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.
The oldest masonry structure of its kind in the continental United States, Castillo de San Marcos was built and constructed to guard the coastline against invasion. Take some time to wander around this massive fort that overlooks the sea on the St. Augustine coast. Walk through the numerous rooms that were once home to war soldiers and prisoners. Out on the large interior courtyard, you’ll see the gun deck and enjoy magnificent views of the city.
What better place to study Liberal Arts than inside an oasis of architectural beauty? Flagler College, situated on the grounds of the original Ponce de Leon Hotel, offers students four-year degrees in several dozen areas of study. The hotel was known for its opulent setting and luxurious amenities. Many millions of dollars have been spent renovating and restoring the historic buildings, and visitors as well as students spend many hours just enjoying the ambiance.
When visiting Villa Zorayda, make sure to leave yourself a good hour to explore this architectural and cultural gem. It’s been added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and houses one of the most unique collections of antiquities in America. Such rarities on display include the “Sacred Cat Rug,” which is over 2,400 years old and said to be made from the hairs of ancient cats that roamed the Nile River. You can also see hand-carved tropical hardwood furniture and impressive interior details like the flooring and windows.
Like so many other sites in St. Augustine, the Lighthouse is a cherished landmark from another era. It’s significant for two main reasons—first because of its role as a vital watchtower that led ships safely into the St. Augustine port for more than a hundred years and second because of its longstanding survival as an architectural icon to the city. The original lighthouse was closed in 1874 on the same day that the new one was completed.