Luxetips Travel Guides! Luxetips Guide to St. Augustine, FL
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St. Augustine, FL is an amazing city filled with rich history and culture. I had previously visited St. Augustine, FL for a quick 3 day trip with my kids in 2014. We did a little sightseeing, but we did not really get a chance to take tours and learn about the city’s deep history and gems. Thankfully, I was recently invited to visit the city again by the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau. This time I really got to know this unique place. Divas my mind was blown! St. Augustine is a city that is beautiful, full of unique history and amazing architecture.
St. Augustine, FL is the oldest city in America. Who knew! In 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida. He landed somewhere between Cape Canaveral and the mouth of the St. John’s River, (located in St. Augustine). Ponce de Leon found the original inhabitants of the area, the Timucuan Indians. It is believed, around this time, Ponce de Leon began searching for The Fountain of Youth. He was curious as to what the Timucuan Indians were drinking to make them so healthy and live long lives. Ponce de Leon named his discovery La Florida and claimed it for Spain.
Ponce de Leon was only in the St. Augustine area briefly as he explored other parts of La Florida and eventually ended up on the West Coast near Fort Myers. Later, in 1565 Spanish admiral Pedro Menedez de Aviles was given permission to sail to Florida to explore the new land and he founded St. Augustine. He became Florida’s first governor. The Spaniards and the Timucua Indians had a rocky relationship but eventually settled into a tolerable relationship living side by side. Menedez also brought free blacks to the area. Later the area became a hub for the slave trade. The mixture of the Spanish, African, and Timucua Indians began a rich cultural history in the area.
The weather in St. Augustine is pretty amazing. The average weather temperature in St. Augustine is around 80’s. The coldest month is February and the lowest average temperature is 58 degrees. The hottest month is August with the highest average temperature being 81 degrees. Love it! There is low percipitation and mostly clear blue skies. Love! There are so many attractions and things to do in St. Augustine. Check out my top 5 things to do in this fun and historical city!
The Marker 8 Hotel & Marina is located just over the famous Bridge of Lions adjacent to the most gorgeous marina and the Matanzas Bay. The Marker 8 Hotel & Marina just underwent a major renovation and boasts beautiful rooms with views of the bay, luxurious beds, hardwood floors and the most amazing rain showers.
However, the fabulousness of the property does not end there. With your stay, each guests gets complimentary breakfast and I am not talking about the traditional continental breakfast. Breakfast is made to order and offerings include eggs scrambles, omelets, Belgian waffles and more! Each breakfast comes with coffee or tea, orange juice and fruit. The breakfast was soooo good. Each day I stayed at the hotel, I kept wanting to pay and I was informed breakfast is included with your stay.
Plus you get to eat your breakfast with the most amazing view from the Captain’s Room.
The hotel also has other amenities like a full gym, free internet access, free hotel parking (yeah) and afternoon fresh baked brownies. Swoon! But I must say my absolute favorite aspect of the hotel is the customer service. The customer service is superb! Every hotel employee greated us by name. We were running late for breakfast and the kitchen called our room to make sure we were still coming and if so, they would wait on us. Like that has never happened before and I love it! The hotel staff was very knowledgeable of the area and gave us pointers on cool things to do and how to get around the city. The hotel only has 26 rooms and suites, so you really get the personalized customer service of a Bread and Breakfast at a hotel. My husband and I both agreed that when we come back to St. Augustine, FL, the Marker 8 Hotel & Marina will be our hotel of choice. Rooms range from $169-$199 per night.
Luxetip: Every evening at 5:30pm the hotel hosts social hour at the Charter Bar. Guest can gather at the Charter Bar and enjoy beer, wine and snacks. The room has a gorgeous view of the bay, the outdoor heated pool and fire pit. The fire pit is so cozy and is perfect for sipping wine and getting to know other guests. This amenity is included in your stay. Wowza!
Of course I had to visit the beach as my husband and I are beach fanatics. We chose Anastasia State Park because of it’s rich history. Anastasia State Park is actually Anastasia island and was acquired by the State of Florida in 1949. Before that, the island was a major source of coquina limestone, which was used in the 1600s to construct the famous fort in St. Augustine, the Castillo de San Marcos. (More about coquina below)
The beach is gorgeous and pristine. I love the fact it has not been developed with hotels, condos and restaurants. There are only a couple of food shacks and a visitor’s center on the beach. It is the perfect place to take a long walk, hunt for sea shells or simply sit and enjoy the view. Check it out!
