Every year, during the holidays, our family flies down to Florida to enjoy the bright Florida sun, and get a break from the typical Northeast winters. This year’s weather was a bit unusual though, with temperatures higher than typical in both New Jersey, and in Florida. I’m not one to complain about this, as I’m a Cali girl at heart, and it made for perfect exploring weather.
This year, while we were visiting Bret’s father in Palm Coast, we took one day to explore the oldest city in the nation – St. Augustine. St. Augustine is located on the northeast Florida coast, around 45 minutes from Jacksonville, and was founded by the Spanish in 1565. It got its name from first being sighted on August 28th, which was the feast day of St. Augustine, and was actually the capital of Spanish Florida for hundreds of years. Fast forward to modern day, and you’ll find an adorable, quaint town, with a ton of history.
We started out our afternoon by exploring the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. Castillo de San Marcos is unique in that it is built of coquina (a soft limestone of broken shells), which made it impenetrable to attack and fire resistant.
Afterward, we took a stroll along the water, which was lined with a bunch of cute restaurants, bars, and hotels. Being that it was around the holidays, many of them were decorated with lights, and beautiful festive decor. I spotted one that had so many lights hanging off of it, that I knew I had to return to it later that night. There’s something about twinkly lights that makes me want to squeal a little.
We took a right on King St, which is one of the main streets in town. On our right was Basilica Cathedral, which is an absolutely gorgeous church, and on our left, the center point of Night Of Lights. Apparently, each year they string up 2.5 million lights all around town, making this town the premiere Christmas destination. It was still daylight when we first walked by, so it was added to the list to check out after some shopping and dining. We made a right on St. George St., which is a pedestrian walkway. This street is the main hub of the town. It had quirky stores, where you can buy anything from seashells, to clothes, and a bunch of little eateries to get your fix of gelato, chocolate, or tacos. It was around dinner time, so we opted for pizza at Pizzalley’s, a cute pizzeria, with a homey feel.
By the time we wiped our mouths clean of pizza sauce, the sun had gone down. We took a stroll back to the Night of Lights, and meandered down some small, cobble stone streets.
I just loved the feel of this town. Vibrant with people out at all the eateries, yet encompassing that old world charm. We ended our night at The Tini Martini Bar (the place with all the twinkly lights!), which is a part of the Casablanca Inn (established in 1912).
All lit up now, it was simply fabulous. The restaurant had outdoor seating with fantastic views of the water, but since we had eaten, we opted for the charming bar inside. With a long list of martinis, including classics and decadent dessert types, there was a martini for everyone. I had a Godiva Chocolate Martini, and it was the perfect way to end the night.
-St. Augustine is home to Treasury Street – the nation’s narrowest street (only 7 feet wide)!
-The Fountain of Youth, the legendary spring made famous by explorer Ponce de Leon, is located in St. Augustine, on what is now known as the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.
-St Augustine is home to the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in the US.
»Where to Visit: Castillo de San Marcos, Basilica Cathedral
»Where to Eat/Drink: Pizzalley’s, The Tini Martini Bar
»Special Events: Night of Lights (only during the holiday season)
»Other Things to Check Out: Old Town Trolley Tour – We saw a bunch of these going around, and they seemed like a really good time, with energetic drivers/tour guides. Next time we’re in town, we are definitely going to do this.
»Here’s a helpful St. Augustine Map with a bunch of the main landmarks.