Excursions: St. Augustine

As I have hinted in some of my more recent posts, Brandon and I recently took a trip that doubled as a belated honeymoon and a first-anniversary celebration. The destination? St. Augustine. Let’s take a look at what we did on our trip.

The view from the front porch at the Southern Wind Inn Bed and Breakfast, where we stayed.

Why St. Augustine?

Brandon and I picked St. Augustine for a couple of reasons. The main reason was that (obviously) we wanted to see it. We first got acquainted with it in 2021 when we stayed there overnight on our way back from a wedding in Orlando. Although we enjoyed what we saw, we didn’t see very much because we were only there for one full day. We regarded this trip, then, as an opportunity to spend more time in a place we both liked.

Bridge of Lions, one of the landmark sites in St. Augustine.

We also chose St. Augustine to accommodate friends and family. When we got married, we decided not to hold a formal reception. Practicality, along with a lack of interest in wedding planning, informed this decision. Most of our friends and family live about 1,000 miles away from us, so we didn’t want to make them spend precious time and money on wedding obligations. Instead, we decided to take a belated honeymoon and give everyone the option to visit.

We picked St. Augustine with family in mind. Brandon’s siblings both have small children, and we figured driving from Tallahassee to St. Augustine would be easier than trekking to Williamsburg. Many of Brandon’s friends also still live in Florida, so they could stop by and say hello (my friends are scattered all over the country so no one place is especially convenient for them).

My family, in turn, is already familiar with St. Augustine because my maternal grandparents used to live there when they were alive. Additionally, my immediate relatives have no small children, so we figured it’d be easier for them to travel longer distances. My parents are also retired, whereas Brandon’s mother has a demanding career, so again, we figured it’d be easier for my folks to undertake the longer trip. And with my niece getting married in October next year, Brandon and I already have plans to return to Maine for our second anniversary, so those who couldn’t make it will see us then.

The Setting

During our first trip, we stayed at an inn located in the historic area. We really liked the walkability of this location, so we opted to stay in this part of town again. We chose the Southern Wind Inn Bed and Breakfast, which I highly recommend. My parents booked a room at the same place and they also have nothing but praise for it.

Although we took a full week off for our vacation, we only stayed in St. Augustine for three full days. Aside from the expense of staying in the historic area, we wanted to schedule a couple of days at the end of our vacation to recuperate from the travel and transition back to work. During those three days, we packed in as much activity as we could, all while catching up with different friends and family members. Let’s see what we did!

Day 1: Castillo de San Marcos, and Pirate Treasure

Panoramic view from the second floor of the Castillo de San Marcos, added during the British occupation in the 18th century.

On the first day, we largely stuck to the historic area. In the morning, we visited the major landmark in town, the Castillo de San Marcos. As the oldest surviving Spanish fortification in the United States, this ruin is charged with complicated histories of colonization, operating under Spanish, British, American, and Confederate rule at various points in its history.

During the afternoon, we visited the Pirate & Treasure Museum. We all expected this place to be cheesy, but it surprised us with its detailed content and decent production value in its animatronics and models. I especially appreciated the final room dedicated to pirates in pop culture. Let’s be honest, most of us are probably more familiar with movie pirates than the actual historical ones.

Day 2: St. Augustine Lighthouse and Washington Oaks Park

On our second full day, we headed from the mainland to Anastasia Island. In the morning, we visited the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. After going through the maritime exhibits, we climbed up the spiraling staircase to the top of the lighthouse. It was a challenging climb, but the views were spectacular. Brandon also liked the homemade pickles they sold at the snack bar, which were especially flavorful and potent.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse
The view from the lighthouse.

During the afternoon, we visited Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. I’ll admit, I hadn’t even heard of this place until one of Brandon’s friends mentioned it. She suggested it because she wanted to see the outcroppings of coquina rocks along the beach. A sedimentary rock composed of layers of crushed shells, cocquina is the material used to create the Castillo and many other buildings throughout St. Augustine.

That night, after dinner with Brandon’s family, a few of us played a round of miniature golf. None of us did especially well, but it was a fun time.

Day 3: Alligator Farm and St. George Street

On the third day, all of us went to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, located on Anastasia Island. Brandon’s dad loves alligators, so we all agreed to meet here as a family. My mother had also visited the farm back in the 1990s and was interested to see how the farm had changed since then.

A highlight for me was sketching. I developed an interest in alligators after first seeing them in Florida a couple of years ago. Since they spend most of their time basking, they make great sketching subjects because they don’t move very much.

During the afternoon, we returned to the historic area and stopped in at some of the shops on St. George Street. Aside from enjoying the walkability of the area, I wanted to restock on some spicy hot cocoa from Whetstone Chocolates, which I’d bought on the last trip.

And with that, our trip came to a close.

Reflections on St. Augustine

Brandon and I had a really great time on this trip. We enjoyed the variety of activities and attractions we visited, as well as catching up with so many friends and family. The food was great and encompassed a variety of genres, from classic southern seafood to Spanish cuisine. The weather was also unusually dry and agreeable, making it that much more pleasant to wander around. Considering that we were only there for three days, we managed to do a lot of different things while seeing a lot of people.

That said, by the time the trip wound down we were ready to leave. Although it was on the cool and dry side when we arrived, the weather got increasingly warmer and more humid over the course of the week. The drive to Anastasia Island, like so much of Florida, was admittedly a drag, with lots of traffic and few direct ways of getting anywhere. When we arrived on Tuesday, it was fairly quiet, but by Friday, the crowds had picked up. Aside from being more crowded, St. Augustine got louder as the week progressed because many visitors liked blasting music from their motorcycles and bicycles. By the time we woke up to a humid Saturday morning, we were ready to come back to Williamsburg.

Future Plans

So would Brandon and I ever consider a return trip to St. Augustine? We wouldn’t rule it out, but it’s unlikely that we’ll return anytime soon. We managed to do a lot of things in the three days we spent there. There are also a lot of other, new places we haven’t visited yet, so we’d rather prioritize those.

But you never know. In the meantime, we had a wonderful time, and I’m really glad we took this trip.

Categorized as Travels

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