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.