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With more than 450 years of history, it’s hard to find a rock unturned in the Nation’s Oldest City. But that certainly doesn’t mean St. Augustine is lacking a few hidden gems. To help make your next visit to Northeast Florida just that much better, we’ve compiled a list of the top places to visit and things to do that are a bit off the beaten path.
Considered the oldest public street in the country, Aviles Street appears on archival maps dating as far back as the early 1570s. Today, the brick street is one of the busiest in St. Augustine. It was renovated in 2010 with wider sidewalks, additional benches and landscaping and boasts a nice mix of fine dining, historic museums and locally owned boutiques.
Housed in the Lightner Museum in what was once designated for the largest indoor swimming pool in the world, Café Alcazar is an elegant eatery open seven days a week for lunch and once a month for dinner. Dine on escargot, sesame shrimp skewers, crepes or one of the other mouthwatering menu options.
Another Lightner Museum locale that doesn’t get as much attention as it should is the koi pond located within the museum’s courtyard. Beautiful foliage surrounds a little footbridge over a pond where large white, orange and yellow koi swim about. Hint: Don’t forget to bring quarters. There are fish food machines on the premises.
St. Augustine is quickly making a name for itself as one of the top craft cocktail destinations in Florida. The city is home to St. Augustine Distillery, a small-batch, craft distillery that produces rum, vodka, gin and bourbon. It also boasts bars like Ice Plant and Odd Birds, which focus on fresh ingredients and high-end spirits.
Built by railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler in 1888, the Hotel Ponce de Leon was a winter playground for the Yankee elite. Today, it’s home to Flagler College and boasts 79 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows in the college’s dining room, said to be the largest collection together in one place.
Legend has it that if you kiss your loved one under a love tree, you’ll seal your love for eternity. So head on over to Cordova Street where The Love Tree rests. There, you’ll find a Sabal Palm (Florida’s state tree) growing out of the heart of an old oak. If you separate them, both trees will die. Now that’s true love.
Tucked away on Martin Luther King Avenue in the historic Lincolnville neighborhood, The Blue Hen Café is the local’s place for breakfast and lunch. Check out the eatery’s homemade biscuits with peach butter, sweet potato home fries and fried green tomato tacos. Actually, just order one of everything. It’s that good.
The Nation’s Oldest City is virtually surrounded by water. We have the Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal Waterway, Salt Run and Matanzas River just to name a few. So take advantage and check out one of the many scenic boat tours including SchoonerFreedom and The Black Raven, a pirate ship hosting a cast of unsavory characters.
Another tree makes the list of hidden gems in St. Augustine. At more than 600 years old, The Old Senator, a glorious Live Oak, is located on the grounds of the Howard Johnson Express Inn. Stop number 22 on the Old Town Trolley tour, The Old Senator stands as a testament to Ponce De Leon’s discovery of La Florida in 1513.
Every Saturday morning, the city hosts an impressive farmer’s market at the St. Augustine Amphitheater, an outdoor music venue. Dozens of vendors set up shop and hawk everything from local, organic produce and handmade soaps to one-of-a-kind clothing and hand-carved musical instruments.