Avast ye! You probably know that Castillo de San Marcos was built to protect St. Augustine from pirates, but did you know some have invaded downtown anyway? The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is a Historic District gem where hearties (friends of pirates) can fire a cannon, discover a centuries-old treasure chest and take in a show starring Blackbeard — all while learning about the Golden Age of Piracy.
The museum houses the world’s largest collection of authentic pirate artifacts, but there are plenty of hands-on activities perfect for wannabe pirates and history buffs of all ages. On the Main Deck, which is a re-creation of a pirate ship’s deck, you can raise the Jolly Roger and try your hand at tying knots, then go up to the Gun Deck to fire a real cannon. Below Deck, a special sound experience gives the feeling of being on Blackbeard’s ship during a battle. (Fun fact: This exhibit was designed by Disney Imagineers.)
The flowing floor plan lets visitors easily move from one section of the museum to the next. See Thomas Tew’s treasure chest from the 17th century, and feel the weight of a gold bar in your hand on Shipwreck Island. And don’t miss the treasures on display, some of which were recovered from shipwrecks right off Florida’s Historic Coast.
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Tickets are $14.99 for adults, $7.99 for kids 5-12 years old and free for children 4 and younger. Group tours are available. These educational programs last just under an hour, during which a “crew member” takes your group on a trip through pirate history.
More Pirate Adventures
Once you’re an Old Salt, you’ll want to experience other pirate adventures in St. Augustine. Right across from the museum is Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. Visit the rooms that once housed soldiers and prisoners, get a great view of the Old City from the gun deck and watch a cannon firing.
Local Kids Krew Tours are designed especially for families with children as young as 2. On this 30-minute walking tour through the streets of St. Augustine, a guide teaches you and yours, lads or lasses, how to use a compass, look through a spyglass and more — all with the goal of collecting treasures to take home. Or sail the Black Raven pirate ship for a Treasure Hunt Adventure, adults-only Rum Runner cruise or birthday bash. Trips depart from St. Augustine Municipal Marina; check the ship’s website for cruise schedules.
If you want to continue your day closer to the museum, the Oldest Wooden School House and Colonial Quarter are both nearby. See and hear what school life in the 1700s was like at the school house, and be sure to look around — the red cedar-and-cypress building itself is more than 200 years old. At the Colonial Quarter, immerse yourself in four eras spanning the 16th through 18th centuries. See living history demonstrations, participate in hands-on activities and more.
Plenty of Food & Drink
And don’t worry about being marooned — there’s plenty of food and drink downtown. The Spanish Bakery & Café echoes the theme of Spanish Colonial life, with rustic-looking picnic tables under a cedar tree right outside the Spanish-style structure. Empanadas, picadillo, soups, sandwiches and salads are made daily; finish your meal with a treat from the bakery.
More sweet treats are available at Crucial Coffee, a quaint cabin in the heart of downtown with a garden patio and plenty of seating. Pastries complement a menu of gourmet coffees, teas, espressos, cappuccinos and more.
Or for something a bit stronger, head to Meehan's Irish Pub, offering a great view of the St. Augustine Bayfront, live music and, of course, the very best pub fare and drinks.