After our fabulous time on the Gulf Coast, we headed east to the historic town of St. Augustine, Florida.
We camped right across the street from the beach and took an evening walk to dip our toes into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.
It felt so surreal to know we had traveled across the entire country and were as far from home as this trip would take us. Literally Sea to Shining Sea.
We collected shells, drew in the sand and the boys do what they love to do at the beach: they dug a deep hole.
The next morning, we drove a few minutes into town to explore St. Augustine.
Quick history: St. Augustine was founded in 1565 and is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States. It was founded by a Spanish conquistador, was later under British rule, was a hub for pirates and enjoys a gorgeous tropical waterfront location.
Based on the recommendations from Instagram followers (thank you!) we started our tour of the town with fresh biscuits at Maple Street Biscuit Company.
With happy bellies and iced coffee in hand, off we went on a walk through town. The houses and shops and streets and gates are old, full of history and so fun to look at.
Our walk took us to the Castillo de San Marcos – the oldest masonry fort in America.
It is built along the coast out of rare stone called coquina, which is a soft limestone made up of crushed shells. Walking along the walls and seeing the stone work from the 17th century is really quite incredible.
The fort acted as a military fort and possession of the fort has changed six times, all peaceful, amongst four different governments: the Spanish Empire, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America (Spain and the United States having possession two times each).
We took advantage of the Junior Ranger program which we’ve found to be a great way to get the kids interested and engaged in the history and importance of each National Park.
They fill out the booklet, answering questions along the way, and then present it to a Ranger (in this case, a lovely volunteer who also does Revolutionary War reenactments at the Castillo) to be quizzed and receive a Junior Ranger badge.
The ground floor of the fort is open to walk through, read about the history and who lived in the fort. Then you can walk up the stone steps to the top level where it overlooks the center court and beyond the walls.
I found a photo online taken from the air that shows off the ingenious defensive design:
With multiple cannons in place on all four bastions, every direction and angle is covered.
We all thoroughly enjoyed learning about early, early American history that took place here and are so amazed and thankful for National Parks that let you walk right in, touch, explore and experience such old and beautiful places.
After our education on the Castillo, we walked across the street to the St. Augustine Pirate + Treasure Museum.
With three boys, of course we were interested in learning more about real pirates and while we were not expecting much from the museum, we actually really enjoyed it. There is a treasure hunt for the kids to do as they go through which kept them excited. The artifacts on display are authentic pirate paraphernalia – weapons, china, gold, a real treasure chest (the only known authentic pirate treasure chest in the world!) and one of three known Jolly Roger flags:
I’ll be honest – and I may embarrass myself by admitting this – but I didn’t realize pirates were real. I have heard bits and pieces of the stories, but I always just assumed they were made up. Not so! They are for real, there were really pirates who ravaged trade ships and stole gold and valuables and became not only feared villains, but also very rich. Crazy.
After the museum, we had a late lunch/early dinner at The Floridian.
Southern comfort food in a very tropical-Florida setting. It was one of our best meals of the trip.
We walked out of the restaurant to discover it had started to rain, but we didn’t let it stop us from a few more minutes of walking through town.
We found a magic shop that blew the kids’ minds (mine too, actually) and walked away with three magic kits that have been great entertainment for this leg of the trip. My oldest does a pretty great sponge ball act.
To finish it all off, we popped into The Hyppo for gourmet popsicles.
I chose the cucumber lemon mint which was just as refreshing as it sounds. Yum.
We only had one day to spend in St. Augustine and we loved our time exploring the history, enjoying the food, meeting a few locals and taking in the sights.
I love St. Augustine. I attended UF and the drive from Gainesville to St. Augustine was super easy. So much charm! I love, love the gator print in the photo above too!
Where is Audrey’s little white outfit from?
