Fountain of Youth
Visit the spot where a nation’s history was born. The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is where St. Augustine was founded nearly 450 years ago, after explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived from Spain. Although other Spanish explorers had arrived earlier (most notably Juan Ponce de Leon), those settlements faltered. In 1565, the settlement flourished, and St. Augustine was established. It would go on to become the oldest continuous European settlement in the U.S.
The 15-acre Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is home to numerous exhibits besides the actual Fountain of Youth itself. Explore the Spring House, Discovery Globe, Planetarium, Timucua Indian Exhibit, Spanish cannons and Native Christian Burial Ground Exhibit. Make sure to set aside enough time so you can explore the park at your leisure.
The Fountain of Youth & Spring House
First things first. Take a drink of water from the legendary spring and see if you’ll enjoy eternal youth. Learn the history of Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth and how he claimed “La Florida” for Spain in 1513. See the nostalgic dioramas installed in 1957 depicting the first encounter of the Timucuan residents and Spanish explorers.
Timucua Indian Exhibit
Ponce de Leon arrived from Spain in 1513, but the area’s history began long before that. Archeological discoveries, including hut foundations and relics, point to Timucua habitation on the site for about 3,000 years. The Timucuans thrived in the abundant surroundings, hunting with bows and arrows, cultivating corn and pumpkins, and fishing from land and canoes.
Pay a visit to the Native Timucua Village of Seloy, where you can learn about how these Native Americans lived and hunted. Learn about their customs and sophisticated social structure.
Visit the planetarium, watch the show and learn about how early explorers used the constellations to guide their long voyages at sea.
The glowing, two-story-high Discovery Globe traces the routes of Spanish explorers from Europe, across the vast Atlantic to the New World.
There's a lot to see and do on the park's scenic 15-acre waterfront grounds. After a drink from the Fountain of Youth, stroll beneath large live oaks, perch on a bench, enjoy a picnic under the shade trees and wander along a 600-foot-long observation platform over the marshes. Among the wildlife you’ll encounter are peacocks and native birds. Don’t be surprised if you hear a loud boom – a Spanish cannon is fired regularly.
The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Parking is free. Tickets include all exhibits. The park is pet-friendly. A snack bar, two picnic areas and a gift shop are available.
Just southwest of the park is the Mission of Nombre de Dios/Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. Two blocks north of the park is the St. Augustine Old Jail, on the National Register of Historic Places and open to visitors as the Old Jail Museum. If you head south less than a mile on San Marco Avenue, you’ll come to Castillo de San Marcos, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum and the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. Just north of the park is the causeway to Vilano Beach.