The oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, Florida, is one of the nation’s most intriguing destinations. For nearly 500 years, locals and visitors have shared in the city’s exciting history. From enjoying its thriving flora & fauna to soaking up the sun on its pristine beaches, there are endless things to do in St. Augustine.
Exploring the top tourist attractions in St. Augustine, you can go back in time to the oldest fort in the continental U.S. You’ll get up close and personal with the wildlife at the Alligator Farm. And you can flex your bravery on a ghost tour of this fascinating city, rumored to be one of the most haunted in the United States.
Wondering what to do in St. Augustine? Forge a memorable experience with this complete guide to the best places to visit in St. Augustine, Florida.
Best places to visit in St. Augustine, FL
Frequently called “Old City” or “Ancient City,” St. Augustine’s Historic District was established in 1565. The Historic District takes pride in being modern & hip while showcasing the cities rich history. Undoubtedly, the Old City is one of the coolest places to see in St. Augustine.
The brick and cobblestone streets of the historic downtown are lined with shops, cafes, bars, boutiques, and restaurants. Take a stroll down St. George Street, one of the main avenues of the Old City. It’s super popular with locals & travelers alike to shop and grab a bite to eat and enjoy drinks.
St. George Street is also home to several top St. Augustine tourist attractions. Keep on the lookout for the Medieval Torture Museum, Oldest Wooden School House, and Micro Masterpieces Art Gallery.
While in the area, take time to check out Flagler College. The private college occupies the site of one of Henry Flagler’s 19th-century luxury hotels. The Gilded age-style Flagler College campus is one of the city’s finest architectural gems.
Located north of the Old City, the Colonial Quarter celebrates St. Augustine’s Spanish colonial history. The interactive tourist attraction takes you back to the very start of St. Augustine. It walks through three centuries of the city’s history.
The Colonial Quarter features historical reenactments and several interesting attractions. At the interactive history museum, you’ll see blacksmiths in action and live musket demonstrations.
Be sure to scale up its replica 17th-century watchtower for awesome views over the city. Or watch a master shipbuilder craft a caravel before your eyes. It’ll be an unforgettable experience for kids and adults alike.
Anastasia State Park
Looking to escape the city? Located east of downtown, Anastasia State Park features miles of beaches where you can walk, run, or collect shells. For nature lovers, the park one of the best places to visit in St. Augustine.
At Anastasia State Park, you can spend the day surfing, swimming, and geo-seeking. The park offers trails for hiking and biking and waterways for boating and paddling. There are also abundant opportunities for bird watching and wildlife spotting.
The park features four miles of some of St. Augustine’s most beautiful beaches, nature trails, tidal marshes, and dunes to explore. Spend the day at this natural wonder brushing up with local wildlife. You’ll spot species like manatees, dolphins, turtles, sea turtles, eagles, ospreys, and warblers.
Anastasia State Park offers travelers plenty of amenities. At the park, you’ll find restrooms, shower stations, and playgrounds. There’s even a restaurant, concession stands, and an amphitheater for live events.
Occupying the former Alcazar Hotel, the Lightner Museum is one of the top attractions in St. Augustine’s Old City. Located on King Street, the museum houses an eclectic collection from the 19th century and early-20th century.
The museum’s founder, Otto Lightner, had an obsession with “all things” collecting. He had a deep interest in what and why people collected. At the museum, you can tour the famed collector’s own greatest collections.
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At the Lightner Museum, you’ll find musical instruments, fine art, decorative art, and folk art. You’ll also see unique furnishings and fun, random kitschy items on display. The Lightner Museum always has several exhibitions. Even if you’ve visited before, there’s often more to discover.
While in St. Augustine, don’t miss the chance to stroll down Aviles Street. Touted as the oldest street in the United States, the historic street was once home to a church, cemetery, boarding house, hospital, and a school.
Today, Aviles Street is St. Augustine’s premier arts district. The street is lined with art galleries, jewelry shops, antique shops, cafes, and restaurants. There’s a load of outdoor seating areas to enjoy delicious food & drink in the sunshine.