We were trucking north from an impromptu vacation 2 w family in Charlotte, NC to our home in Columbus this past weekend after our vacay to the coast south of St. Augustine went a little awry when we passed an airstream pulling through the mountains. I know you’re coming here — and I don’t know precisely when — but I had a little fan envy when we passed the sleek trailer. I was immediately disappointed bc a pickup was towing the lot. And the guy was NOT Ryan and there were NOT 4 kids like in my car, or a glimpse of your cute face!!! Sooo… we passed on by, with my eyes lingering a little behind, wondering what I might actually do if we were to cross paths. I’s probably shriek and no one would understand, even if I tried to explain, desperately!! So, instead, I will just continue to watch through your eyes as you share a magnificent journey with your family. I am so impressed by your personal courage, fortitude in the 6 of you (though pleaaaaase tell us you have “those” moments) and your discipline to still conduct your business and treat “us” with the true respect of a friend. I can’t wait to see what you’ve picked for our city (Cbus)… ‘cuz I might have sent you through my hometown of Cincinnati or advised you to swing through when the Buckeyes were in town. ;-) Happy travels, my friend!!
You are so kind! We wish there was time to make stops in each city for a meet-up. I LOVE meeting readers and learning more about each one and think it would be so fun to have real life coffee chats. It just doesn’t work for this trip.
I just have to mention that your photographs are turning out so lovely from this long trip! What a collection of memories you’ll have to view years after the fact!
Thank you Pamela!
This is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone call coquina “rare”! Of course, I grew up in Florida — my college (newly built when I went there) was made from coquina. I guess it’s rare in Washington, though! :)
Loved St. Augustine! We stayed at the Grand Bohemian. Would love to go back RV style. Hyppo is the best!
ooops. I forgot to mention Eugenia’s series are out of print but I have loaded them into an e-reader. A friend had sent the St. Simon’s 3 books ~ 50 cent paperbacks from a library sale, complete with that famous Florida humidity fragrance. I read them on the Empire Builder when going to visit my son and his family in Poulsbo a few years ago. I became obsessed with reading all of Ms. Price’s historical novels.
St. Augustine was so much different back in the 50s when we had class trips ~ via train from Jacksonville. Techniques for engaging the children is one of the best things to have happened in up-close learning these days. Love it. May I suggest some historical novels? Eugenia Price did incredible research back in the day. Maria from her Florida trilogy brought St. Augustine history to life from the point of long ago residents ~ so many events beyond the fort, Osceola, and Fountain of Youth. Also, if you were to read the Savannah quartet, you would again learn about life, families, politics, romance, war, illness, travel ~ and homes that you may have visited while in that lovely town. Real people blended with fictional. I love her stories and local details. Perhaps you will be able to relate to her stories having walked those historical paths. . .
Love this description of St. Augustine! I lived in Gainesville, FL for three years while I attended graduate school. Seeing your photos made me smile. I walked those same streets and saw many of those same sights (save the Pirate Museum). I had my first Maple Street in April when I was in Jacksonville for a conference. Life altering. Glad you gave it a go. What silly question did they ask you when you ordered? I got, “What is your favorite band?” Loved hearing them call, “REM?” when my order was ready. Oh, how I miss FL but I do not miss that awful humidity. I am soo glad you are enjoying your time on the other coast. Thanks for sharing!!
Oh! And there are even still horrible pirates active and working today! You’ve got to watch the Tom Hanks movie, Captain Phillips. It’s a good movie and all about today’s pirates! (I wouldn’t recommend it for kids though.)
So wonderful! Thank you for recording this trip with all of us. I can’t wait to visit St. Augustine now…and I’d never even head of it before! I’d only heard of St. Augustine grass seed! lol.
I lived in Savannah, GA for four years, as a child. ( BTW, I hope Savannah is on your list of places to stop! You should not miss it….and eat lunch at Mrs. Wilke’s Boarding House. It is not advertised. There is just a sign out front. You can google it as I have forgotten the name of the street. It is in town though. I was best friends with her granddaughter, Marcia. Marcia works there. It is Family Style Eating.) I digressed. When I was in the 4th grade our class took a train trip to St. Augustine. I will always have fond memories.
