Set right on the Atlantic and touted as the Nation’s Oldest City, there really is no place quite like St. Augustine. With all sorts of historic attractions and a whopping 42 miles of sandy beaches, it’s no wonder why visitors flock to this gem of a town all year round!
Founded in 1565, you’ll find all sorts of historic sites peppered around town. Jump on the hop-on-hop-off Old Town Trolley Tour, and you’ll have the chance to see all sorts of popular attractions. Be sure to stop off at the Castillo de San Marcos, which is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, as well as the Historic District’s Colonial Quarter, a living museum where you can see what St. Augustine was like from the 16th to the 18th century, and so much more!
For those looking for a relaxing beach vacation, you can spend your days soaking up the Florida sunshine at the four miles of white sand beaches that line Anastasia State Park. Or, if you want to do something a bit more active, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, wildlife watching, and kayaking along St. Augustine’s bays, estuaries, and rivers. When the night falls, head over to historic St. George Street in the heart of the Historic District to sample the city’s best farm-to-table restaurants, vibrant bars, and nightlife venues.
With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in St. Augustine for you. Stick to these fun and unique St. Augustine bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring the Nation’s Oldest City!
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15 Best Things to Do in St. Augustine
1. Step Back in Time in the Colonial Quarter
Located on St. George Street in the Historic District, the Colonial Quarter is a must on any St. Augustine bucket list. The sprawling living museum offers visitors a glimpse of what life was like for residents in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.
You’ll have four different areas to explore: the 16th-century First City, 17th-century Spanish Fortified Town, 18th-century British 14th Colony, and 18th-century Spanish Garrison Town. From marveling at the construction of a ship to checking out musket drills and cannon firing celebrations, this is the ideal family-friendly St. Augustine attraction! Plus, the Colonial Quarter is home to a range of themed period restaurants where you can refuel when hunger strikes.
While you can explore the Colonial Quarter on your own, it’s well worth taking the guided Historic Adventure Tour. It’s included in the ticket price, so you might as well! On the tour, you’ll get to hear tales of the city’s past and partake in all sorts of fun hands-on activities.
2. Go Shopping, Drinking, and Dining Along St. George Street
Spending some time strolling around St. George Street is easily one of the top things to do in St. Augustine. Take a stroll along the pedestrian-only area, and you’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants, and art galleries to pop into. Plus, this is the Nation’s Oldest City, so you’ll find all sorts of historic sites in this part of town!
If you’re looking for a glimpse into the area’s history, be sure to stop off at the Oldest Wooden School House to see what school life was like during Spanish Colonial times. After that, pay a visit to the Old City Gates and the well-preserved 1750 Pena-Peck House.
If you just feel like window-shopping, save an hour or two to stroll through St. George’s Row, the Spanish Plaza, and Heritage Walk. Along the way, you’ll find all sorts of souvenir stands, art galleries, and old-timey candy stores if you want to bring a treat back home with you!
Once you work up an appetite, you’ll be spoiled for choice on St. George Street. And if you’re looking for something fun to do once the sun goes down, you’ll have plenty of rooftop pubs and historic taverns to choose from.
3. Hop on the Old Town Trolley Tour
If this is your first time in the city, the award-winning Old Town Trolley Tour should be at the top of your St. Augustine bucket list. The tour stops at 22 of the city’s most popular attractions. Plus, the entire thing is narrated by impressively knowledgeable and certified guides that will pepper you with all sorts of fun facts about the Nation’s Oldest City.
The seven-mile loop will take about an hour and a half. But if you don’t feel like completing the entire thing in one go, you can hop on and off for free the entire day! The ticket price also gives you free admission to the St. Augustine History Museum and shuttle use to the beach, the Alligator Farm, and your downtown hotel.
Among the many sites you’ll see are the Old Jail, the City Gates, St. George Street, and the Fountain of Youth. So, it’s ultra-convenient if you plan to tick off St. Augustine’s most popular attractions during your trip!
4. Take a Tour of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Castillo de San Marcos is one of the top St. Augustine attractions for history buffs. Built by the Spanish from 1672 to 1695, this is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States! The site also happens to be one of two forts in the world made from coquina (a semi-rare limestone made up of broken shells).
The fort was constructed after a 1668 attack by an English privateer destroyed much of the city. Castillo de San Marcos has since endured multiple British attacks and a devastating fire in 1702. Fast forward to today, and it now stands proud as a national monument.
Take a tour of the compound, and you’ll learn all about how the fort was used as a prison during the American Revolution and how it was later used to imprison Native Americans. Time your visit right, and you’ll get to watch one of the cannon demonstrations that are held at various times throughout the day.
5. Have a Sun-Soaked Beach Day
St. Augustine boasts 42 miles of sandy beaches, so it’s no wonder why this city is one of the most popular beach destinations in Florida. From kayaking to surfing to fishing, you can easily spend your entire vacation at the beach!
