St. Augustine was a big surprise for me, and in a very good way! I’ve been there twice now and I plan on going again because for a relatively small city, there is a lot to do.
Known as the “Nation’s Oldest City,” in 2015 St. Augustine celebrates its 450th birthday as the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America. Needless to say, this place is a history buff’s paradise. Juan Ponce de Leon first explored this area in 1513 while on his quest to find the legendary Fountain of Youth. The city was founded in 1565 and was ruled by both the Spanish and the British before eventually becoming an American territory.
It doesn’t take much to feel like you’ve gone back in time once you get there. Spend some time at the more popular attractions like the Castillo de San Marcos and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, or take a walk down St. George Street. Everywhere you turn there are people dressed up and giving live demonstrations of what it was like to live in St. Augustine hundreds of years ago. Even the Pirate and Treasure Museum gives a lot of insight into the history of piracy in Colonial America, with both interactive technology and over 800 museum-quality artifacts.
And what do you do once you feel like a seasoned explorer, adventurer, or pirate? Eat chocolate and drink wine of course!
If you love chocolate, stopping at the Whetstone Chocolate Factory is a must (and if you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends)! There are guided tours seven days a week that explain the history of the company, as well as anything and everything you could ever want to know about chocolate. We were able to taste milk, dark, and white chocolate samples and were given a tour of the factory itself, all while wearing very stylish hair nets! My favorite part of the tour was getting to eat a piece of chocolate that had just rolled out of one of the machines. Yummy! After the tour, we were able to go back inside the store and buy as much chocolate as we wanted. And I did. After all, as we learned on our tour, eating chocolate is very good for your health.
Then, once you’ve taken care of your chocolate fix, head next door to the San Sebastian Winery. They have FREE wine tasting tours! This winery has been open since 1996, has won over 300 awards for excellence, and is visited every year by over 100,000 people. Even if you’re not a wine aficionado, this tour is great because you can learn a bit more about the process of winemaking and the different kinds that there are. I tend to stick with white wines, but it was nice to be able to try samples of their reds as well, especially for free. In addition, on weekends they also have live music at “The Cellar Upstairs” which is on the rooftop of the winery.
So next time you’re in St. Augustine, remember to not only learn your history, but also get your chocolate and wine fix!
Have you been to St. Augustine? What was your favorite thing to do or see?