105 miles NE of Orlando; 302 miles N of Miami; 39 miles S of Jacksonville
America's oldest permanent European settlement, St. Augustine draws history buffs and romantics to its Colonial Spanish Quarter and 18th-century buildings. With its coquina buildings and sprawling, moss-draped live oaks, visitors can do more than just museum hop. St. Augustine encourages guests to sit down for a while, and to drink in scenes from the past along with a chilled glass of sweet tea.
Things to Do
Historic sites top the list in this 16th-century town. The top attractions include the Oldest House, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse from the earliest days of Florida, and the amazing Lightner Museum, a Victorian-era mansion packed with all kinds of curios and memorabilia.
Spanish-influenced home decor and furniture fill the antique shops and galleries in the historic district. Glossy oak tables, Mediterranean-style tiles, and silver bric-a-brac fill display windows along Aviles Street and St. George Street.
Nightlife & Entertainment
Old Town St. Augustine amps it up on weekends. Check out the Mill Top Tavern, a warm and rustic bar housed in a 19th-century mill building (the water wheel is still outside).
Restaurants & Dining
Spicy food lovers, St. Augustine has something special for you: the Datil, one of the hottest peppers you'll ever find. Restaurants across town add whole and ground Datils to their menus. Hot Stuff Mon sells an assortment of Datil delicacies you can take home with you. The gaudy neon stripes covering its exterior are just the beginning at Gypsy Cab Co., where the inventive menu constantly changes.
Tourism is St. Augustine's main industry these days. However, despite the number of visitors, it's an exceptionally charming town, with good restaurants, a small-town nightlife, and shopping bargains. Give yourself 2 days here to see the highlights, longer to savor this historic gem.
In the Beginning . . .
In 1562, a group of French Huguenots settled near the mouth of the St. Johns River, in present-day Jacksonville. Three years later, a Spanish force under Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived, wiped out the Huguenot men (de Avilés spared their women and children), and established a settlement he named St. Augustín. The colony survived a succession of attacks by pirates, Indians, and the British over the next 2 centuries. The Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War, ceded the town to Britain in 1763, but the British gave it back to Spain 20 years later. The United States took control when it acquired Florida from Spain in 1821.
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