On another subject, I am taking your Illustrator classes. I once mentioned the site Design Cuts. You should visit the site and check out the current deal. Just click on current deal. I am pretty sure you will be AmAzEd at all you can get for $29. and no restrictions of use like on regular scrapbook sites. I bought it yesterday.
Although their garb and weapons are different, there are STILL pirates on the seas. Thank you for another look at a wonderful area of our beautiful country!
I visited here in 1989 right after I graduated from college and just loved it. I believe the oldest school house in the U.S. is here too because I remember being in awe of the history of the place. The funny thing is that Rob Lowe had just been there filming and a local friend had seen him at her gym at the time and he was a wild boy! Now you have me wanting to go back! I homeschooled my kids for one year when we were in transition and we did things like this– it was my favorite year spent with them. Now they are both in college and I’m missing this wonderful age when we were always learning together! You have a wonderful family!
I love St. Augustine!! We are planning to vacation there again next summer. Living in S. GA it’s a great get away without being too far from home.
Glad you & your family enjoyed it!
Yep pirates are real. They were robbers and murderers. I get irked when people think the Jolly Roger is a fashion statement for a shirt or nursery- it’s a historic symbol of fear, people! Great that you are educating your family so much along this trip. Love the posts- keep being awesome!
Emily, I love your blog and posts. Like many of the earlier comments, St, Augustine is in my backyard. I’m a north Florida native and have spent many wonderful days in St. Augustine. You did hit some of the best places! My daughter loves Hyppo! Fernandina (due north on AIA) is another great beach town. Fort Clinch and Cumberland Island are must sees. I’ve enjoyed following your summer trip, wish I could have had a cup of coffee with you! Travel mercies to you and your sweet family.
One of our favorite places on the eastern coast of FL!! Been there many times. Love your posts about the trip.
I moved away from NE Florida about 5 years ago to MA. It can be quite fun to visit. St. Augustine became a tourist destination when Flagler built the railroad down there in the early 20th century. If you drive up a bit to Ponte Vedra Beach/Mickler’s Landing y’all could’ve hunted for sharks teeth! Teeth are up and down the beach and are easiest to find at low tide.
Saint Augustine is a lovely spot, for sure. You have captured it so well here.
Oh Yes, pirates were real alright – and still are. For more information just watch Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips…..
OOOh, I did see that movie. I have forgotten about that!
I’ve been to those same places but many many years ago when my kids were the same age as yours. I really want to go back and take my time and bring my grandkids now. Thanks for the cool reminders of a wonderful trip. You are definitely fun to follow and love your blog.
I’m so glad you had fun in my little city:) You really had my ideal day at some of the best local places!!!
We live in Jax Beach (about 30 min north of St Aug), so we spend a lot of time in the nation’s oldest city! It’s so fun to see your pictures of one of my favorite cities and also some of my favorite treats. :)
Love that you went to St Augustine. You have great taste in destinations :) It is such a cool town with so much to discover. We live very close and always find something new.
A while back, I wrote a post on why it is one of our favorite places:
Hope you are continuing to have a blast on your family adventure!
Emily – I’m a follower in Jupiter, Fl, and I suggested you guys take a brief detour here after Cape Canaveral, on your way to Naples. I grew up in Jacksonville, vacationed in St. Augustine Beach, and there is a big difference in the Atlantic Ocean down here. If you can fit it into your itinerary, it would be worth it to get off I-95 (or the turnpike) at Indiantown Road and drive east for 20 minutes to Dubois Park. You can see the beautiful Jupiter Inlet, the lighthouse, and the GREEN and BLUE Atlantic Ocean. The Bahamas are just a 2 hour boat ride east of us!
I’m so glad you posted this. I was about to google St. Augustine to get acquainted with the town, since my best friend just moved there this last Thursday. These pictures are great and I’ll be sure to pass along the recommendation of good places to eat. It’s fun to follow along on your family’s journey.
Your post made me want to hop in the car and head straight for St. Augustine. It’s one of my favorite Florida cities. And those popsicles….. !
Wow, this town looks beautiful & fascinating.
I always feel amazed by really old buildings & artifacts.
Cucumber lemon mint popsicle sounds delicious.