Our First Beach Vacation to St. Augustine
This summer we had the opportunity to take a trip to St. Augustine in Florida! It was an amazing trip, and I am so grateful that we were able to go! My husband has spoken about it for years so as we were trying to come up with an awesome destination, he knew this was the one!
We were there for one full week, and it was so amazing. We went Labor Day weekend through the following weekend. Our Air B&B we rented was on the beach and we were able to easily walk down there and back for lunch. Also, it was a private beach! This was my very first time staying at a private beach, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to go back. Most of the week we were the only ones there.
For most of our trip to St. Augustine, we stayed on the beach. That is why we were there! We made sure to take some necessities to ensure we would have everything we needed. You can check out our beach must-haves here.
Downtown St. Augustine
One of the days we went into town to check out St. Augustine, I was blown away by the city’s beauty! Simply walking the streets was wonderful! Big Tip: There is a central parking garage in the middle of the city. It costs $15 for the entire day. It was worth it so we did not have to worry about going and filling the meter. However, we did make sure to do some things in the city!
St. Augustine Walking Ghost Tour
Walking is the greatest method to experience downtown St. Augustine. For one thing, driving in the city’s historic district is prohibited, and where it is permitted, parking can be difficult. Walking, on the other hand, allows you to observe and enjoy much more of the historic architecture as you wander.
Our guide was a tough-as-nails elderly woman. She didn’t allow other adults to smoke around my kids, made sure they watched their language, and always allowed the little ones up front when she was speaking! We loved her! We all walked together throughout the Old City at midnight by the light from her little lantern. She told us about being “saved by the bell” and how kids say they are greeted by a friendly little girl when they come through the city gates. Her stories were a wonderful treat that even my scared little one (who was only 6 at the time) couldn’t resist! Don’t stray from the ghost tours – they are a wonderful history lesson that you won’t learn in school or on that haunted trolley ride!
75 King St, St. Augustine, FL 32084
The Lightner Museum is about 7 minutes along St. George Street (and one block to the west), and it stands as a stunning homage to the Gilded Age era when it was erected, and it has a wonderful collection of art, history, and design. Return to St. George Street and proceed to the Plaza de la Constitucion, which is located in the heart of the ancient city center and is surrounded by beautiful buildings, including the cathedral.
Just across the street is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, a stunning example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and home to the country’s oldest Christian congregation.
Castillo de San Marcos
1 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084
Naturally, we have been to the Fort (Castillo De San Marcos) several times since then. I recommend you visit on a cool day because it can get very hot (and un-enjoyable) if you try to visit in 90-degree weather. Standing on top of the fort with the hot sun beating down on the coquina rock does not make for a pleasant afternoon!
My favorite part of visiting the Fort isn’t being inside at all… it is going over the drawbridge and picnicking on the green grass. The drawbridge seems so small until you are upon it and then it seems so large. It is a feeling that you have to experience yourself to understand fully. In regards to the grass, I remember rolling down the green hills outside of the fort when I was a child. My husband thought I had lost it the first time we visited and I encouraged our children to lie on the grass and roll to the bottom of the hill instead of walking. (It’s fun – you should try it! Ha!)
The Castillo de San Marcos was amazing! Filled with so much history! It took us about 2 hours to see everything, maybe a little less. This fort is the oldest masonry fortification in the continental US. I was so impressed with how many times it changed hands throughout the years.
If you are into history, you must stop here! We even saw a family of dolphins from the top swimming down the canal (which happened to be the highlight for E.). Big Tip: If you have children with you make sure you stop one of the Rangers and ask for a Junior Ranger Book. This was a highlight for my girls and once you fill in the book you get a badge! It was very neat.
999 Anastasia Blvd, St. Augustine, FL 32080
Our next stop is the Alligator Farm! It took us half the day to see everything. You will not just see alligators there. You will also find, birds, crocodiles, turtles, lizards, and snakes. It was so neat to watch the turtles just swim with the large reptiles. My favorite part was the giant alligator they have there. Make sure to go down under to see it well! It was by far, one of the greatest highlights of our trip.
Big Tip: Make sure to use bug spray before going! It is very swampy- hence alligators! Therefore, spray and spray well! However, even if filled with mosquitoes, this place was so amazing!
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
12 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084
Stop number three led us to the Pirate Museum. We were a little hesitant to go because it seemed kinda cheesy. However, we loved it. It was extremely hands-on and very informative! There were so many things I did not know about pirates. My husband and I were both amazed by the different stories they told, and the girls loves the pretend canon they were able to shoot. It was worth the trip inside, and we were glad we did it!
14 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084
I wanted to also stop at the Colonial Quarter too. However, we just ran out of time, and we were trying to save money. However, my sister-in-law, informed me that it is very neat! It is a wonderful stop for children and the guy who owns the place is a very good tour guide. They were able to go there and got a tour from the owner himself. They were impressed by his knowledge of history and the trades. If we can go back, I will certainly make this one of my stops!
Most important Part of St. Augustine…
As far as food, we were trying to save money, so we ate most of our meals in the beach house. However, it is not a vacation unless there are at least a couple of meals where I do not have to clean it up However when we were in town, we asked one of the tour guides where to eat and she told us to eat at the pizza place down the block.