Want to learn more about the history of Aviles Street? Explore its Spanish Military Hospital Museum, Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, and Father O’Reilly House Museum.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
History buffs visiting St. Augustine can’t skip out on Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S., Castillo de San Marcos was built by the Spanish to protect Florida in the early 1600s.
Built on Matanzas Bay, Castillo de San Marcos became a national monument in 1924. The fort is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm for visitors to explore on self-guided tours. You can download the site’s app for an interactive experience. As you tour the fortress, you can watch videos connected to the area or room you’re in.
At the fort, you can experience “living history” with live reenactments and weapons demonstrations. You’ll also have the chance to talk to the rangers and volunteers about the fort’s history.
End your Castillo de San Marcos visit by relaxing on the gun deck to enjoy a panoramic view of the beautiful city.
Fort Mose Historic State Park
Located three miles north of downtown near Vilano Beach, Fort Mose Historic State Park is one of the city’s most important historic sites. In 1738, the governor of Florida designated the area a safe space for slaves fleeing the Carolinas. There was only one stipulation: They needed to become Catholic and declare allegiance to the King of Spain.
As early as the 18th century nearly a hundred people had made Fort Mose their home. In 1994, the site was named a National Historic Landmark. This free park is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm all year long, and is wheelchair accessible.
Birdwatching and geo-seeking are popular activities in Fort Mose Historic Park. You’ll also be able to go paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing. You can even book group tours around the park to learn more about its history and wildlife.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
One of the most thrilling places to go in St. Augustine is the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. Located on Anastasia Island, the attraction is the only place in the world where you can see every crocodilian species in one spot.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is dedicated to conservation and research in order to protect these fascinating creatures. And it’s home to more than just alligators, crocs, and caimans.
The park also teems with tropical birds like macaws, African birds like Cape Griffon Vultures, and hooded vultures. You’ll even spot exotic mammals like lemurs, monkeys, and sloths. It also features unique animals like albino alligators.
On your visit, take a walk through the python cave or visit the Land Down Under and experience the saltwater crocodile. For kids & families, the park also features a fossil hunting section and a zipline.
St. Augustine Beach
Located on Anastasia Island, St. Augustine Beach is one of the top points of interest in St. Augustine. And it’s easy to see why. The beaches run along the Atlantic Ocean uninterrupted for miles. They’re ideal for sunbathing, cruising on a bike, or taking a walk hunting for shells.
There are loads of water activities at St. Augustine Beach. Surfing and boogie boarding are super popular with visitors. You’ll have peace of mind swimming at this popular Florida Atlantic Coast beach; much of the sandy beach is guarded during the busier months.
Ximenez-Fatio House Museum
Looking to add another museum to your Saint Augustine trip? The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum is rated the number one museum in St. Augustine. Built in the late 1700s as a private family dwelling, the house is one of the city’s most charming homes.
Ximenez-Fatio House was the first three-story home ever built in the St. Augustine area. On the first floor lies a grocery store, tavern, billiards room, and storage room. The second floor held the living room and family bedrooms. The third floor housed the servants’ quarters and living areas. The grounds also included two big warehouses and a detached washroom and kitchen.
The home was opened to the public as a museum in 1940. It’s been a favorite ever since. Today, you can take tours through the museum and learn about early settler life in Saint Augustine.
If you’re feeling brave, visit the museum at night on a ghost tour. Every Friday and Saturday night, the museum also offers a special game night. Guests will take on interactive roles to solve a museum heist mystery.
Spanish Military Hospital Museum
Located on Aviles Street, the Spanish Military Hospital Museum whisks you back into time. You’ll learn about medicine in the Spanish colonial era. The museum offers guided tours as well as surgery and apothecary demonstrations.
Tours of the Spanish Military Hospital Museum last about 30 minutes. During the apothecary demonstrations, you’ll watch practitioners make medicine out of herbs. Many of the herbs and techniques are still commonly used in homeopathic medicine today.
