St Augustine, Florida – The oldest city in the United States.
The City of St Augustine, founded by the Spanish in 1565, claims to be the oldest continuously occupied city in the continental United States. It is located on Florida’s Atlantic coast in the northeastern part of the state. We visited this interesting city with our young children many years ago, but at the time there was so much else to see that we missed a lot. In November of 2021, we made another visit on our own.
Such an old city is steeped in rich history. For example, at different times it has been governed and fought over by the Spanish, the British and the Americans. It was the capital of Florida in the early 19th century before Tallahassee became the state capital. With so much to see, it's best to plan ahead and determine what sights you particularly want to visit, especially if you are only going to be there for just one day, like we were. To see everything would probably take two days. We got hold of a tour map from TrolleyTours.com which is online and chose the places we wanted to see in advance.
Here's the link to the map: https://www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine/map.
There are 22 places listed on this map. The trolley can be a fun way to see the city because you don't have to worry about parking which is a challenge at some of the venues. Tickets cost $32.59 per person, if you pay in advance, otherwise they are $40.70. They do offer package deals that include complimentary hotel shuttle services.
THE LIGHTHOUSE was built in the late 19th century and one can climb to the top from where it is said that spectacular 25-mile views across the city and ocean can be enjoyed. There was no elevator, so this involves climbing 219 stairs, which equals 14 stories. Your octogenarian and septuagenarian correspondents declined to climb on account of old age and thus missed out on the views. Yet the lighthouse is apparently haunted, so this reluctance even to attempt the climb probably avoided increasing the ghost population. The lighthouse was used to look for Nazi submarines lurking off the Florida coast during the Second World War. For further information, www.Staugustinelighthouse.org .
|Map of St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum Park|
|St. Augustine Lighthouse|
|Lighthouse use today|
|WWII Coast Guard Barracks|
|1876 Keeper's House Exhibits|
|L- Maritime Center R- Artifact Conservation|
If only this tree could talk, what stories it
could tell! These days it stands in a
hotel parking lot. It reminds one of the
Cotton Tree in the middle of Freetown,
Sierra Leone as described in another post on this website.
PONCE DE LEON’S FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH is a 15-acre waterfront archaeological park and is probably Florida’s oldest attraction. Guest books date back to 1868. The park is located next to The Old Senator. It is said that, on his 1513 expedition to Florida, Ponce de Leon was searching here for the Fountain of Youth, a mythical spring supposed to restore the youth of those who drink it or bathe in it. There is no evidence to support the story that this is what Ponce de Leon was looking for. If he was, it seems that he didn’t find it, because Florida now hosts more old people than anywhere else. Thus, it appears that the Fountain of Youth has yet to be found even though the park does contain a spring. One can learn more about it and about much else at www.fountainofyouthflorida.com .
|Castillo De San Marcos|
CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS. It is the oldest stone-built fort in the continental United States and is sited right on the waterfront. Unfortunately, we got there late in the day when it was closing. Sadly, we've never seen the inside, but Pat got lots of pictures of the outside. The Spanish governor began its construction in 1668, after its wooden predecessor and indeed the rest of the city of St Augustine was burned to the ground by English pirates. The new stone fort proved to be impregnable. In the centuries that followed its construction it was never taken by force, while control of the fort often peacefully changed hands by treaty or negotiation between opposing states. Even General James Oglethorpe, founder of neighboring Georgia about whom much has been written elsewhere on this website, made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the fort. Yet all good things come to an end. Early in the 20th century, the US War Department had no further use for the fort and it was de-commissioned. It has since been declared a National Monument.
|Spanish Military Hospital Museum|
THE SPANISH MILITARY HOSPITAL MUSEUM is hard to find because it is in the center of the historic district, where narrow streets and a one-way traffic system keep one moving in never-ending circles. Access is finally gained by driving through a picturesque Spanish arch. The architecture is unusual, and the museum gives one insight into the surgical practices of over two centuries ago.
Finally, if visiting all these attractions and many more have left you hungry and exhausted, a visit to the nearby AMICI’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT located at 1915 A1A South in St. Augustine is called for. Owned and operated by a husband- and-wife team who were unlucky enough to buy it in March 2020, just a week before it was closed by the Covid pandemic. We highly recommend Amici's and very much appreciated generous portions, excellent cuisine, quality service and reasonable prices. All of these were much needed after touring the oldest city in America.