DescriptionAs the oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the United States, St. Augustine has played varied and prominent historic roles. Juan Ponce de León, in search of the legendary Fountain of Youth, landed in this area Apr. 3, 1513, and took possession of the region for Spain. In 1565 King Phillip II sent Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to colonize the new territory. Menéndez de Avilés arrived in Florida on the Feast Day of St. Augustine and named the landing site after the saint.
Its coastal location made the town both strategic and vulnerable. Pirates sacked St. Augustine in both the 16th and 17th centuries. Military importance soon came to the forefront as England extended its holdings southward down the coast. Spain responded by starting to build Castillo de San Marcos in 1672.
By the time St. Augustine was ceded to England in 1763, it had served as the seat of government for 30 missions as well as for all Spanish possessions in the regions of Florida and coastal Georgia. During the Revolutionary War, British loyalists from adjacent states sought refuge in St. Augustine.
In 1783 in recognition of Spain's assistance to the United States in its war against Britain, Florida was returned to Spain. Encouraged by Spanish land grants, many Americans moved onto property vacated by the English. Florida became a U.S. possession in 1821, and during the Second Seminole War in the 1830s, St. Augustine resumed a military role.
The quiet coastal town came to life in the 1880s when Henry Flagler began to develop the area as a winter resort and playground. With a railway link provided from New York, plush hotels were built and leisure activities such as golf and yachting awaited the city's guests.
Still preserving strong evidence of its Spanish origin, the Old City is being restored to a likeness of its colonial days; much of the historic area north of the Plaza de la Constitución is complete. Typical Spanish houses, with walled patios enclosing Old World gardens, line the many narrow streets.
Tolomato Cemetery, also known as the Old Spanish Cemetery, is at Cordova Street between Orange and Saragossa streets. Formerly the site of the Christian Native American village of Tolomato, the cemetery served as a Catholic burial ground 1784-1892 and is the burial site of Augustin Verot, the first bishop of St. Augustine. The cemetery is only open by request; information is available at the rectory entrance of the Cathedral of St. Augustine on Treasury Street.
South of the city on Anastasia Island, St. Augustine Beach provides a return to the present. Miles of wide, hard-packed sand beaches afford beach driving, swimming and surfing opportunities. Boating also is popular.
Tours of area attractions by horse-drawn carriage depart from the bayfront area next to Castillo de San Marcos. The city's historic sites can be seen in a different light during nightly ghost tours. Costumed guides tell eerie stories about the city and its historic buildings as part of walking tours conducted by Ghost Tours of St. Augustine; phone (904) 829-1122. The Trolley of the Doomed provides transportation to haunted sites such as the St. Augustine Lighthouse grounds and The Old Jail on tours offered by Ghosts & Gravestones; phone (866) 721-1844.
The Huguenot cemetery, between the City Gate and the Visitor Information Center, is open to the public anytime the gate is unlocked.
Note: Parking regulations are enforced strictly throughout the city. Yellow curbs are no-parking zones. Several parking lots are available.
Visitor InfoSt. Augustine & St. Johns County Visitors Information Center 10 W. Castillo Dr. ST. AUGUSTINE, FL 32084. Phone:(904)825-1000
ShoppingSt. Augustine Outlets and St. Augustine Premium Outlets are both off I-95 exit 318 on SR 16.
The Old CityBlack Raven Adventures
Other Points of InterestAuthentic Old Jail Complex