The Spanish Military Hospital Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. The last tour starts at 4:30 pm.
Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
Protecting the city’s original site, Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is a top choice for where to go in St. Augustine. The 15-acre waterfront park covers the area first explored by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513. It was later settled by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, becoming what’s now known as St. Augustine.
Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park hosts 15 exhibits. Choices include the Founders River Walk, Chalupa Boathouse, and the Timucuan Burials. You can also check out canyon firing exhibits and a Spanish lookout. Keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful peacocks roaming the park.
Of course, Spring House is the park’s most popular exhibit. The attraction houses the original “fountain of youth.” The famed fountain was thought to have been discovered in the late-16th century or early-17th century.
St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
If you’re fascinated by pirates, the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum will be one of the most remarkable things to see in St. Augustine. The family-friendly museum showcases a large collection of over 800 pirate artifacts.
The museum’s collection includes Thomas Tew’s pirate treasure chest. It’s said to be the only authentic treasure chest remaining in the world. Tew used the chest to carry his treasure from the Arabian Sea to Rhode Island over 400 years ago. The museum is also home to one of the three original Jolly Roger flags remaining in the world.
At the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, you’ll also have the opportunity to fire a real cannon and see Jack Sparrow’s sword. You’ll even be able to lift a real gold bar and partake in a treasure hunt.
The museum is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm. There’s a gift shop on-site as well to pick up unique pirate paraphernalia.
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Once shielding St. Augustine from the Spanish, Fort Matanzas National Monument now protects the beautiful Florida coast. The fort was originally built in 1742. Like nearby Castillo de San Marcos, it’s one of the nation’s oldest forts. Today, the national park conserves 300 acres of mangrove forest, dunes, salt marshes, animals, flora, and fauna.
Throughout Fort Matanzas, park rangers will answer any questions you might have about the park’s history or wildlife. You’ll even catch a few carrying weapons and supplies from the colonial days. On weekends, try to catch them demonstrating how to fire the colonial-era weapons.
When it comes to St. Augustine’s top attractions, Crescent Beach is a hidden gem. The peaceful beach is perfect for settling in with a good book, taking a beach nap, or soaking up the sun with a side of people-watching.
The Atlantic Ocean is perfect for surfing, boogie boarding, fishing, boating, and, of course, swimming. During the summer months, the beach is patrolled by lifeguards. Visitors can also enjoy riding bikes and playing games on the beach like frisbee and volleyball.
Crescent Beach permits driving along the beach in the off-season for a small fee. You can also go horseback riding on the beach with a special permit.
If you’re looking for a quieter alternative to the main St. Augustine beaches, Crescent Beach is a little slice of heaven.
St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
One of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is a favorite for tourists. The lighthouse was built between 1871 and 1874. To this day, it’s still a functioning and working lighthouse.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum offers hands-on activities for both kids and adults. You can watch demonstrations on how to build wooden boats or view artifacts from the city’s maritime past. Better yet, visitors can climb up to the top of the lighthouse. Slog up the 219 steps to enjoy spectacular views over the surrounding area.
The lighthouse and museum are open daily from 9 am to 7 pm. Keep in mind that the lighthouse’s tower sometimes closes in bad weather.
Best places to stay in St. Augustine for sightseeing
For sightseeing, the best places to stay in St. Augustine fall in & around its historic downtown. The area is home to many of the top things to see & do in St. Augustine and most of the city’s best hotels.
For staying front & center on a budget, nothing beats this modern motel. Rooms are sleek & contemporary. Guests will enjoy cooling down in the outdoor pool and basking to water views on the sun terrace.
Overlooking Castillo de San Marcos, this inn is the perfect retreat for history buffs. Upgrade to a room with a balcony to revel in views over the fort or the historic center.
With its lovely vistas over Matanzas Bay, this mid-range luxury hotel is a top pick for couples & solo travelers alike. Take a dip in the outdoor pool to escape the Florida sun. Soak in the hot tub to unwind after your St. Augustine sightseeing adventure.