Lunch in St. Augustine
Pizza Time of St. Augustine has been named the Number TWO pizza in the country. When you say it like that it seems so funny but, it is out of the whole country! I could not disagree. They are by far the best pizza I have ever had. Although, we were a bit thrown off by the ordering process. So, I am going to give you a tip. The pizza is already made. You buy pizza by the slice; they then warm it up for you. They go heavy on the toppings, and it was delicious. Also, DO NOT, and I mean DO NOT miss out on the garlic knots. They were the best part of the day!
Dinner in St. Augustine
The other place we went to eat for dinner in St. Augustine was the Conch House. I do not know even where to begin with the Conch House. The food was so good! We bought alligator bites as our appetizer and the girls are still craving them! The food for dinner was insane and so good. We had to eat inside because it had just rained.
However, if it is nice out, there are these little tiki huts that look over the water. They looked very neat, and I would love to go back and sit in them! So, if you do let me know! There is a small boardwalk for the marina, it was a relaxing walk to the end, where we saw sea turtles and listened to the water. Also, they have some baby alligators on rent from the alligator farm so make sure to check those out as well!
More St. Augustine Information
If you want “local’s” advice… the best time of the year to come to St. Augustine is Nov-Jan. The weather is perfect, the tourist isn’t as abundant, and there are plenty of activities to keep you happy~ wait until I tell you about Christmas in St. Augustine!
Parking in St. Augustine is getting harder and harder to find and the parking garage is $10 a day! Sheesh… don’t park there if you don’t have plans that will keep you there all day- not worth it. If you plan on going to Ripley’s, Parking is FREE for patrons and they are really nice about letting you keep your vehicle there for a little while after you leave.
If you stay for the day with little ones, there is a WONDERFUL park right behind the parking garage – one of our favorites in Central Florida! Project SWING will keep everyone entertained and provide the parents with much-needed rest!
5 Best Beach Day Essentials
If I lived in St. Augustine I may actually become a beach person. While we were right on the beach there were still some things we brought down to the sand with us that made the entire trip easier. Here are my 5 beach day essentials that we could not have done without!
1. Bookbag Cooler
Oh, the bookbag cooler. This “Insulated Cooler Backpack” can just go as one of my all-time favorite buys. We use it for hiking, beach days, and day trips. It is so nice and keeps everything nice and cool. We love it because you do not have to worry about the one-shoulder getting sore. Also, there are other pockets where we stored our “dry” items. (On hiking trips this is normally a map.) We love our bookbag cooler. It would have to be my number one recommendation as a beach day essential.
2. The Neat Sheet (Beach Blanket)
This item was something very new to us. Also, it was not ours. Haha. The day before we left we thought about whether we had a beach blanket or not. My husband and I came to the conclusion that we did not have one! So we did what any grown adult would do and called our parents! lol. His parents had a blanket. His mom at first was unsure if it could be used on the beach. She said they had never opened it but got it a few years ago. His dad,
however, assured us it would be fine on the beach because the picture was a cartoon family… on the beach. We took our chances and am so very glad we did!
The “Neat Sheet Ground Cover” blanket was the perfect size for us and it does come in many sizes. However, the best part was its ability to shake off sand. No sand stuck to it! It really should be called the miracle blanket. It definitely made the blanket a beach day essential item. My husband and I were very impressed with the magic this blanket holds. The only thing it doesn’t do is whisk us off to the sky. (Also, I think I still may need to give it back.)
3. Water Bottles
These water bottles were a random buy that my friend recommended. Yet, they were a lifesaver on our trip and every trip to date. They are a perfect size and the times on the side hold us all accountable for how much we drank. The girls love seeing if they can beat the clock. These were also super important for the beach when the water was refreshing, making it easy to forget to drink. I could tell the girls what line to drink to and it kept all of us hydrated. The straps make it easy to hold too! This is so much more than a beach day essential because we use them every day.
4. Velcro-Ball Game (Best Beach Day Game)
This Velcro-Ball Game is an oldie but a goodie. We played this game every. single. day. I got the four-pack so we all could play and it was awesome! The girls loved it and the beach there was so empty that we could easily run around and catch it. It was the perfect summer afternoon beach game for the family. I highly recommend this game.
5. Sand toys
This may seem very obvious to you. However, I was shocked at the number of kids at the beach who did NOT have sand toys. My daughter loves the sand. And the dirt but that’s totally different. She loves making all sorts of different things from castles to pies to little aquariums that store the fish they caught. She loves the sand. Sand toys may seem like a DUH! I will also add, that while we have had sand toys for a long while (we live near a beach), we did not have good sand shovels. Last minute, I purchased these sand shovels from Amazon. beach essential with kids They were so amazing and held up great. My husband and I were also able to use them easily which made it easier to play in the sand.
These were the five items we never went to the beach without. Of course, you need towels, my husband had his boogie board, and we had some great lightweight aluminum chairs that we took down. Our trip to the beach was so amazing. I was actually very worried about being bored and not having many things to do to occupy my time. As a kid, my family only ever went to the beach and it got so BORING! However, I have to say with these items and the beautiful water of St. Augustine I mourned the days we did not just sit at the beach. Although, St. Augustine was a blast and we had so much fun!
A Wonderful Trip to St. Augustine
As I said, most of our trip was spent on the beach and in the beach house! Nevertheless, the town of St. Augustine was amazing! We loved it so much and enjoyed our time that week. My husband is ready to move! If you end up going to any of these places, please let me know! I would love to hear about your trip and what you would recommend if I ever go again.