Sensational St. Augustine
History, Sand and Old-World Charm
By Patrick Killam
With 42 miles of gorgeous beaches, St. Augustine, Florida, is aterrific summer vacation destination. But it doesn’t have to be all about the sand and surf. Billed as our nation’s oldest city (it was founded in 1565, 55 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock), this popular vacation destination offers so much in the way of captivating history, inspiring architecture and exciting recreational activities that travelers are at liberty to choose their own adventure—if you can narrow it down.
Your choice of lodging will become the hub of your vacation adventures. Whether you’re looking for accommodations with a funky vibe or swanky sophistication, or just a family-functional launch pad, St. Augustine has no shortage of choices to meet your needs.
If it’s the ocean you’re after, the Guy Harvey Resort is a good spot for immersing yourself in life at the beach. Just steps away from the sandy shore, it includes easy access to kayak and paddleboard eco-tours, guided nature walks, fishing charters and parasailing. Along with enviable views, each of the comfortable rooms comes equipped with a microwave and mini-fridge. Kid suites and pet-friendly considerations make this location perfect for the whole family.
If it’s just the two of you, the Carriage Way Inn Bed and Breakfast offers a grand escape. Each room in this charming Victorian house is adorned with warm, jewel-themed colors and elegant antiques. Decadently soft sheets, a pair of plush bathrobes and a decanter of cream sherry add to the intimate feel. Enjoy a delicious complimentary breakfast served tableside every morning and fresh-baked cookies every afternoon. Conspire with the concierge to arrange for champagne and roses, and, if you choose to venture out, a cozy carriage ride through the city’s beautiful streets.
The World Golf Village Renaissance Resort will get sports fans into the swing of things. Guests enjoy easy access to two golf courses designed by legendary golf champions, as well as the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum and the Village’s own IMAX theater. This familyfriendly resort offers luxurious and modern amenities, including pillowtop mattresses, Internet access and a sparkling outdoor pool. Movie lovers are invited to “eat, drink and be Murray” at the golf-themed Murray Bros. Caddyshack diner, where meals are made from scratch and movie memorabilia adorn the walls.
Once you’ve settled into your digs, it’s time to explore. Old Town Trolley Tours will help you navigate St. Augustine’s historic downtown, filled with Spanish architecture, brick-lined streets, great restaurants and museums and boutiques aplenty. Enjoy the fully narrated 90-minute tour in one sitting, or take advantage of the “hop on, hop off” privileges. The orange and green open-air trolleys stop at 22 fascinating locations all over the city, making it convenient to disembark, explore an area to your heart’s content and then catch a ride to the next stop on your agenda. Your paid tickets include a free shuttle to the beach and the Alligator Farm Zoological Park, as well as admission to the St. Augustine History Museum.
Travel back 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the exciting Pirate and Treasure Museum. Not only does this museum boast over 800 authentic, one-of-a-kind pirate artifacts, it’s also chock full of interactive experiences to plunge you into the golden age of piracy. Whether hunting for treasure or seeing a real treasure chest, tying seaworthy knots, lighting a cannon or raising the Jolly Roger, visitors young and old will discover their inner swashbucklers on this self-guided tour.
Be sure to investigate the world’s first Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, too. Located in the historic Castle Warden, the museum houses hundreds of oddities, visual illusions and bizarre-but-real artifacts collected from all over the globe. Grab a seat on the popular Red Train Tour, a one-hour sightseeing jaunt that visits over 100 points of interest, as your knowledgeable conductor shares the city’s historical facts and fascinating stories with energetic humor.
Upend your history adventure at Escape U, a live-action game for couples, families and friends. You’re placed in a themed room with 60 minutes on the clock. Using a variety of clues, puzzles and physical objects, you work together to solve the mystery and get out of the room before time runs out. Faithful recreation of landmarks like the Old Jail coupled with erarealistic interactive activities allow participants to relive the city’s rich history in a unique and unforgettable way.
You’ll likely find yourself famished from your exciting escapades. Fortunately, St. Augustine offers a satisfying selection of eateries for every appetite.
For American fare cooked up just the way you like it, visit the casual One Twenty Three Burger House. Choose from the popular house burgers or build your own stack from a long list of tasty toppings. Not in the mood for a burger? Satisfy your hunger with a wood-fired pizza, a signature sandwich or a selection of flavorful wings. The whole family will delight in sweets from the dessert bar.
St. Augustine Fish Camp pairs the freshest of seafood and sides with lively Southern hospitality. The lunch and dinner menus feature dishes that run the gamut from fried gator tail to specialties like Fish Camp Shrimp and Grits with white wine butter sauce. There are plenty of choices for non-fish lovers and kids, too.
The Maple Street Biscuit Company attacks the appetite from a different angle, offering “comfort food with a modern twist” with its unique breakfast and lunch sandwiches and homey atmosphere. Thick, flakey biscuits are made fresh all day, every day, and stacked with creative combinations of all-natural meats, cheeses, and homemade jellies, jams, gravies, and sauces. Other hearty delights include biscuits and gravy, made-from-scratch waffles, Smoky Mountain Mac ‘n Cheese, and “field to fork” salads.
From its lush, tropical patio seating to its classy, understated dining room, O.C. White’s Seafood and Spirits offers an elegant ambiance that is hard to resist. Fresh seafood is the star of the menu, but chicken dishes, gourmet burgers and hand-cut filet mignon are also showcased. Enjoy O.C.’s Sunday brunch, or spend an evening relaxing with a refreshing cocktail accompanied by live music and the sunset view.
Make no mistake, the appeal and timelessness of St. Augustine will forever alter your summer vacation expectations. You’ll find yourself wanting to return again and again, and every time you do, you’ll find a whole new adventure awaits.