10 Best Things to Do in St. Augustine Florida [2021]

 10 Best Things to Do in St. Augustine Florida [2021]

If you're looking for things to do in St. Augustine, look no further! Here are 10 must-dos!

St. Augustine is known as Florida's Historic Coast. So, it's no surprise that there are a plethora of things to do in St. Augustine and the surrounding area. 

We did a fun video on St. Augustine, which you can watch here

Or, keep reading to learn about the best things to do in St. Augustine.

About St. Augustine

St. Augustine has a fascinating and storied history stretching back over four centuries. It was first discovered in 1513 by explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in his search for the Fountain of Youth.

The first settlement was established on September 8, 1565, by conquistador Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. He named it “San Agustín” because his ships first sighted the Florida coast eleven days earlier on August 28, the feast day of St. Augustine.

This means that St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited city in America, as it was founded 42 years before the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

Isn't that amazing?! That's why there are so many interesting things to do in St. Augustine. There is great RV camping nearby, too.

Except for a 20-year period of English rule (1763-1783), St. Augustine remained under Spanish governance until Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819.

And as you'll soon learn, there's no shortage of things to do in St. Augustine, Florida!

Things to Do in St. Augustine, FL

photo of the trolley,  one of the favorite things to do in St. Augustine
The trolley tour is one of the many things to do in St. Augustine. It gave us an excellent overview and feel for this awesome and historic city.

There are many historical landmarks throughout the city that speak to its storied past from occupation by Native Americans, Spanish settlers, and British soldiers, all the way to 19th-century tycoons. 

The following list is our favorite things to do in St. Augustine, Florida. 

Trolley Tour

One of the best ways to see St. Augustine is through a “hop-on & hop-off” trolley tour. With so much history in this city, it’s easy to miss something that you might not want to miss!

As a matter of routine, whenever Jennifer and I visit a new place, we park the RV and find a tour. Sometimes, it's a bus. Sometimes a walking tour. Sometimes a trolley tour like this one. We find it the best way to quickly get acclimated and then develop a shortlist of the places we want to go back to and really spend some time.

With the St. Augustine trolley tour, they take you to a number of great spots and you don’t have to worry about finding parking for your rig. The one we did was about $25 for a day of unlimited rides and they stop at 22 different locations, some of which we’ll cover in this article.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

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The Castillo de San Marcos is a large Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain's claims in the New World and is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. It was built over 340 years ago from coquina, a soft limestone made of broken shells.

This interesting material gave the fort a special advantage in battles, instead of cracking or collapsing under cannon fire the coquina walls absorbed and defected the cannonballs! As a result, the fort was never captured by the British (although they tried, twice!).

Today, you can explore the deep history of this fort from its unique architecture, to the numerous cultures that have been stationed or imprisoned within its walls, and the battles it has been through over the centuries.

Walking through the rooms here is an interesting experience as there are lots of reenactments of Spanish and British soldiers in character from the different time periods the fort was occupied. There’s a large interior courtyard and a gun deck which offers a great view of the city.

There are regular daily programs and free ranger-led tours. If you can, try to make it for the cannon firings, which are shown on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday hourly from 10:30 am – 3:30pm.

Admission is to the Castillo is $15/person.

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum

For families, exploring the Pirate museum is one of the funnest things to do in St. Augustine. After all, what kid doesn't like pirates?!

Another ode to the history of this city is the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, located right across the street from the Castillo.

Pirates such as Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles plundered St. Augustine and were a major reason why the Castillo de San Marcos was built to protect the city.

The museum relives the Golden Age of Piracy and with an 800+ piece collection, it is one of the largest and most authentic collections of historic pirate artifacts under a single roof. The collection includes one of only three remaining original Jolly Roger flags, Blackbeard’s blunderbuss, and pieces of gold salvaged from his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

There are a number of interactive exhibits, you can walk the cobblestone steps of a replica street in Port Royal, Jamaica (a pirate safe haven in the 1700s), travel back in time to visit an authentic tavern, or learn to tie knots and steer a boat on the main deck.

