Not enough time in St. Augustine

Anyone who has ever visited Florida will probably agree that one day is not enough time in St. Augustine. It would be great to stay for a month or longer if possible, but I believe at least four days are required to enjoy the highlights of this historic town. One day was all we had, so we tried to make the best use of our time there. Here’s how it went.

not enough time in St. Augustine

A brief history of St. Augustine

As you probably know, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the contiguous United States. The town is old! Spanish explorers discovered it in 1565. In 1965, when I was just 15 years old, St. Augustine celebrated the 400th anniversary of its founding.

Spanish Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés’ ship was full of supplies, and settlers first sighted land in Florida during the feast day of St. Augustine. He named the settlement St. Augustine and was also Florida’s first governor incidentally.

Old Town Trolley

Not enough time in St. Augustine

Because of our limited time, as we drove to St. Augustine, I purchased tickets for the St. Augustine Old Town Trolley experience, a hop-on hop-off tour through the city. There are 22 opportunities to hop on or off this historically narrated tour.

We got off and on the trolley several times and never had to wait over 15 minutes to get back on another passing trolley. The guides on each trolley were entertaining and provided tons of interesting and historical facts about the sights we saw.

While we have taken several Hop-on Hop-off bus tours, we’ve never taken a trolley tour through a city before. Hop-on Hop-off bus tours often have a recorded narration and are very impersonal, so I think the trolley tour beats the Hop-on Hop-off hands down.

St. George Street

We couldn’t visit St. Augustine without spending some time on the famed St. George Street. This pedestrian-only cobblestoned street is still the city’s heart and is lined with many historical sights, shops, galleries, and of course, restaurants and treat shops. St. George Street was our first stop off of the trolley.

Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

Not enough time in St. Augustine

We happened upon this little Museum soon after getting off the trolley.

A neat little gift shop off of St. George Street leads first to a lovely garden and then to the Museum through its back door. The gift shop is a perfect place to pick up unique gifts for teachers!

This structure was established as a homestead by Greek carpenter Juan Genopoly in the late 1700s. His home and small schoolroom are wonderfully preserved examples of the settlers’ life in the 1800s.

These settlers were Minorcans, poor immigrants from the Mediterranean, who arrived in Florida as indentured servants. After they completed their indentured service, typically nine years, some migrated to St. Augustine and established homes.

As we exited the Museum, we received these certificates verifying we had toured the Museum.

The Florida Cracker Cafe

Not enough time in St. Augustine

We left the schoolhouse museum searching for a good lunch. We decided on The Florida Cracker Cafe, mainly because it offered outside dining in the sunshine. The food was delicious. I had fresh-tasting, delicately fried shrimp, Steve had a burger, and we enjoyed their local beer.

We learned from the menu where the term Florida Cracker originates. One story is that the word comes from the sound the settlers’ whips made as they cracked them while herding cattle.

Another report says it stems from dried corn’s cracking sound as it is ground for cornmeal. Either way, it is a term of pride to describe generations of Floridians born and raised in the state. It is similar to “BOI” for people born on Galveston Island in Texas.

Lightner Museum

Not enough time in St. Augustine

Just wow! What an exquisite and spectacular museum – a must-see for anyone that enjoys decorative art museums. It is located in the former glamorous Alcazar Hotel and is across the street from Flagler College, formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel. Henry Flager developed both of these hotels.

Henry Flagler was a significant influence and pioneer in Florida’s development as a winter vacation destination and worth checking into with a quick Google search.

This Museum contains a unique collection of art, paintings, cut and blown glass, and many historical pieces from the late 1860s to 1896, America’s Gilded Age. The building itself, without the art, is stunning and amazing to see.

The Café Alcazar is in the hotel’s former indoor swimming pool.

National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios

In the early 1600s, Spanish settlers arriving here established the first Catholic Shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This shrine, dedicated to motherhood, is the first Catholic Shrine in the United States. A beautiful small shrine chapel, as well as a new church, can be found here also.

