Nestled against the Atlantic Ocean, St. Augustine sits between Jacksonville in the north and Daytona Beach in the south. St. Augustine is known as the Old City because it is the oldest city to be a continually occupied settlement in the United States. When I heard about the light display featured downtown every Christmas, I decided to visit for a few days.
The first thing I saw was the Castillo de San Marcos. Constructed in 1672,Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. The pay per hour parking lot was small and we had drive around the small loop several times before a spot opened up. One thing I noticed is that nothing in St. Augustine is free, even the parking.
The fort was a great introduction into the city. It was a great reminder of the history of the city but it also gave me a great view of the boats and was within walking distance of downtown. And when you go to a beach city in the winter, downtown is really where all the excitement is at.
After climbing around for a bit we walked over to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not which happened to be just a few buildings over. Then, because we were a little tired of walking, we went to check into the hotel.
Hotels are pretty pricey, especially around Christmas, so we booked one for just a few days before instead of actually on Christmas and we ended up staying 15 minutes from downtown. I knew our hotel wasn’t on the beach but I was pleasantly surprised that it was within walking distance. A long pathway to the beach was located just a quick walk from the hotel with easy road crossing. The pathway had swampy water and trees to the left and fancy beach houses to the right so for the 10 minutes or so it took to walk it was pretty enjoyable.
Although it was too cold to swim in, I was able to take some great photos of the sunset and sunrise while we stayed there. That first night we stayed until it got dark as I took picture after picture. I’m a very camera happy person :).
Then we enjoyed dinner at the Sunset Bar and Grill. I highly recommend it. Their peanut butter pie is to die for. Literally one of my favorite things. Their lobster mac and cheese was also really great, lots of lobster and large portions.
The next morning I forced Spenser up and we headed to the beach to watch the sunrise. I’m glad we did because the next day was completely foggy and my attempt at sunrise pictures would have been awful.
That day we made an impromptu trip up the lighthouse, climbing lots and lots of stairs. When I lived up in North Dakota earlier this year, I used to go the library a couple of times a week to use their internet. There would often be another girl there traveling with her husband like I was traveling with Spenser. Well, at the top of the lighthouse, I saw her. Feeling slightly silly, I asked her if she’d been to North Dakota recently. She confirmed it and we found out we were actually now living in the same city in Florida.
The lighthouse was one of Spenser’s favorites. I secretly think it’s because he finds joy out of watching me huff it up the stairs but maybe it was because of the great view. When he suggested we climb the tower twice, I refused. Those stairs are no joke!
After that we went to one of my favorites, ALLIGATOR FARM! There’s nothing like seeing a whole bunch of alligators swimming underneath you. But there weren’t just alligators. All kinds of reptiles, crocodiles, and a few birds and monkeys were there too. The farm was pretty large and even had a zip line course going up above.
What I think we were both disappointed in was the Pirate Museum. Save your money. It wasn’t that big or that interesting.
That night we explored downtown until we were both tired. Downtown was filled little shops, restaurants, and some interesting people. We were pulled into a free magic show at one point and at another Spenser was holding the snake of this guy we saw on the street. As we walked by the guy with the two snakes for a second time, he was joined by a fire breathing woman.
At night we saw the famed lights, and then saw even more lights because we couldn’t find the car for about an hour. The long walk was enjoyable but our feet were very tired by the end of it.
For dinner we ate at Salt Life, which was good but the restaurant was so full of itself that we watched a promotional video for Salt Life during most of our dinner. We ate raw tuna as we commented on the fact that Salt Life only hired attractive people to deep sea fish in their video that played on multiple screens.
The next morning was so foggy I could barely see 100 yards in front of me. From the boardwalk we couldn’t even see the beach and the fog made me feel as if we might be the only people on the beach, at least momentarily. The fog was so thick the sun couldn’t even break through the clouds.
Our final stop was the Farmer’s Market on Christmas Eve. Twenty or so stands stood selling food, coffee, happy rocks, flowers, and all kinds of crafts.
St. Augustine was fun. I was surprised by the proximity of our hotel to the beach and how good the food was. I think our stay of three days and two nights was perfect. Any longer and I think we would have gotten bored. Downtown and the beach were beautiful but the rest of St. Augustine looks like any other city in Florida.
Although the lights at night were beautiful for the holidays, I think I’d like to go back when the water is warm.