Luxetip: The fee to enter Anastasia State Park is $8 per car. Each month there is a Guided Bird Tour for all levels of bird watchers. Participants will observe a diverse variety of shore birds, marsh birds, and hammock birds by walking the beach, boardwalks, nature trails, and other areas.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is a must when visiting St. Augustine. The St. Augustine Lighthouse is the oldest oldest, permanent aid to navigation in North America. First it was a Spanish Watchtower built in the 1500s. In 1872 Congress appropriated $100K for a new tower and the existing tower was built. The St. Augustine Lighthouse rises 165 feet above sea level and contains 219 steps.
Of course we climbed all 219 steps. It is so beautiful inside the tower and we got a chance to stop at every landing to read a little bit of history. Once we reached the top of the Lighthouse, the view was insane! Check it out!
Luxetip: After climbing all of those steps, we were quite famished. So we had a great dinner at Catch 27, a restaurant that boasts fresh seafood and of course the catch of the day.
Yum! Afterwards we treated ourselves to a luxe treat of ice cream sandwiches from Peace Pies. The hubby had a strawberry ice cream sandwich and I had chocolate brownie. Delish! Both establishments are located in downtown St. Augustine and in walking distance of each other.
One of the most amazing places I visited while in St. Augustine, was Flagler College. Flagler College by far is the most beautiful college I ever visited. It simply leaves you speechless. Flagler College was originally built by the ultra rich Henry Flagler as a luxury resort for the super wealthy. Henry Flagler became extremely wealthy in his time from constructing railroads. In 1888, his famous hotel Ponce de Leon was opened. Guests could only book 3 month stays at a value of $4000, which today translates into $100,000. Wowza!
The Ponce De Leon Hotel was and still is an architectural and engineering marvel way ahead of its time. Henry Flagler spared no expense in constructing the hotel. It is one of the first buildings to have full electricity and Flagler created a water purification system to rid the local water of sulfur so his guests did not have to smell sulfer while enjoying the property. Wow!
However, my favorite part of the college are the accessories. All gold finishes and touches are real 14 karat gold. It contains the largest collection of original Tiffany glass. It is so valuable it is priceless. And it contains real and rare Austrian Crystal chandeliers that have been valued between 2-8 million dollars each. Swoon! I was literally in an architectural and interior design heaven while visiting the college. Love, love love.
After operating for many years as a hotel, it closed its does in 1967. In 1968, it became Flagler College. Today Flagler College is a top rated liberal arts college and boasts one of the top arts programs in the country.
Luxetip: After taking a tour of Flagler College, you can walk across the street and check out the historic Lightner Museum. Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, another Henry Flagler hotel built in 1888. Beautiful building. I saw the The Dressing Downtown Exhibit which featured the original costumes from the hit show, Downtown Abbey. The clothing was displayed in time appropriate settings with a brief description of each scene the clothing was worn. While the Dressing Downton exhibit is no longer at the Lightner, the museum’s furnishings and beautiful collection remains open. This Museum is full of gorgeous art and history! Be sure to check their calendar for the next fab exhibit!
Construction of this famous fort began in 1672 by Spain as a necessary defense due to the continued threats and attacks St. Augustine faced from pirates and Great Britain. The Spanish discovered a readily available building material on nearby Anastasia Island called coquina: rock composed of tiny seashells concreted together beneath the sea. The coquina rock proved to be invaluable as the fort was never destroyed by cannon balls or any other attacks. It has allowed this fort to remain standing after almost 400 years. Amazing.
The fort exchanged hands several times. The British gained possession of the fort as a result of winning the France/England War. As a thank you for helping the colonies win their independence from Britain in the Revolutionary War, Spain once again gained possession of the fort and St. Augustine. Later, America brought Florida from Spain for 5 million dollars and the fort became the property of the United States as it remains to this day.
Luxetip: View a historic weapons demonstration every weekly, every Sunday, Friday and Saturday. Re-enactors explain and demonstrate the weapons of the Colonial era which are still located in the fort. So cool.
Bonus luxetip: Another cool thing to do in St. Augustine, FL is to take a tour of the entire city on the Red Train. For only $23 you can get a 3 day pass that will give you a guided tour of all the historical sites in St. Augustine, on and off privileges and free shuttle service to and from your hotel. It is the best way to get around town and the tour guides are rock stars!
Bonus luxetip: We ate dinner at a super fab and historic restaurant, A1A Aleworks. It is located right across from Castillo de San Marcos and has amazing seafood, ale and craft beers. Delish! Little known fact: the building that houses the restaurant is the site of the first Catholic Church in St. Augustine.
I hope you found this Luxetips Mini-Travel Guide helpful! If you have any city you are traveling to and you are looking for fab things to do and see for little or no cost, be sure to send us an email at email@example.com.