Itinerary: Experience Firsts in Historic St. Augustine
Florida’s ’Old City’ is Home to Attractions Like Castillo de San Marcos, Colonial Quarter, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse and the Oldest House
What better way to begin the day than on the bay? The formidable Castillo de San Marcos overlooks the water just outside the city gates. Here you can explore the majesty of the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. Built in 1672 of coquina blocks, it was the northernmost outpost of the Spanish New World Empire. From San Marco Avenue, head south on St. George Street to The Oldest Wooden School House in the USA. Sit with an animated schoolmaster and his pupils for a lesson about learning in the 1700s. Stop in the nearby Colonial Quarter, where you’ll learn to fire a musket and what life was like in the country’s oldest settlement.
Continue south to peruse the shops, galleries and one-of-a-kind boutiques along St. George Street, and perhaps pick up your first St. Augustine souvenir, if you haven’t already! Zigzag over to Sevilla Street to see the magnificent Memorial Presbyterian Church. Its Venetian Renaissance architecture and ornate detail rival that of the finest churches in Europe. Further south, Sevilla meets King Street and Flagler College, a fabulous masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture. The college was formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel, the first of the grand hotels built by Henry Flagler.
Cross over to Lightner Museum for your first lunch at the bottom of an historic indoor swimming pool – Café Alcazar occupies the deep end! The museum, formerly the elegant Alcazar Hotel, houses a collection of Victorian treasures; take them in after lunch, or pick up pieces of the past at the antique mall surrounding the pool. The Oldest House Museum Complex on St. Francis Street will be your southernmost stop. It includes the González-Alvarez House, two museums, a changing exhibition gallery, an ornamental garden and a museum store.
Just north on Cordova Street is Cathedral Place where you’ll find the Cathedral Basilica, home to the first Catholic congregation in North America.
If you are up for it, drive out to the towering St. Augustine Lighthouse, the first brick structure in the city. After a taste of maritime history you’re sure to be hungry for dinner. For a relaxing last first, head back to the corner of King Street and Avenida Menendez for New World cuisine and "hand-crafted beer." A1A Ale Works, the first and only microbrewery in the Ancient City, was recently voted "Best Microbrewery in Florida" by the readers of Florida Monthly magazine.