We were hosted by St Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau as a press trip. As always, opinions are our own.
Saint Augustine was written on my bucket list of places to visit and at the end of 2017, we finally went there! While we were only there for a few days, we could’ve easily stayed longer than a week.
There is so much to see and do in Saint Augustine but if you’re only there for a short time, we’ve put together this city guide for 72 hours (or less) in Saint Augustine, Florida.
Saint Augustine is the oldest city in the United States that has been a settlement continuously occupied, which makes it even more of a unique place to visit. It got its name when the Spanish admiral, Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived to the Florida coast on the Feast Day of Saint Augustine in 1565. He was instructed by King Phillip II to colonize the territory.
Many people road trip to Florida and this historic city is an excellent stop on any Florida road trip itinerary. But if a road trip isn’t an option, you can fly there into Jacksonville International Airport (which is 45 minutes away from Saint Augustine by car) and use a car rental, taxi or airport pickup/drop-off service.
Where to Stay
There are many places for all budgets to stay in Saint Augustine, and so many cute bed and breakfasts in the historic center! We stayed at Jaybird’s Inn – a very affordable hotel especially if traveling with family. We loved the location, it wasn’t directly in the historic center but super easy to get to and less congested with tourists. Plus, one of the Ripley’s Red Train stops is directly behind it, and we used that train a lot for sightseeing!
Vilano Beach is also less than a 10 minute drive for a quick and easy beach trip. Just make sure you get to the beach by car, we do not recommend trying to walk.
Depending on where you stay, you can most likely walk to the sights. We recommend buying a multi-day trolley pass with Old Town Trolley Tours or Ripley’s Red Train. The passes allow you to hop off and hop on at each sight without having to drive.
If you do want to drive to see the sights, be ready for a lot of traffic (car and foot) and expect to pay a lot for parking. We were told that parking costs $15 per car at the Historic Downtown Parking Facility next to the Visitors Center, and it really adds up when parking at pay per hour parking locations.
Where to Eat
You will not go hungry in Saint Augustine. There is something for everyone and if you’re a foodie, be ready to walk into foodie heaven!
Ice Plant Bar
My mouth waters just thinking about the meal we had at Ice Plant! Seriously, if there is only one spot you could dine at in this city, go to Ice Plant Bar, I promise you will not regret it.
The bar itself is in the original building of an old ice plant in Saint Augustine which served as a freezer of ice for the locals who did not have ice makers at home. It’s also upstairs from the distillery so you could take the distillery tour then go upstairs for a meal or drinks.
They serve a seasonal menu and when we went, we ordered very tender braised beef short ribs with delicious whipped polenta as our main course. We also recommend their Cedar Key Clams, and Beet & Apple Salad for appetizers.
They also make really good cocktails and have the best staff and service. Whatever you order, I’m sure it’s going to be delicious!
The Prince of Wales Restaurant
We fell in love with this British pub in a cute English-like home. The interiors also invoke a pub feel with its wall to wall dollar bills where people left their mark (including us!)
We ordered the classics: Fish n Chips and Chicken Curry – they were delicious!
The Spanish Bakery & Cafe
Homemade everything! You can order soups, pastries, sandwiches, empanadas, salads or how about one of each?
When to Visit
Things to Do and See
There are about one thousand things to do and see in Saint Augustine. Ok, I may be over exaggerating but it sure felt like it. The options are endless! Here are some of the things we did in the city.
There are a number of beaches in the area, but for us, Vilano Beach was closest to our hotel for a quick beach retreat. We took Hwy A1A crossing the scenic coastal bridge and took a right turn (it’s the end of the highway so you could only drive left or right.)
On the way to the beach front that we visited, you’ll pass Vilano Beach Town Center which has a Publix and small eateries and then you’ll see Vilano Beach Oceanfront Park which is next door to The Saint Augustine Beach House on Vilano Road.
There is a public bathroom and parking is also free!
Castillo de San Marcos
This 17th century fort has seen many battles, raids and sieges. We spent a few hours exploring the fort and there are cannon fire demonstrations held daily. Check out our video!
Whetstone Chocolate Tasting Tour
Got a sweet tooth? You will receive a generous helping of chocolates on this daily tasting tour! Learn about the chocolate making process and the Whetstone legacy while tasting the best chocolates in Saint Augustine.
What was once a luxury hotel, now turned college, Flagler College (aka Ponce de Leon Hotel) taking a tour of this beautiful campus is a must! We felt like we were transported to a palace in Spain. The architecture here is amazing.
This is the very first Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Odditorium. You will see all sorts of odd things from Robert L. Ripley’s collection such as shrunken heads, a 300 year old mummified Chinese monk Chang Tung, an exact replica of Michelangelo’s “David” and so much more.
Saint Augustine Distillery Tour
If you are a foodie or feeling adventurous in the drinks department, you must join one of the tours at Saint Augustine Distillery. This tour is free and it runs every 30 minutes. You of course must be 21 years of age or older to do the rum, bourbon and gin tasting at the end, but other than that, all ages are welcome to tour the facility.
Built in 1888 by Henry Flagler is the former Alcazar Hotel, now turned museum. It too has beautiful architecture and a museum of antiquities. We absolutely love the bell towers, they look so other worldly!
Saint Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
Located on neighboring, Anastasia Island, this is a real working and historic lighthouse. Take a look around the museum and if you’re brave enough, climb the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse for an inspiring panoramic view of the city. Please note there is a height requirement for climbing the lighthouse steps.
If traveling with kids, there is a cool shipyard play area. Tristan really loved it!
Saint Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
Also on Anastasia Island, this zen like zoological park is home to crocodiles, alligators, exotic birds, lemurs, snakes and other reptiles who suffered habitat loss. This zoo is constantly working on conservation efforts to ensure the survival of these animals.
Old Town Trolley Tour’s Ghosts and Gravestones
Take a ghostly twist and turn of tales on this tour of the historic city. Stop at Tolomato Cemetery where visitors and locals often say it’s a hot spot for paranormal activity. You’ll also visit the Old Drug Store, Potter’s Wax Museum for an interactive story of famed pirate Andrew Ranson’s execution and the Old Jail which was featured on SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters.
Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
Take a drink from the fountain of youth – literally! This archaeological site was first explored by Juan Ponce de Leon. It was at this very site when Colonial America was first established before others followed.
You can drink from the natural spring in the Spring House which encompasses this famous water containing 30 minerals.
Built by Franklin W. Smith as his family winter home, this very cute home was inspired by Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. We recommend using the audio guide when touring the home, each room has its own unique story.
The Pirate and Treasure Museum
Did you ever wonder what it’s like to fire a cannon? Or ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt? Well you can do that at the Pirate and Treasure Museum and maybe become an honorary pirate at the end of your visit.
Where do you like to go for a quick getaway? Comment below and share this post!