objects, clothing and artwork. Some of the more unusual and fun stores include the all Irish store, the flag store, the "Datl Do It" hot pepper store, and the candle carving store.

500 years of history is celebrated in cos-
tume along the streets of St. Augustine
photo courtesy of St. Johns County CVB

Finding St. Augustine
St. Augustine is located south of Jacksonsville, and north of Daytona Beach. The city is twenty-four miles long. From I-95, take exit 95, and head east.

Living in St. Augustine
Although St. Augustine's fame is derived from its history, the area is also known as being home to companies like Grumman, and Tree of Life health foods, unique schools like Flagler College, the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, numerous vacation homes, and fine golf courses.The grand opening for the Golf World Hall of Fame will be held in May, 1998 at World Golf Village in the St. Johns Project (Exit International Golf Parkway off I-95, north of St. Augustine).

f you are thinking of re-locating to the area, there are numerous subdivisions, and condominiums in the area, along the St. Johns River, or the beaches -- Vilano Beach, and Crescent Beach. Two of the better known developments are Ponte Vedre, and the St. Johns Project.

Castillo de San Marcos, built by the Spanish
between 1672 and 1695, is the oldest mason-
ry fort in the continental U.S.
photo by Christy Fischer

One of the splendid things about living in St. Augustine is that although the area is small, there are no lack of amenities. You will never feel isolated in this relatively small community (only 100,000 people) with its 7 golf courses, 32 schools, 5 conference facilities, close proximity to 200 restaurants, 2 upscale large communities, several major corporations, a world-class historic district, and lots of cultural opportunities.