Hours are 10 am-7 pm and admission is $14.99/person.

St. Augustine's Colonial Quarter

Not far from the pirate museum is St. Augustine’s Colonial Quarter. This two-acre area right in the historic downtown will bring you back through the past three centuries of St. Augustine’s history.

You’ll learn about its humble beginnings as a fledgling port, partake in authentic musket drills, climb to the top of a 17th-century watchtower replica, and can eat as they would have in the 18th-
century at restaurants such as the Bull and Crown or the Taberna Del Caballo.

There is a free area and a tour area, admission for the tour area is $12.99/person and tours are given daily at 10:30 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm, and 3 pm.

Mosying around the Colonial Quarter is one of my wife's favorite things to do in St. Augustine. Walking down bustling St. George St is an experience all in itself, there are no cars allowed and it is full of shops, restaurants, art galleries, and attractions.

Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park

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Now, how can we have a list of the best things to do in St. Augustine and not include the local Fountain of Youth?!

This is where St. Augustine all began, the place where Pedro Menéndez founded St. Augustine and where Ponce De Leon claimed North America for Spain and discovered the “Fountain of Youth” healing waters that magically maintain youthful appearances.

While you’re here, make sure to take a drink from the legendary spring- just in case it works!!

There are exhibits here about the history of Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth, a planetarium showing how early explorers used the constellations to guide their voyages, and a reconstructed village of the Timucua Native Americans who occupied this area for several thousand years before the Spanish arrived.

There are active archeological digs here and artifacts from the Timucua Native Americans are still being dug up today!

Hours are 9 am-6 pm and admission is $18/person.

Historic Tours of Flagler College

In the slightly more recent history of the 1880s, Henry Flagler, an American industrialist and railroad magnate, turned St. Augustine into a winter resort for the wealthy northern elite.

The city maintained this prestigious status and extravagance for decades until the Great Depression and World War II ravaged the country.

There are several spectacular historic buildings in St. Augustine that were built by Flagler.

The Historic Tours of Flagler College showcase the architectural heritage and fascinating history of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, a nationally designated historic landmark building, built in 1887.

Flagler envisioned creating an American Riviera in St. Augustine. His Hotel Ponce de Leon (now Flagler College) is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Presidents, dignitaries, royalty, and the upper class walked the halls of this magnificent hotel during its heyday.

On the Historic Tour, you’ll see the opulence and extravagance of the former hotel through several rooms, including the Rotunda, Flagler Room, and Dining Hall.

The Rotunda boasts an 80-foot domed ceiling supported by eight ornately carved oak pillars. The interior dome displays stunning murals by George Maynard. The Dining Hall is decorated with 79 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows streaming light onto the hand-painted murals. The Flagler room was originally the Grand Parlor of the Hotel.

The interior is accentuated with carved wood, imported marble, oriental carpets, ornate furniture, elegant vases, and beautiful paintings. Also inside the room are Tiffany Austrian crystal chandeliers and a massive onyx Thomas Edison clock.

Tours depart at 10 am and 2 pm from September – April. Between May and August, tours depart on the hour from 10 am until 3 pm. Admission prices are $14/person.

Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church

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The Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church was built in 1889 to honor Flagler’s daughter who died following complications from childbirth (hence the name Memorial).

It is one of the 7 Most Beautiful Churches in the U.S.

Inspired by St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the church was built in the Second Renaissance Revival style and is magnificently ornate.

Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour of the beautiful church between the hours of 11 am and 3:45 pm, Monday through Saturday.

The Lightner Museum

The Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, which was built in 1888 by Flagler (across the street from Flagler College). The Alcazar closed during the Depression, and in 1948 the building was purchased by Otto Lightner.