The Great Cross, a 204-foot cross, was built on this site in 1966 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of this shrine. The Cross is spotlighted beautifully at night.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Not enough time in St. Augustine

Construction began on this stone masonry fort in 1672 was completed in 1695. The fort’s purpose was to protect the Spanish settlers. It is the oldest structure in St. Augustine. As a result of COVID restrictions, a limited number of visitors are allowed to enter each day, and we were not in that number — another time.

Believe it or Not Ripley’s Museum

We were more interested in hearing the building’s story than touring this Museum. This museum building was originally the winter home of William G. Warden. Mr. Warden was a business partner of Henry Flagler and John D. Rockefeller in the Standard Oil Company and other businesses.

The Warden family sold the home in 1941, and it briefly became a hotel named the Castle Warden Hotel. Robert Leroy Ripley was often a guest at the hotel and wanted to buy this hotel but was unsuccessful in every attempt. Ironically, Ripley’s estate purchased the hotel a year after his death, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not came into being.

Our trolley tour took us right into the parking lot here, but we did not visit inside. Still, according to our trolley guide, there are some incredible things to see here.

Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth

Not enough time in St. Augustine

This attraction, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, is the original site of St. Augustine. Although Ponce de Leon discovered the land in 1513, St. Augustine Pedro Menéndez de Avilés settled here in 1565.

The Park is privately owned and covers 15 waterfront acres on Hospital Creek. It contains a well claimed to be Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth. There are multiple exhibits and attractions here – a full day’s worth. Alas, not enough time again.

Water from the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth

Not enough time in St. Augustine

We did purchase three bottles of water from the fountain of youth well for my three sisters. They all live out of state, and we do not want to mail glass bottles of water, so we have not yet had the opportunity to give them their special water bottles. We did consider replacing the water with vodka and then giving them the bottles! Yes? No? What do you think?

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

Keystone Heights, FL

Not enough time in St. Augustine

We could not find an overnight RV spot in or very close to St. Augustine. Of course, everything in Florida books months, sometimes even a year in advance. The best we could do, which was not bad, was to make a reservation at the Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights.

We spent two comfortable and pleasant nights here. Except, in the middle of our first night, our neighbors had a “situation.” The husband put their rather large dog out of their trailer, his wife followed outside to get the dog, and then the man locked his wife out! There was a lot of yelling and cursing for a while.

He eventually allowed her back in the trailer, and the rest of the night was uneventful. We expected to see them leaving very early that morning, but nope, the storm was over, and all was good with them.

Disturbance at the RV park!

Although not a reflection on the management of this state park, we did encounter our first-ever disturbance here. It was an isolated incident that could have happened anywhere. Other campers across the wide street heard the commotion and, until we corrected them, believed we had been the rowdy ones! However, we did learn that trailer walls are thin, and sound carries some distance.

Unfortunately, that state park is an hour’s drive to St. Augustine, and we did not want to leave Lilly and Tank, our dog children, home alone at the RV park for too long a time. These things did not allow a very long day visit to St. Augustine. Yes, we will return for a much more extended stay! We did have one wonderful and enjoyable afternoon in the sun.

Not enough time in St. Augustine

We really did not have enough time in St. Augustine

St. Augustine is most definitely on our “return visit” list. We did see and learn a lot about the city from the terrific trolley guides, but we would still enjoy taking our time to enjoy all this amazingly historic town has to offer. It may seem that we are forever running out of time, but we are in a taste-teaser phase of RV travel right now. We’re making a list for more extended return visits in the future. We have seen a lot of Florida, but not nearly enough. See these recent posts to read about some of our other Florida adventures: Alluring Apalachicola, Still Rolling Around Florida, and Was Thomas Edison a Florida Snowbird?

Not enough time in St. Augustine

4 thoughts on “Not enough time in St. Augustine

  1. Pingback: Fort Lauderdale in one day | Always Want To Go
  2. Pingback: Where did our Florida RV adventure take us next? | Always Want To Go
  3. You make me want to go!
    Beautiful scenery!
    Continue your travels and have fun.
    Safe travels

    1. St. Augustine is a beautiful city and has tons of history. We will make another trip there soon!

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