Exploring St. Augustine, Florida
On our drive to Disney World, we made it a point to take a pit stop to explore St. Augustine, Florida. Known as the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine is home to beautiful architecture, pristine beaches, and centuries of history. I’m a succor for all of those thing, so we HAD to stop!
We only had a few hours for our stop in St. Augustine (which was definitely not enough time) and we crammed as much “quick-seeing” into them as we could.
We started by parking at the Historic Downtown parking facility. It is located right next to the Visitor Information Center, where we grabbed a map of the area, before heading out to walk around. And, when I say walk around, I mean walk around! The Historic Downtown area was built and laid out in the 1500s, so streets are narrow and each block is short, making it easy, close and convenient to park, load the kids into the stroller, and stroll around town. Even Bubs (who is 5) walked the whole time we explored!
From the Visitor Center, we entered Historic Downtown through the original City Gates, erected by the residents of St. Augustine in 1808. They welcomed us, and we strolled right through the heart of the city down St. George Street.
Bubs directed along our way using our map we picked up at the Visitor Center. But, we weren’t in any rush to find specific areas, places, or things, and simply enjoyed wandering through the cute historic city. The narrow streets and colonial architecture made me feel like we had entered another time era! Just imagine what it would have been like in 1565 or 1808!
In our wanderings we came across the Oldest Wooden School House. Built sometime in the 1700s, after 1702 when the British burnt down Spanish St. Augustine, but before 1716 where it is mentioned in tax records, the school was built for the Genoply Family. Juan Genoply was the first teacher of St. Augustine and lived and taught here. The school is built of cypress and cedar wood, and looks pretty good for being hundreds of years old!
Fun Fact: The large chain wrapped around the building was placed there in 1937 to hold the school in place in case of hurricane winds and other crazy weather!
I asked Bubs if he wanted to go to school there, he looked at the little building, looked at me, and said, “That is definitely not a school, Mom.” Haha!
Even though I could have wandered those quaint little streets all day, we decided to visit Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish fortress from the 17th-century.
Considered a National Monument, we were able to use our National Parks Pass for free entrance! If you don’t have a National Parks Pass, I highly recommend getting one. Ours has come in handy so often while on our explorations around the country. They are good for a year and pay for themselves if you visit more than two parks in that time. So worth it!
Read my post, Exploring the Castillo de San Marcos of St. Augustine, for my details and pictures of the amazing, historic fort!
After visiting the fort, we continued our wanderings through the Historic Downtown area of St. Augustine. We had brought bread and jam (my kids don’t eat pb&j, just j sandwiches) and whipped out a few of those for a quick lunch as we strolled down more of St. George Street. So easy!
I was in love with the Spanish colonial style we found throughout the city!
Look at the Mustache Merchants of Man-Crafts shop we passed. We weren’t able to go inside to explore more because they were closed while we were there, but they specialize in making handmade wooden, leather, metal, ceramic & paper goods. If their inside is anything like their outside, I bet it’s one cool place!
We came upon the Grace United Methodist Church, finished in 1887 and later added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The details in the arches and on the steeple were stunning! It is a must-see stop if you are walking by.
We also found the Oldest House. Built in the early 1700s, the house has been around for more than 300 years! It was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1970, and is part of a museum where you can tour it. We didn’t have time for a tour, but just walking past you could see and feel the history of the house.
Have I ever mentioned I LOVE old buildings and history!? I was geeking out haha.
Who doesn’t love a pineapple statue next to a palm tree?!!??
OR, beautiful Spanish moss on a cypress tree?!!??
Well, I DO! The kids and Hubs were always way ahead because I kept stopping to take pictures of these sorts of things!
I mean, come on!!! So pretty!
There were so many beautiful, amazing, exciting things to see and do in St. Augustine, but my most favorite was Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Built in 1889 by Henry Morrison Flagler, the church stands as a memorial to his daughter who died in childbirth while at sea! It has been considered one of the religious wonders of the U.S. and compared to some of the most beautiful churches in the world. And, I can agree! It was stunning!
Coming around the corner of the street, we were hit with its beauty and grandeur. I literally gasped because I wasn’t expecting what I saw.
We were actually able to go inside the church, too. The inside was just as wonderful as the outside. Blue painted ceilings, gilded mosaics and ornate statues. Pictures do not do it justice!
Henry Morrison Flagler was buried beneath the church with his daughter and granddaughter for whom the building was built in memory.
Before leaving town to continue our drive towards Disney World, we stopped to see the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
Standing in the spot of the old Spanish Watchtower built in the early 1500s, the current lighthouse was constructed and finished in 1874. It is one of the few operating lenses left. Tours are available and you can even climb the steps to the very top.
We greatly enjoyed our time in St. Augustine, Florida. Happening upon little places like the Mustache Merchants or the beautiful Spanish fountain is what exploring is all about! Not having a plan, being open to finding and trying new things, and immersing ourselves in the surroundings. I could have spent hours upon hours in St. Augustine just for these reasons, but we had more things to do!
Check out my post that kick starts our trip to Disney World, and why we decided to go “Little!”