St. Augustine’s Best Family Adventures
This 450 (and counting) year old city provides the ultimate family fun destination in Florida. Located on the Atlantic Coast, St. Augustine offers fabulous beaches, a cool fort, sunset sails, great food and chilling ghost hunts. There’s a little bit of something for everyone. Here are our top ten picks for family adventures in America’s oldest city:
- Castillo de San Marcos: built in the 1500’s from local Coquina rock- you can still visit the quarries on Anastasia Island, this fort protect St. Augustine and it’s inhabitants from many a pirate raid. Read more about our family explorations of the Castillo.
- The Red Trolley Tour: I used to turn my nose up at city tours as a snobby backpacker, but learned my lesson. The upsides are that they are the best way to acquaint yourself with the city and it’s sights, and with the Red Train Train tours, you can park for free on their site (in a city filled with pay-for-parking) and get on and off the train at any of their stops- handy when you want to stop and see something. Just get another train later. The downside? You have to wear one of their “train” stickers on your shirt to let the driver and the rest of St. Augustine know that you are a tourist.
- Ghost Hunting: The 3rd most haunted city in the United States, St. Augustine is the prime place for ghost hunting (both day and night). You can join an official tour like I did with my sister, or go solo. There’s ghosts to be found from the cemeteries (I found one in the daylight), to the Castillo de San Marcos and beyond. Even upstairs at Harry’s (who knew!). Not for young/easily frightened kids. Spirits are real. And it IS creepy. I know from experience!
- Beach Combing: You can find shark’s teeth at Vilano Beach, but if solitude and white sands are your passion, try the quieter Anastasia area. My most favorite beach in Florida is Anastasia Island- now called Anastasia State Park. White sand dunes, no traffic and a long walk from the Atlantic Ocean into Matanzas Bay. Read more about Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine’s pristine beach.
- Sunset Sail: The wind through your hair and salt on your skin. Sailing under the historic Bridge of Lions and out to Matanzas Bay and beyond. Check out our Sunset Sail on the Schooner Freedom.
- Exploring the City by Foot: Those trolleys can’t take you everywhere and sometimes it’s best to step back through time on foot. Explore St. George’s Street from the city gates down to the town square. Check out Aviles Street with their little cafes and take a peek inside Flagler College with it’s jaw-dropping grandeur.
- Conquer St. Augustine’s Lighthouse: ascend the 219 steps for an aerial view of the Atlantic and old St. Augustine. Nautical museum and nature paths to roam at the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse.
- A lesson in history (or time travel): all lessons need not be boring, especially when they are hands on. Both Fort Mendez and the Colonial Quarter are the places where learning history and fun run together.
Staying in St. Augustine for Families
If you are headed to the oldest city for a family stay, unfortunately, a lot of those cute little Bed and Breakfast places prefer couples only, but there are many chain hotels north of the Castillo de San Marcos. Howard Johnson’s there is home to the oldest tree and near the Fountain of Youth. The Hilton located by the Matanzas Bay is great for a splurge, but if you are on a budget, consider heading over the Bridge of Lions. There are many places on St. Augustine Beach for the budget minded and some even offer shuttles into St. Augustine (saves on the parking!). I like Priceline and Expedia for hotel deals, but double check those prices direct with the hotel and you may get a better offer.
Parking in St. Augustine
Parking in the Ancient city can be tricky, but there is a parking garage behind the visitor’s center. The entrance is across from the Ripley Museum. The Castillo and along the Bay offer parking by meter.
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