Last Updated: 16th Feb 2011
by – Alex McCarty, Tour Manager, North America
The richness of its small town charm is matched only by the depth of its place in history. St. Augustine is like a living, breathing monument to the bridge between the past and the present. With its lazy harbor and small beaches, this town of only 14,000 makes a perfect setting for strolling the cobblestone streets of Old Town, camera at the ready, doing a little window shopping, or looking for ghosts after twilight. After Don Juan Ponce de Leon discovered what he believed was the Fountain of Youth in 1565, the Spanish staked their claim in what has been reborn into a fabulous resort town that has kept travelers returning throughout the centuries!
The world famous explorer Don Juan Ponce de Leon was the first European to set foot in what is today called St. Augustine. He was ostensibly searching for the three G’s: gold, glory and God. What he found upon arriving were tribes of Native Indians guarding a glimmering artesian wellspring he believed fit the description of the well-rumored Fountain of Youth.
One drink from its spring, as legend goes, would bring eternal life to all who sipped, and the discovery would make him rich and bring glory to all of Spain. He wasted no time having a settlement established there, and St. Augustine has been filled with citizens ever since, making it America’s oldest city.
Until the early 1900’s St. Augustine had seen very little in the way of visitors coming to enjoy the warm weather and the Spanish moss hanging from all the old drooping oak trees, and that was when a man named Henry Flagler entered the picture. An extremely wealthy oil magnate, Flagler moved himself and his ailing wife from the cold winters of Ohio to the favorable climate of Florida, and became so impressed with the potential of St. Augustine he began sinking his fortune into the town.
He built a first-rate hotel, city hall, a train station and a railroad, in order to better serve the rich friends he had invited to enjoy the city with him. Many of these landmarks to this day are still standing, and like much of the city, all still bear his name, all the while maintaining its Spanish architectural heritage.
Sure, there’s the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, and the Golf Hall of Fame, as well as an assorted offering of shops in Old Town, but the characters who supposedly haunt the city after dark may be the best reason to visit St. Augustine, if for no other reason than to test your nerves!
The city has the oldest cemeteries in America and several socialites, pirates, Native Americans and various other citizens who are not resting in peace.
Guided tours are offered by a few different companies in town, all of which are more than willing to take a visitor to different parts of town, telling stories, taking photos and generally trying to scare the crap out of you! Probably the best way to spend the day in town is by taking an Old Town Trolley Tour, which will maximize the time you have there and give you the best opportunity to see as much of this beautiful sub tropical city as you can.
by – davidg, Tour Manager, North America
The oldest city in America is quaint and very unique. Start off your night with a St. Augustine Ghost Tour! St. Augustine’s history is rich and the city is said to be one of the most haunted in the country. The ghost tour gives you a chance to experience the super natural side of the town as well as see the small cobblestone streets and shops! After the ghost tour head on over to Scarlet O’Haras for drinks and food! This nightlife spot provides patio and indoor seating, multiple bars and fireplaces for an atmosphere that fits the pace of the town!
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St. Augustine is my favorite place in the whole world! We lived there off and on during the early 70s, and stayed out on Anastasia Island at the Kon Tiki resort. I loved the haunted feel of the city, and the fort of San Marcos, and especially the Trade Winds and the old buildings and narrow streets. History lives there, and I cannot believe that no one else has bothered to put a comment here. We went back to visit one time in the 80’s, and I would love to go back again and see it and the beaches again. One can renew one’s soul in St. Augustine. If I could choose where to live and where I would like to die, it would be in St. Augustine, Florida.