Recently, I was asked about points of interest in St. Augustine. There is just no way to see everything in one trip. So I'll be happy to break it down into four areas, things to do, dining, lodging and travel. Some may overlap, some will cover many categories. By no means is this a top ten or twenty in any particular order, just places I fully recommend in our beautiful city. In the first of our series let's begin with
THINGS TO DO
Always do these first because it's imperative whenever you arrive at a new city, you never ask where you should go. You'll always get the tourist traps. Always ask where the locals are and where they go. Many times people just tell you what's popular and in many cases they themselves do not do those things.
Here at Transfer we have and are not limited to: History tours, food tours, ghost tours, kids tours, pub crawls, haunted pub crawls, specialized food tours, we work with a golf cart company for easy transportation and even work with a horse and carriage company. This is the best way to get the lay of land for the rest of your trip so its important to be specific and ask away so your questions will provide a complete experience.
We are known for our history, being the nation's oldest continuously occupied European continental community. There are museums from most eras of St. Augustine's history and all focus on a specific time period itself.
The Lincolnville Museum: The best Civil Rights-era and Black history museum in our town, it's very comprehensive and it is in the heart of the Lincolnville Historical District of 1886. This is a perspective many will never get to see as most tourists congregate in the Spanish Old Town section. Yes, the work of Dr. Robert Hayling, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lives on, and in full spirit. It's also very close to The Corner Market, a lovely local business which used to be the first Black library in North FL.
The Ximenez-Fatio House: Many people often overlook the entire 1800's in favor of the Spanish or Flagler history. This is a boarding house museum off Aviles, the oldest street in America, and it was built in 1798. It's the best way to see what life was like as everything in the house is from the time period. It also had three consecutive female owners which was unheard of in those days.
The Lightner Museum: Speaking of the Gilded Age of Henry Flagler, I recommend all four major buildings of the time period located on King and Cordova. Such as Flagler College, The Villa Zorayda and the Casa Monica Hotel. But the Lightner is the museum to see with collectibles from all over the world from the time of the Great Depression, and a three story pool unlike anything anywhere. Truly an American palace, explore the Spanish Moorish Revival style that houses many wonderful shops, bistros and City Hall.
The most underrated of all incredible landmarks, the religious art, architecture and history are amazing if you can see them. Some are only open limited times but most can be visited and have to be seen to be appreciated. They range from different time periods and denominations.
Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church: Henry Flagler had this constructed in less than one year so he could inter his daughter in its mausoleum. Upwards to 1000 builders worked on this magnificent structure which draws from multiple nations and even religions. It's not open often to the public so check ahead although they do have an active service. Boasting one of the largest pipe organs in America, it's my favorite church.
St. Photios Shrine: With apologies to the Cathedral Basilica, the Trinity Parish and our other wonderful buildings of worship, there is nothing like Greek Orthodox cloister hidden in plain sight at the Avero House on St. George. The story of the Minorcans, Italians and Greek people and their journey to America is powerful. Many cultures have arrived over the years and many of these old families are still here. You'll even learn the genesis of a true St. Augustine staple, the datil pepper.
Mission Nombre de Dios: Or "The Cross," it's where we the Spanish landed in 1565. It not only marks the first Catholic Mass ever on this continent, the 212 foot cross also marks the site of the first Thanksgiving, between the Timucuan natives and the Spanish sailors. 58 years before Plymouth Rock. It is a peaceful and well-maintained site, it features the first Shrine as well, a church and museum, a graveyard and carries a silent ambiance that makes it easy to connect to what it must have felt like hundreds of years prior.
There are so many things to visit and go to in this little town and yes, I'm aware churches and museums are considered attractions. Nevertheless there is a ton of stuff to do in our beloved city so here's the ones that immediately come to mind.
St. Augustine Beach: If you're not from anywhere near the beach then this is a must at any time of year. So much of our culture is based on the sea, as the town was organized for its shipping routes. A gorgeous beach with an extended pier, the waves are pretty and the sunset is wonderful as folks travel there at all times of day. Especially in the Summer it is recommended, because yes, it's Florida.
The St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum: Built in 1873, one of our most visible landmarks, the Lighthouse is 219 steps to the top but there are several landings to rest in between. The Maritime Museum is a comprehensive look at life from those times, and its even considered the second most haunted lighthouse in America for the spirit-minded enthusiasts. They provide daily tours and a Dark of the Moon tour as well.
I recommend taking a show at the wonderful St. Augustine Ampitheatre, visiting the fascinating animals at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, and walking St. George St, Aviles, Uptown and Lincolnville, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention
The Castillo de San Marcos or The Old Fort: Located near the horse and carriage stand, the most prominent and oldest structure in St. Augustine, our Fort is built of Coquina, took 23 years to build, and not only warded off multiple attacks and a siege from Charleston, served as the prison that housed Chief Osceola of the Seminole Indian Nation. Over 300 years old, it's surprisingly easy to appreciate what it must have been like to live and work inside this fort, and is basically a must for those that have never been to St. Augustine.
There are multiple places I did not mention from churches to attractions to museums to districts to shops and will endeavor to cover them in future installments. Thank you for reading and it's always good to take stock of what we have to offer - and St. Augustine has no shortage of memorable things to see and do.