St Augustine – America’s Oldest European Settlement
Many people complain that Florida has no real history. It’s true, it does not have much compared to Europe, but the history it does have is very impressive. For example, did you know that America’s oldest continuously occupied settlement is St Augustine in Florida?
The city was founded in 1565 by Pedro Menendez de Aviles on the feast day of St Augustine, hence the city got its name. In 1702 the city burnt down and was rebuilt in the shadow of the huge Castillo de San Marcus, Many of these 300-year old buildings can still be seen today, lining the pretty narrow streets of the old town.
In 1883, railroad magnate Henry Flagler visited St Augustine on his honeymoon. He was so impressed with the area he returned again and stayed in the grand building of the Ponce de Leon Hotel, now occupied by Flagler College. Visitors began to follow his example and soon St Augustine was a popular tourist destination, as it continues to be today.
St Augustine Attractions
Modern-day visitors will find St Augustine is a charming and unique town with beautiful buildings, interesting attractions and a fascinating historic district. It is a compact city, easy to walk around with plenty of lovely cafés and high-end restaurants. Trolley tours are a great way to enjoy an informative tour of the main historic sites with an informative guide.
Stroll to the old fort overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, which is spanned by the Bridge of Lions. Explore the Colonial Spanish Quarter nearby with its charming higgledy-piggledy buildings including the oldest wooden schoolhouse. This cypress and red cedar building is encircled by a massive chain that anchors it to the ground during high winds! Take a ghost tour of the city or visit the incredible Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attraction nearby.
Enter the Old City Gate and wander along the cobblestone streets to the Plaza de la Constitution. St George Street is a traffic-free area with a collection of historic buildings and small shops selling ice cream, chocolates, gifts and antiques. Some of the interesting attractions include the Spanish Quarter Museum which has seven reconstructed buildings and costumed interpreters demonstrating crafts and skills from the mid-18th century.
King Street, St Augustine
In contrast, King Street is the heart of the more modern city. Lined with beautiful Spanish-influenced architecture, it is very pleasant to stroll along and admire the buildings such as Government House with its Spanish-style loggias and Zorayda Castle with its Arabic motifs, a replica of the fabulous <a href=” http://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/ “> Alhambra Palace </a> in Granada, Spain.
Further along King Street the Hispanic-Moorish building which was once the Alcazar Hotel now houses the impressive Tiffany glass and antiques of the Lightner Museum collection.
St Augustine is a delightful city to visit on a day trip if you live in north Florida, or for longer if you are visiting from afar.
I go into more detail in my book “20 Best Historic Homes in Florida” available in B & W and Color versions. It is also featured in my book ” 20 Best Florida Beaches and Coastal Cities “. Both the above are also available in the Kindle Store/