Lightner converted the hotel into a museum to contain his vast collection of decorative and fine arts. The four floors of the museum are filled with interesting and beautiful artwork from over a century ago.

Elegance and history come together in the ambiance of this museum, with its costumes, furnishings, and other Gilded Age artifacts. You’ll feel like you were transported back to the peak of the Alcazar Hotel and its wealthy visitors.

Highlights include exquisite Victorian art glass, stained glass works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Oriental art, and a Victorian Village portraying 19th-century life.

Hours are 9 am-5 pm daily and admission is $15/person.

St. Augustine Distillery

While enjoying all the things to do in St. Augustine, it's always nice to take a break and enjoy a cold one.

So, if you’re interested in a drink after a long day of exploring, the St. Augustine Distillery is a great spot in the historic downtown. Housed in a restored ice manufacturing plant built in 1917, they have great cocktails!

There are free daily tours every 30 minutes which include information about Florida’s distilling heritage and the building’s former life as an ice plant, as well as a tasting room and a chance to watch spirits being made from scratch using age-old techniques in two copper pot stills.

Anastasia State Park

Exploring Anastasia State Park is one of our most favorite things to do in St. Augustine.

In fact, it's our home base when in St. Augustine. We’d highly recommend that you get a site here for your RV but if you can’t, it’s still a great spot to check out for the day.

Covering 1,600 acres, with four miles of pristine beach, tidal salt marshes, and hammock preserves, Anastasia State Park has everything you need to relax and enjoy nature.

Take a hike to the coquina quarries located at the park entrance. The archaeological site dates back to the 1700s, stones from the quarry were quite literally the “building blocks” for the Castillo de San Marcos and the city as a whole.

The beach has beautiful, white sand, and there’s an incredibly diverse ecosystem here. The estuarine Salt Run is teeming with animal life, including dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, fish, crabs, and marsh birds.

The sand dunes are home to the endangered Anastasia Island Beach Mouse, while the beach is home to a variety of shorebirds, crabs, and other marine animals.

Make sure to take a walk on the Ancient Dunes Nature Trail which loops and winds through shaded maritime hammock and sand dunes. If you stay here, wake up early because there are some spectacular sunrises!

That wraps up our list of the best things to do in St. Augustine, Florida. Now, we'd like to hear from you!

What Are Your Favorite Things to Do in St. Augustine, FL?

We'd love to hear in the comments if you've done any of these things to do in St. Augustine. And please share if you have any other recommendations! And make sure you watch our video on St. Augustine, which you can watch here

7 Day Adventure Guide to Florida's Atlantic Coast

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Can you believe that St. Augustine is just 1 day in our 7-day adventure guide of Florida's Atlantic Coast? If you were impressed by all the great things to do in St. Augustine, just wait to see what else is in store for you!

Check out the Florida's Atlantic Coast RV Adventure Guide.

 

 

10 Best Things to Do in St. Augustine Florida [2021]

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

4 Comments

  • Great article. We visited St Augustine last month during our winter break. Loved the Trolley Tour. You have us some additional things to check out on a future trip. Anastasia State Park was booked up so we stayed at North Beach Camp Resort. Loved it! Great location close to everything really but peaceful out on an island. Thanks for sharing !

  • We visited many of the attractions listed in this article but really enjoyed the Alligator Farm Zoological Park. Not another hokey alligator attraction in Florida! We were impressed by the variety and quality of exhibits there. Lots of snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and other critters in addition to the gators and crocs. It was fun to watch the feedings! I think this is the oldest continuously run zoo in the country. A wonderful experience!

  • As a kid, we used to go to St. Augustine a couple of times a year to visit relatives. Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum was a favorite attraction for us. Vilano Beach was my favorite beach for body surfing. The fort and St. George Street, along with the Old Jail and Old Schoolhouse were others. It’s been many years, so I hope these are still available today.

  • We are both retired teachers, so we really liked the Old Schoolhouse.

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