As the first place I visited outside of Canada, St. Augustine holds a special place in my heart. It sits high at the top of my list of most frequently visited destinations, and for good reason. Combining beautiful beaches with a historic city, St. Augustine should definitely be on your radar for a less touristy Florida getaway.
St. Augustine Beach
Move away from that beach resort idea you have in your mind. St. Augustine offers a less traditional beach getaway, allowing travellers to feel like locals.
In addition to your typical hotels and resorts, St. Augustine Beach is full of condo-style accommodation, with townhouse complexes abound. The peaceful, private complexes are located just steps away from some of the least crowded, most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen.
On the beaches, you’ll find people from all walks of life, from true locals, to families on vacation, to groups of friends or couples on a relaxing getaway that’s still not too far from reality.
Old St. Augustine
As the oldest continuously occupied settlement not only in Florida but in the entire United States, St. Augustine is a perfect destination for anyone who likes to immerse themselves in a bit of history while wandering around a charming city.
Settled in 1565 by the Spanish, St. Augustine was an important setting during the Civil Rights Movement. Peaceful protests were conducted in the city during the 1960s, and created a reputation for itself as a progressive city to help establish a tolerant mindset. Additionally, it was the site of the St. Augustine movement in 1964, where Martin Luther King Jr. would be arrested.
The old town is just a short 15-minute drive from the beaches area and offers options for absolutely anyone and everyone. Eclectic shops, delicious snacks, and a variety of restaurants are everywhere you look.
My personal favourite activity here is to just wander the streets and take in the colonial architecture. The streets in the centre of town are pedestrian-only and are blocked off from cars. The layout of the town is unique, with beautiful little courtyards hidden everywhere.
For a more organized day in the old town, Old Town Trolley Tours has a variety of fantastic tours, with hop-on-hop-off stops all across the city. If you’re looking for something to keep you a bit more on-edge, there are many tour companies offering ghost tours.
Beyond the city
About an hour south of Jacksonville and two hours north of Orlando, St. Augustine is the perfect base for exploring more of Florida.
Orlando, of course, boasts Disney World and the tourism capital of the state of Florida. Jacksonville is great for a real city break if you tire of the beaches and the small town feel. Jacksonville also has some history of its own: Kingsley Plantation is a very tasteful, solemn, fascinating look into what life was like at a cotton plantation in the 1800s.