Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos

Ponte Vedra Beach sand dunes

Ponte Vedra Beach sand dunes

Anastasia State Park walkover at sunrise

Anastasia State Park walkover at sunrise

Casa Monica Hotel

Casa Monica Hotel

Fort Mose Re-enactment

Fort Mose Historical Re-enactment

Flagler College

Flagler College

Bridge of Lions

Bridge of Lions 

Beach at Anastasia State Park

Beach at Anastasia State Park

Lightner Museum

Lightner Museum

Castillo de San Marcos
Ponte Vedra Beach sand dunes
Anastasia State Park walkover at sunrise
Casa Monica Hotel
Fort Mose Re-enactment
Flagler College
Bridge of Lions
Beach at Anastasia State Park
Lightner Museum

The History of St. Augustine's Forts, Museums, Hotels and Beaches

Many attractions in St. Augustine boast a rich history. From Castillo de San Marcos and other museums and forts in St. Augustine, to the area's beaches and hotels — almost everything has a place in the past.

Those of us familiar with St. Augustine — the earliest permanent European settlement in North America — keep coming back as if we were history itself. We're inspired by the story and spirit of elements within the city, from a balcony angled over narrow street to a turret raised atop a landmark tower or a wall meant to repel intruders from long before America, as a political ideal, arose in the popular imagination.

Many attractions in St. Augustine boast a rich history — from forts and museums to hotels, beaches and more. 

Forts and Museums

Spain founded the city in 1565, and between 1672 and 1695 settlers built Castillo de San Marcos. The fort, with its distinctive omni-directional bastions, was built to help defend against hostile powers that preyed on Spanish treasure fleets returning from Peru and Mexico. Formidable as it remains — now a National Monument that interprets St. Augustine as part of American and world history — the fort also reminds us of war's distant echo in the day-to-day city. So strong was war's grip on the town that when St. Augustine became irrelevant to world affairs, time virtually wound down. The architecture of fortification became an aesthetic legacy.

Other relics of war remain throughout the city. Visitors might find themselves walking down Artillery Lane, past the St. Francis Barracks and the Museum of Florida's Military. Some may stroll past a stack of cannonballs beside a monument honoring WWI troops and on to the Santo Domingo Redoubt, a recently restored post of logs from the 1730s embedded in the city's defensive wall behind the Visitor Information Center.

North of town, visitors will find the site of Spanish Fort Mose. In the 1720s, the fort settled runaway English slaves in the continent's first sanctioned African-American community. But an English assault in 1740 reduced the site to age-old marsh. Today the site is marked by a plaque that honors the site's settlers and the area is most evocative when clouds shroud the sun and sea fog blurs distant beach dunes. 

Hotels

Ornamental hotels of the 1880s still remain in the city as well. One is now a college (Flagler College, originally the Ponce de Leon), and two others are historical museums (Zorayda Castle and the Lightner Museum, originally the Alcazar). Another hotel of the time has been fully restored again for guests (the luxurious Casa Monica).

Beaches and Parks

St. Augustine's beaches and parks boast their own history and significance. Laced along an otherwise smooth and sandy shore from Ponte Vedra Beach to Summer Haven lie sections of shells by the billions, their fragments compacting with sand and water to form the regionally distinctive building material called coquina. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain quarried coquina to build its defensive perimeter. Across from the beach, Fort Matanzas was part of that perimeter. Today the small fort stands fully restored 15 miles south of the city, served by a free, hourly National Park Service ferry. Former coquina quarries also remain open to visitors in Anastasia State Park.

St. Augustine
Experience Florida's Smithsonian. Henry Flagler's former Alcazar Hotel holds 19th-century artifacts including natural history exhibits, Tiffany glass, a Victorian Village and antique mechanical...
Front street view of Flagler College
St. Augustine
Explore the grandeur of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, built in 1887 by Henry Flagler. Now a National Historical Landmark and home to Flagler College, take a tour through this fully ground floor of...