A huge honor was recently bestowed to the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida as it was recently named the #1 Small Town in the South by Southern Living. As a native of Northeast Florida, St. Augustine has always been a wonderful day trip spot for my family and I love taking friends and family there when they come to visit us. And when I’m lucky, we sneak away for a long weekend of fun in the area.
With its rich history and great learning experiences, St. Augustine has always been ‘the’ place to go for school field trips, and in fact – my daughter visited there for a field trip a few years ago too! We will be back in St. Augustine in a few weeks, as we have friends coming to visit and I’m already looking forward to “being a tourist’ so close to home.
If you also have plans to visit the area soon, here’s a helpful look at some of my favorite places in St. Augustine, Florida –
Go Zip Lining at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm
Did you know that you can go zip-lining over the alligators and crocodiles at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm? The Crocodile Crossing zip lining and ropes course is an additional fee and separate from admission to the park — so you can still technically see the alligators without even buying park admission. You’ll just be soaring above them instead! My daughter and husband have done this experience twice and loved the challenges of the ropes course and the views along the zip lines. It really is quite an adventure.
And while it isn’t the best activity for my youngest daughter Molly (she has Down syndrome), she and I have our own adventure as we buy admission to the Alligator Farm and explore the park while the others zip line. We get to see all of the animals, watch the wildlife shows and we love cheering on Maggie and Dad as they make their way along the course. Yep, you can watch the fun from inside the park. Everyone gets to have fun, no one is left out!
Plan ahead for zip lining at Crocodile Crossing as times fill up quickly. If you plan to visit in the summertime, book an early time slot so you can be done before things heat up and the afternoon storms roll in. And don’t be late, the Crocodile Crossing folks stay on schedule and will reschedule if you show up late!
Enjoy Waterfront Dining in a Tiki Hut
Fresh seafood, waterfront views and tiki huts. What’s not to love? A visit to the Conch House Restaurant is always high on our ‘to-do’ list when we visit St. Augustine. Located across the Bridge of Lions and a short drive from the Historic District, the restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the Salt Run Channel, just off of the Intracoastal Waterway.
The restaurant has tiki huts that sit out over the water, perfect for families or enjoying a few drinks during the summertime. The tiki huts are always breezy and good for photos too! Be sure and ask about them at the hostess stand, there are only a few and they go quickly!
Some of our favorite items on the menu – conch fritters, gator tail (my Maggie loves it!) and their shrimp is some of the best in all of Northeast Florida. Being on the water, they also have a variety of “fresh catch” items available each day, so be sure and ask your server!
The Conch House is also home to an active marina and the Conch House Marina Hotel. While we haven’t stayed there – yet – I always talk about doing it. So, maybe one day!
Meet Pirates and Go On a Treasure Hunt
While you may think, the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum sounds like a tourist trap, let me assure you that it is anything but that – it is home to world’s largest collection of authentic pirate artifacts, including an original Jolly Roger pirate flag on display from 1830. You can see real pirate treasure and there’s even memorabilia from movies that feature pirates!
The museum once called Key West home, but relocated to St. Augustine in 2010, making it a ‘new’ attraction within the Historic District. Kids will enjoy this hands-on, interactive museum. Be sure to pick up a treasure map when you arrive at the museum, as you can search for clues as you make your way through the attraction. There’s a small prize at the end for those that complete the treasure hunt. Fun fact of the museum – it is owned by former Philadelphia 76ers president Pat Croce.
Enjoy Dinner at Catch 27
With the mindset of serving fresh, locally caught seafood from the 27th state (aka Florida!), don’t miss dining at Catch 27 Restaurant– just a few blocks from the Castillo de San Marcos.
The restaurant’s inventive menu features a variety of great seafood dishes and don’t worry if you aren’t a seafood fan, they have chicken tacos, pork chops and more on the menu. Seafood fans – you can’t go wrong with the day’s fresh catch. Be sure to snag a reservation at this hot spot as the indoor seating books up quickly. On our last visit, we dined outside on the patio and it was lovely. Plenty of shade, great service and a large variety of creative cocktails using local St. Augustine spirits.
Climb 219 Steps at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
Get your exercise and a history lesson all in one visit to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. The black/white/red historic lighthouse is filled with stories and even a few haunted ones too. During your visit, be sure to stop and see the on-site volunteers working to build wooden boats. At the museum’s laboratory, you can see shipwreck artifacts in the process of being preserved.
Atop the lighthouse, you’ll find beautiful views, so don’t forget your camera! Chat with the volunteers to learn more about the stories of the lighthouse and as you climb your way to the top, take a breather and read about the interesting history on the displays found along the stairwell.
If you have little ones, keep in mind they must be 44 inches and taller to climb to the top of the lighthouse. Good news – children who are not tall enough to climb get in free, and one adult with them gets in half off. There’s still plenty for them to experience including the shipyard play yard, nature trails and scavenger hunts throughout the property.
Plan Your Trip to St. Augustine
These are just a small portion of the highlights and places my family and I love in St. Augustine. I could write a book about all of the fun things to see and do there – including their incredible history!
If you are ready to plan your own trip to St. Augustine, visit www.floridashistoriccoast.com where you’ll find helpful information to discover your own activities, including accommodations. (That’s another post for me entirely – coming soon!)