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Encompassing 15 acres of lush Old Florida landscape, The Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park in St. Augustine is the perfect way to spend a day in the Nation’s Oldest City. It’s also considered the state’s oldest attraction and it commemorates the Florida landing of Ponce de Leon in 1513 and his quest for the legendary Fountain of Youth. Overlooking the Matanzas River and St. Augustine Inlet, the park offers visitors the chance to relive the days of the conquistadors and discover many colorful facts about Ponce de Leon’s arrival to Florida. It also hosts a blend of stately oaks, blue cedars, sweet-smelling magnolias and dozens of beautiful peacocks along with other wildlife.
Begin your visit at the centerpiece of the Fountain of Youth. The Spring House is a 60-year-old coquina building that encompasses Ponce de Leon’s Spring of Eternal Hope. Spend a few moments looking at the signed guest books stretching back to 1868. And arrive thirsty because the spring is believed to hold magical powers to restore the youth of anyone who drinks from its waters.
Next, head to the park’s Navigators’ Planetarium and learn how early Europeans used the stars as navigational tools to cross the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. Then there’s Discover Globe, a 30-foot-tall illuminated globe that traces the routes used by early Spanish explorers to and from the New World, including Christopher Columbus’ 1492 journey.
Before the Spanish set foot in St. Augustine, it was home to aboriginal Native Americans called Timucua; it is archaeologically significant as the original site of the Timucuan Indian village of Seloy for over 3,000 years and as the original site of Pedro Menendez de Aviles’ St. Augustine settlement in 1565. This site was established 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock and 42 years before the founding of Jamestown. . Learn more about their story at the Timucua Burials, the first Christianized Native American burials in the United States. Discovered in 1934, it is believed that there are more than 4,000 burials at The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.
There’s also the First Encounters exhibit which showcases artifacts recovered at the park including Pinellas points, Spanish doublet buttons in a variety of styles, a silver Calusa plaquette and Spanish blue glass trade beads. Finally, head to the Park’s Mission of Nombre de Dios, a church constructed in 1587 by Franciscan friars and the first of its kind in the continental United States. This historically accurate reproduction was built using local cypress beams and planking, a palm thatch roof and crushed coquina flooring.
The Fountain of Youth is also the 1565 location of the first documented Thanksgiving feast between Europeans and Native Americans, as well as the 1565 site of the First Muster of militiamen in the United States.
After exploring the park’s lush beauty and historical landmarks, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Before wrapping up your visit to the Fountain of Youth, grab a bite to eat at the park’s Five Flags Café and enjoy lunch under one of the many shady oak trees. Try the 1565 Burrito or a bowl of the hearty Cuban black bean soup.
The Fountain of Youth – Where Legend Meets History!