The richly historic city of St Augustine in the Sunshine State of Florida is defined by an easy going charm and tranquil beauty which marks it out against so many other cities in the US. Although officially classed as a city, St Augustine has more of a small town feel, enhanced no doubt by the cobbled streets and quaint cafes which typify the area. Located just over 100 miles from the theme park capital of the world, Orlando, this delightful city could not be more different than its bigger, brasher neighbour.
First settled by the Spanish in 1565, St Augustine is the oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the USA. Spanish influence can still be seen throughout the city, the most striking example being the imposing fort of Castillo de San Marcos. Built in the 17th century to defend Spanish interests, this remarkable monument offers some truly stunning views from the upper battlements. Amongst the many fascinating museums in the city, one of the finest is the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum. Visitors to this wonderful attraction are swept back to a time long since gone, as costumed guides tell the story of the city’s rich historic legacy.
Many people come to St Augustine to simply relax and soak in the tranquillity. The city’s peaceful cobbled streets are lined with quaint pavement cafes and unique gift shops, with many of the staff who work in them choosing to wear period costume. Often, the only sound breaking the tranquil silence is the sound of hooves as delightful horse-drawn carriages gently wind their way around the city.
March to May and September to November are the best periods to visit the city. It tends to be a little less crowded during these times while the weather remains very pleasant. The holiday season from November to January sees the city celebrate the Night of Lights, as the streets are adorned with more than a million dazzling white lights.
The month of February and the early part of March tend to be the cheapest times to visit the city, as the Night of Lights festival has ended and Easter is yet to begin.
Much of the historic old town can easily be explored on foot. However, for a pleasant, relaxing journey around the city, many people choose to take a horse-drawn carriage or catch one of the historic trolley buses. More modern transport options are provided by the Sunshine Bus Company, which operates up until early evening and charges very reasonable fares.