Located 5 miles from the center of the Historic District, St. Augustine Beach is one of the most popular beaches in town. With crystal clear water and a 2-mile stretch of white sand, St. Augustine Beach will not disappoint.
Explore the area, and you’ll also find a park with sand volleyball courts, a fishing pier, a children’s splash zone, and a sea turtle nesting site. Once you work up an appetite, Harvest & Reel, Sunset Grille, and Salt Life Food Shack are all just a short stroll from the sand.
Located north of St. Augustine Beach, Vilano Beach is another popular beach. Plus, you’ll find some of the best hotels in St. Augustine clustered around this area. If you want to take a scenic kayaking trip or spot local wildlife, be sure to pay a visit to the nearby 1,600-acre Anastasia State Park.
6. Grab Dinner and Drinks at Ice Plant Bar
If you’re looking for fun things to do in St. Augustine, you should definitely enjoy at least one meal at Ice Plant Bar. The restaurant is housed in a 1927 ice plant complete with the former plant’s original bridge crane, which was used to pick up huge blocks of ice that were then broken up and sold to local businesses and fishermen.
The industrial-chic Art Deco bar and restaurant is impeccably decorated and boasts original architectural details and reclaimed wood and metal trimmings to create 1920s vibes. But there’s more to Ice Plant Bar than good looks!
The restaurant is all about celebrating local history, culture, and ingredients, so it’s fitting that the menu boasts an excellent selection of farm-to-table dishes. Think local shrimp ceviche, grass-fed Wagyu beef burgers, and smoked local fish dip.
While the food is some of the best in town, the real highlight of Ice Plant Bar is the cocktail menu. Each drink pays homage to local culture and is chilled with a perfect hand-carved ice cube from one of the massive 300-pound blocks of ice!
7. Go on a Scenic Kayaking Excursion
St. Augustine is a kayaker’s dream come true. With rolling rivers, wildlife-filled estuaries, and beautiful bays, there are plenty of scenic areas to paddle around!
St. Augustine is home to the 1,600-acre Anastasia State Park, which just happens to be one of the best places to kayak for beginners. You can opt to paddle around in the ocean or head into the Salt Run (an estuary tidal marsh) for calm waters and plenty of birdwatching opportunities. If you’re looking for more of a thrill, you can also paddle north to the Matanzas River.
For excellent birdwatching and wildlife watching, Faver Dykes State Park is your best bet. This is also a Florida Designated Paddling Trail. Alternately, Helen Mellon Schmidt Park is a hot spot for locals where you can easily paddle up to the Pellicer Creek Aquatic Preserve.
Or, if you can’t decide where to go, there are plenty of eco-friendly tours available all over town! St. Augustine Kayaking Tours is a popular pick for beginners. You’ll start your journey right in the Historic Downtown area, learn all the basics of kayaking, and paddle past Castillo de San Marcos, the Fountain of Youth, and the Great Cross!
8. Pay a Visit to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
The black and white striped St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum just happens to be one of the most iconic St. Augustine attractions. Perched on the banks of the Salt Run Lagoon, the 165-foot-tall lighthouse was built between 1871 and 1874 and is the oldest remaining brick structure in the city.
The still-functioning lighthouse doubles as a museum. Take a tour, and you’ll learn all about the area’s 500 years of maritime history – from shrimping to boat building to underwater archeological finds. There are also plenty of hands-on activities, daily programs, and nature trails perfect for adults and little ones alike. And if you’re feeling peckish, there’s an excellent café on the grounds.
If you’re down for a little bit of exercise, we highly recommend taking the 219 steps to the top for sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Salt Run lagoon, and the St. Augustine skyline. If you love a good view, this is definitely a must on your St. Augustine bucket list!
9. Check Out the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse
Located on St. George Street, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse is easily one of the top attractions in St. Augustine. As the name implies, this is the oldest wooden school building in the United States and the oldest surviving wooden structure in St. Augustine.
Although it remains unknown when the schoolhouse was built, it dates back to at least 1716. Self-guided tours of the property offer a unique glimpse into what life was like for school kids in Spanish Colonial times.
Explore the schoolhouse, and you’ll find an animatronic teacher and student that will give you a history lesson about the school and detail what daily life was like for the co-ed students. You’ll also come across plenty of informational signs, old books and supplies once used by the students, and interesting exhibits in the kitchen. Outside, you’ll find a rebuilt outhouse and an old well, as well as beautiful gardens dotted with statues paying homage to famous educators.
10. Sip Local Wine at the San Sebastian Winery
Tucked away on the banks of the San Sebastian River, San Sebastian Winery is one of Florida’s top wineries and well worth a spot on your St. Augustine bucket list!
One of the best parts of visiting San Sebastian Winery is that tours and tastings are completely free seven days a week. The complimentary tours are optional but are surprisingly informative and entertaining – so it’s well worth checking out. After that, you’ll have the chance to sip, swirl, and savor a range of reds, whites, and dessert wines.
