I’m going to piggyback on the last post about travel to give you a look into one of our very favorite vacation spots: St. Augustine, Florida. Chad and I traveled to St. Augustine for the first time together early in our relationship, about nine years ago! Since then, we’ve brought the kids back three times, and we’ve been back twice without the kids.
Our very favorite reasons for visiting St. Augustine frequently is to spend time with the family who lives there. Every visit gets better and better. Chad’s uncle, cousin, brother, and very soon-to-be sister-in-law live there and they are the definition of a good time. His uncle’s significant other and cousin’s significant other are icing on the cake. We always leave St. Augustine absolutely exhausted but with extremely full hearts. We are lucky to go often enough that the girls really know their Floridian family members. Aside from the amazing people who live there, these are the other reasons St. Augustine will always have a special place in our hearts.
1. The beach. Their beaches are simply gorgeous, clean, and not overcrowded at any time of year, unlike some of the other beaches in Florida. You won’t find the sun setting on the beach here, but you’ll witness a breathtaking sunrise if you are up early enough. One of the coolest things about this beach is that you can drive on a specific stretch of the beach! I never knew that was a thing until my first visit. If you have a lot of stuff you want to bring to the beach, but you don’t want to haul it over the dunes, just head over to the beach access ramp, pay the couple bucks for your ticket, and drive to your perfect spot to set up camp! Don’t worry, there is still plenty of play room on the wide beach.
2. The history. St. Augustine is very authentic and they really try to keep the touristy commercial stuff to a minimum. You won’t find many chain restaurants or shops here, at all. Instead, you will find shops filled with local things made from the creative, artistic local people. You will find places to visit such as the Fountain of Youth, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, the Oldest Masonry Fort in the US, and many other history-rich outings I haven’t experienced myself yet. We visited the Fountain of Youth this trip and I was totally blown away by the beauty of it. We really loved the peacocks and other animals that roamed freely and ate straight from our hands. We felt a little bit like Cinderella when the animals flocked to us. The St. Augustine Lighthouse is also a must-see. You can see the lighthouse from pretty much anywhere on the island. Pay a couple dollars to walk up the stairs to the top to get a good look of the island. It’s very cool!
3. The restaurants. The restaurants are all delicious. In all our visits, we’ve eaten at so many different places, but still haven’t hit them all yet. Chad and I really enjoy fresh seafood for most of our meals, but my mother-in-law who has a seafood allergy also finds something she loves at each stop. Some of our favorites are
Mojo’s Tacos (the shrimp tacos are TO DIE FOR-we average 2-3 visits during a one week trip)
Mango Mango’s (all their tacos are perfection)
Salt Life (good food and FUN atmosphere)
Georgie’s Diner (for breakfast! Yummy mimosas)
4. The attractions. On our last trip, the weather was a little cooler than ideal “play on the beach weather” so we found ourselves looking for other things to do. It didn’t take long until we had a week jam packed with fun things that the adults and kids enjoyed doing! We visited the Alligator Farm, which I highly recommend. There is more than just alligators and crocodiles, although that’s definitely the focus. There are several different types of birds, monkeys, reptiles, and amphibians. It’s about half sun and half shade, which was nice for our sunburned skin. On one particularly rainy day, we managed to squeeze in three different things. We went to the local movie theater to see Peter Rabbit. From there, we went to the Whetstone Chocolate Factory. Yummy!!! Several samples on the way and a coupon to use on the way out. After that, we walked to the St. Augustine Distillery for a free tour and tasting. That was quick and pretty cool. We even found a small Farmers Market on the way back to the car and was able to pet a couple goats and buy a bottle of local honey. The Jacksonville Zoo was also on our agenda. It’s about a 45 minute drive, but worth it, in my opinion. I love their zoo. Of course St. Augustine offers several putt putt options, per tourist town requirement. They also have a very old carousel in the middle of Davenport Park that the girls loved!
5. Family friendly. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, St. Augustine is very family friendly. We visited Sarbez, a quaint little pub/restaurant. They specialize in local craft beer and grilled cheese sandwiches! They offered around 15 specialty grilled cheese sandwiches along with a long list of toppings to build your own. Talk about delicious! It was kid-friendly, very quirky, and had a small back building which contained several old school arcade games like: Skeeball, air hockey, deer hunting, a photo booth, and some sort of driving game. Be sure to bring your quarters because the kids (and husbands who find their inner child) will go through some serious change at this place. From there, we walked across the street to another little craft beer place that offered ping pong and table top shuffle board. The girls and I played jumbo Jenga on the back porch.
6. Within driving distance. Most importantly, St. Augustine is within driving distance. If we go for a long weekend, Chad and I fly into Jacksonville and drive into St. Augustine. If we are going on a family, week long trip, we always drive. One day, when we don’t have car seats, wagons, strollers, and two bags full of beach toys, we will start flying as a family. For now, driving is more practical for us, so it’s important to vacation somewhere within driving distance.
I know there is no way you can grasp the sheer beauty and love we have for St. Augustine from this post. My hope is that you put it on a “would like to travel to” list you have tucked away and that you give it a shot. It really is a place where there is something for everyone. Our ultimate goal is to purchase a vacation house or condo and use it as a rental when we aren’t there. We feel very close to our goal, and I’m sure there will be a whole blog post dedicated to that exciting purchase once it happens!
Until next time…
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read a page.” – Saint Augustine, himself!