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Explore St. Augustine

EXPLORE ST. AUGUSTINE

ST. AUGUSTINE, known as the “Ancient City,” holds the distinction of being the nation’s oldest city where both residents and visitors find a wide-variety of shopping, dining, sightseeing, and lodging options throughout the area. From educational living museums like the historic Castillo de San Marcos and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, to wild animal reserves, and thrilling tours from the sky via biplane or helicopter, the sea, or land (trolley and walking) it’s virtually impossible to run out of things to do in this fabulous city.

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Prefer to be barefoot soaking up some rays with your toes in the sand? St. Augustine’s 15 miles of stunning beaches stretch from just north of the city in Vilano Beach through Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine Beach, Butler Beach, and Crescent Beach just south of the city.

When your day at the beach is done, be sure to check out the great local bars and bustling restaurants, many offering live entertainment that surround this magnificent A1A destination. When you walk the brick-lined streets, see the horse-drawn carriages, centuries-old buildings, impressive fort, and of course explore the attractions, shopping, art galleries, events (including many free options) and much, much more; you’ll know you’ve found a fantastic vacation spot and may never want to leave!

At the end of the day whether you’re looking for a condo/resort, hotel/motel, bed & breakfast, vacation rental, pet friendly,waterfront, or an LGBT property to call home during your stay, you’ll discover why visitors from around the corner and around the world recognize St. Augustine as an inviting and friendly destination for all. If you’re interested in reading more about the recent happenings, here’s a link to our St. Augustine Journal (blog) page.

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ANASTASIA ISLAND/BUTLER BEACH: We offer the following story we discovered on FloridaMemory.com. Millions of visitors and locals alike enjoy Florida’s beaches every year. That privilege however was restricted for many years by Jim Crow laws that prohibited African-Americans from sharing those beaches with their fellow citizens who were white. In some areas, public authorities provided separate beaches designated for use by African-Americans; in other areas private individuals took the initiative. African-American businessman Frank B. Butler responded to beach segregation in northeast Florida by purchasing and opening his own beach on Anastasia Island. Butler, who owned the Palace Market in the Lincolnville district of St. Augustine, began buying land on Anastasia Island in 1927. Over time, he developed a residential subdivision, casino, motel, and beach resort for African-Americans. By 1948, at least eleven African-American-owned businesses operated in the area, and “Butler Beach” was a thriving tourist attraction. We shot this pic on fantabulous Anastasia Island and if you decide to make your way here to explore Butler Beach, head near 96 Minnie St., 32080. Explorers’ Note: Although there is a marker on A1A designating Frank B. Butler Park, when we visited Minnie Street was not marked; beach parking is at Minnie St. and Rudolph Ave.

07-31 ST AUGUSTINE CAMACHEE YACHT YARD 1 OPTCAMACHEE ISLAND: On A1A just across the bridge from Vilano Beach and about two miles north of St. Augustine’s Historic District, we noticed a marker that read Camachee Island so we decided to explore it. There we found a couple of places to eat, boat rentals, sailing, a boater’s store, about a dozen or so shops, a marina, and a waterfront hotel called The Inn at Camachee Harbor. The marina is adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway and about a mile from St. Augustine Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean and according to their website CamacheeIsland.com has 260 slips for boats of all sizes. We snapped this pic from the Camachee Yacht Yard and if you decide to come here and explore, make your way to 3020 Harbor Dr., 32092.

ST AUGUSTINE CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOSCASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS: Coquina rock was likely formed about 2 million years ago (mostly from the tiny coquina clam we still see along the beaches today). As the resident clam died, the shells accumulated in layers forming deposits several feet thick. During the last ice age when sea levels dropped, the shell layers were exposed to the air and the elements. Over time, the exposed shell fragments became “glued” together into a porous type of limestone we now call coquina (Spanish for “tiny shell”). This pic is of a section of The Castillo de San Marcos, one of only two fortifications in the world (Fort Matanzas 14 miles south is the other) built out of coquina. It’s the oldest masonry fort in North America, and the only fort from the 17th century that is still standing. Now a National Monument, there are more than 20 acres here to explore and if you decide to check it out, the address is 1 S Castillo Dr., St Augustine, 32084.

CRESCENT BEACH 2CRESCENT BEACH: We pulled this sea monster of a story from the Smithsonian Institution Archives (http://siarchives.si.edu/). Measuring 18 feet long, 10 feet wide, and weighing more than 5 tons, the carcass of the “St. Augustine Monster” was discovered by two young boys on Anastasia Island in November, 1896 who at the time, reported their findings as a whale. The following year however, it was concluded by the founder of the St. Augustine Historical Society and Institute of Science to be the remains of a giant octopus. Debate continued at varying levels of interest and testing for more than a century until the 2004 DNA tests applied to the St. Augustine sample along with other monster remnants from around the world identified all as the collagen matrix that holds together… wait for it… whale blubber. And while it’s unlikely you’ll find any sea monsters on Anastasia Island today, you will find spectacular Crescent Beach where this pic was taken and if you decide to come here and explore, here’s the address – 6930 A1A South, 32080.