If you want to do as the locals do, The Cellar Upstairs Bar and Restaurant is perched on the rooftop of the winery. It’s only open on the weekends, but it’s a super popular spot where you can sample San Sebastian wine, listen to live music, and look out over the St. Augustine skyline!
While there’s no pressure to buy, you can pick up a bottle or case from the gift store. You can also have custom-made gift baskets made. From gourmet cheese to chocolates to wine accessories, these baskets make for the perfect souvenir to savor back at home!
11. Explore Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
If you’re looking for one of the most unique things to do in St. Augustine, look no further than the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Located just a mile from the heart of town, on the Matanzas River, this is the site where Juan Ponce de Leon is rumored to have first landed in 1513, marking the beginning of the oldest successful European settlement in the US!
Set on 15 waterfront acres of land, the attraction is a working archaeological site that explores both the first Spanish settlers and the native Timucuans. Explore the grounds, and you’ll find replica villages, artifacts from excavations, and a watchtower boasting sweeping views of the area.
You’ll also have the opportunity to take a sip of water from Ponce de Leon’s famed Fountain of Youth, gaze up at the stars at Navigator’s Planetarium, and check out one of the many informative exhibitions. Be sure to take some time to take a scenic stroll along the Riverwalk and feed one of the peacocks strutting around the park!
12. Peruse 19th-Century Works of Art at the Lightner Museum
Set in the former Alcazar Hotel, the Lightner Museum is one of the top things to do in St. Augustine for art lovers. The 1887 Spanish Renaissance Revival-style building is an attraction in its own right and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum boasts three art-filled floors that are brimming with American Gilded Age pieces of art, décor, and artifacts.
On the first floor, you’ll find the Victorian Science and Industry Room, which features everything from Native American artifacts to a small Egyptian mummy to beautiful examples of Victorian glassblowing. Head up to the second floor, where you’ll find amazing samples of Victorian art glass and stained-glass work from Tiffany and Co. Finally, the third floor is filled with impressive paintings, sculptures, and furniture.
Depending on when you’re visiting, you’ll be treated to rotating exhibits and a range of informative tours. If you’re hungry or want to refuel with a coffee, there’s an excellent cafe near the hotel’s former pool.
13. Learn Something New at the Fort Mose Historic State Park
When it comes to history, St. Augustine is best known for its role as a Spanish Colonial town. But pay a visit to Fort Mose Historic State Park, and you’ll learn all about the city’s little-known role in Black history in the US.
The first legally sanctioned free African settlement in the US was established in the park in 1738. The Spanish, who were in power in St. Augustine at the time, convinced many British-owned slaves to escape to Florida from nearby Southern plantations with the promise of Spanish protection. In the years following, many of the escaped slaves settled in Fort Mose and fought in battles against the British alongside the Spanish.
The park is now part of Florida’s Black Heritage Trail and was designated as a US National Historic Landmark in 1994. It’s well worth taking a tour of the site to learn about this lesser-known piece of history and explore the archeological finds – including the site of the original fort. The grounds are also spectacular and offer a range of kayaking and birdwatching opportunities.
14. Take a Cruise on the Schooner Freedom
If you’re looking for a family-friendly activity, sailing on the Schooner Freedom is one of the most fun things to do in St. Augustine. You’ll have the chance to hop aboard an authentic replica of a two-masted 1900s blockade runner, which also happens to be the only tall ship in St. Augustine.
What makes the Schooner Freedom one of the most unique things to do in St. Augustine is that the ship is owned and operated by the ultra-friendly Zaruba family. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can join one of their Day, Romantic Sunset, or Enchanting Moonlight trips. They also offer unique excursions from Full Moon cruises to the festive Nights of Lights sails.
No matter which journey you choose, you’ll have the chance to learn about local wildlife and marine animals, learn about St. Augustine’s maritime history, and have a great time mingling with the Zaruba family and your fellow passengers. Plus, the Schooner Freedom is pet-friendly if you want to bring your furry friend along!
15. Commune with Nature in Anastasia State Park
Set across Matanzas Bay from the heart of St. Augustine, Anastasia State Park is a mecca for nature lovers. If you’re looking for an epic beach day, the 1,600-acre park is home to four miles of white sand beaches and plenty of kid-friendly swim areas. But Anastasia State Park offers much more than beautiful stretches of sand!
There are a variety of scenic trails and pathways perfect for all ability levels. Plus, the park just happens to be part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, so you’ll see all sorts of birds during your trek, including osprey, eagles, painted buntings, and warblers. If you want to explore the area on the water, there are ample opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and boating.
For a taste of history, the 14-mile-long barrier island is also home to the picture-perfect St. Augustine Lighthouse and Marine Museum and the 1742 Fort Matanzas National Monument. And if you’re hungry, head over to St. Augustine Beach and sample fresh sea-to-table dishes at one of the many oceanfront restaurants.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in St. Augustine. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Nation’s Oldest City?
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