6-1 MATANZAS RIVER 1 OPTFORT MATANZAS: The history of Fort Matanzas National Monument begins with an incident almost 200 years before the construction of the fort; the Spanish massacres of French forces in 1565. The incidents initiated Spanish control of Florida for 235 years and led to the naming of the Matanzas (which means ‘slaughters’ in Spanish) Inlet & River. This pic of the Matanzas River was shot from A1A near the fort. There’s no charge to tour the fort nor to take the ferry over/back but you do need a boarding pass which is issued at the Visitor Center. If you decide to come here and explore, the address is 8635 A1A South, 32080.

NIGHTS OF LIGHTS: Chosen by National Geographic as one of the ten best holiday lighting displays in the world, Nights of Lights in St. Augustine traces its origins back to the traditional Spanish practice of displaying white candles in windows during the Christmas holidays. According to VisitStAugustine.com, candles in the window allude to the fact that Mary and Joseph could find no inn that would give them shelter and when the Spanish put candles in their windows, they were symbolically making room in their homes and in their hearts. For more than 2 decades now, this 144-square-block historic district twinkles with millions of bulbs (each white) creating a stunningly beautiful cityscape. We shot this pic in front of the Tini Martini Bar at the historic Casablanca Inn and if you decide to make your way here too, head to 24 Avenida Menendez, 32084 before the end of January!

VILANO BEACH PIER 1VILANO BEACH: In Vilano Beach on the first Saturday of every month from 4pm (3pm once Daylight Savings starts) until dusk, there’s a Sunset Celebration with music, performers, entertainment, local arts & crafts, vendors, and the opportunity to experience an extraordinary sunset from Vilano Beach Pier and Pavilion (across the bay from the City of St. Augustine). This is a pic of the entrance to the Vilano Beach Pier. The Sunset Celebration is free for all to attend and if you’re coming by land, here’s an address that will bring you very near the pier (254 Vilano Road, 32084). If you’re coming by water, there’s a floating dock with a 4-hour docking limit that adjoins the pier with a GREAT waterfront restaurant/bar called Beaches.

05-18 VILANO BEACH HALEY'S COURT MOTEL OPTVILANO BEACH: Approximately two miles from St. Augustine and nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tolomato River you’ll find the fantastic seaside community of Vilano Beach. Beginning in the late 1940’s and continuing in the 1950’s, small motels and “motor courts” emerged along Vilano Road. According to info we found on StAugustine.com, Newton Haley passed through Vilano Beach as a military man stationed nearby then came back after the war to settle here. Newt built most of the area’s mom-and-pop motels in the 40s & 50s and his holdings included Haley’s Court, noted for its unique signage. Pictured here, the hotel sign is today a historical marker and if you’re interested in checking out the great architecture and wonderful restaurants in this cozy seaside community, make your way near 150 Vilano Rd., 32084.

VILANO BEACH: According to VilanoBeachFL.com, when Henry Flagler brought northern tourists on his railway to his two luxury hotels in St. Augustine, The Ponce de Leon (now part of Flagler College) and The Alcazar (now the Lightner Museum), Vilano Beach was his guests’ oceanfront playground. Ferries brought vacationers about a half-mile over the Tolomato River to Vilano then connected there to horse drawn trolleys that delivered the wealthy visitors to the beach. Fortunately, we can explore this super laid-back beach town today with a lot less difficulty. By car, Vilano Beach is about two miles from St. Augustine via A1A or you can travel about a half-mile between the two points via water taxi @StAugWAXI. We shot this pic from Vilano Beach of this spectacular sailboat coming through the St. Augustine Inlet and if you decide to make your way here too, head to Vilano Beach Oceanfront Park near 10 Vilano Rd., 32084. Explorers’ Note: if you crave a bit of privacy, we suggest making a right when you hit the beach and make your way past the rock jetty.

Following are few links you made find helpful (we certainly have). If you use the links, you’ll be leaving this website and will be redirected to another. Although we’ve found the links quite useful, we’re not making endorsements or claims about the accuracy or content of the information you’ll find there. Castillo de San Marcos; Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park; Wild Reserve; and of course, the Beaches.

INTERACTIVE MAP – CLICK ON THE SUN ICON TO BEGIN



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