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June 03, 2009

Beach Bytes: Discover St. Augustine, Florida

The beach at St. Augustine, Florida (courtesy, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB)

One of my all-time favorite beach locales is St. Augustine, Florida. As the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States, it's an obvious choice for history lovers. But the 42 miles of Atlantic beach outside the historic town invite relaxing walks along the shore, water sports, and a sunny slowdown from our normal hectic lives. The friendly town on this northern strip of Florida’s coast welcomes guests year-round.  Here are some of my favorite spots around town for lodging and dining.

The Inn on Charlotte is a fine choice for a romantic bed and breakfast, with owner Lynne Fairfield pampering guests with her homemade breakfast around the dining room table or with tasty hors d’oeuvres served with afternoon wine—she'll even share her recipes. The small homey inn is within walking distance to restaurants, shopping, and attractions.

For more decadent treats, head around the corner to Claude’s Chocolate, where you’ll catch a lovely aroma drifting through the door. The renowned chef specializes in handmade chocolate-covered almonds and pecans made with fresh ingredients and no additives.

Casablanca Inn is another comfortable choice for a place to stay. It fronts Matanzas Bay where there’s always some activity. The inn also hosts a lively social hour and hot breakfast on the veranda.

Don’t miss local spot Barnacle Bill’s for a family-friendly atmosphere and great fresh-fish sandwiches or seafood platters. (Yes, as a beach frequenter, I do try to eat at least one fish sandwich everywhere I go!)  One of my traveling friends says you can have a blackened grouper meal in St. Augustine for $7.99 or $39.99, the difference being the shirts people are wearing and the availability of valet parking—true in many of our favorite coastal towns!

A new restaurant hot this year is Bistro de Leon, owned by Chef Jean-Stephane Poinard, one of the top 100 chefs from France.  This restaurant resembles his five restaurants in Lyon, with a casual ambiance and local produce and seafood selected daily for an ever-changing menu. His wife Valerie contributes her family’s winery savoir-faire to the dining experience. Choose late breakfast, lunch, or dinner for an excellent French meal. And don't worry about it being stuffy or expensive—for the all-around quality, it's worth the still-reasonable prices.

Cellar6 is a cool, intimate night spot where everything revolves around wine. This new choice delivers a speakeasy feel with smooth contemporary jazz to accompany fine wine and light fare in a romantic setting. The nightlife in St. Augustine is easy to enjoy just by walking around town and discovering live music in several spots.

Between meals, jump out to the street and take a horse-drawn carriage or trolley tour, a ghost walk at night, or a boat tour along the bay for a narrated look at the town.  Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth is said to be North America’s first historical site. If you visit this archaeological park and drink from the spring, let us know if the legendary benefits are true!  Be sure to see the St. Augustine Lighthouse, the Government House Museum, the Lightner Museum, as well as Castillo de San Marcos, a 1695 fort and prison. You can often find a farmers' market or a festival happening in the square, and the historic district includes dozens of art galleries and antique shops.

One visit to St. Augustine is never enough. The pristine beaches, shopping, golfing, eateries, and plenty of activities for families will be sure to lure you back.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Florida Vacation · Food and Drink · Places to Stay · Trip Ideas


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I recently went to St. Augustine, Florida. Here you will find many historic sites and museums, such as The Saint Augustine Treasure museum and the quirky Ripley’s Believe it or Not. The best way to see the historic downtown of St. Augustine is by trolley. The trolley will bring you to all the historic sites and the conductors will tell you all sorts of historic information and stories. They will bring you past the star-shaped Castillo de San Marcos, which is the oldest masonry fort from the Spanish colonial times. There’s also the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park and the beautiful Flagler College. The city has many Spanish style buildings with great architecture. Kids will love visiting the Alligator Farm and seeing some alligators up close. Be sure you take time to stroll down the cobblestone streets and browse the many shops in Old Town. For those who love the spookier side of things, America’s oldest city offers ghost tours and beautiful haunted bed and breakfasts in their historic old homes. Make sure you go over the lion bridge to the Saint Augustine lighthouse and climb the 219 steps to get spectacular views of the city and the coastline.If you are planning a trip to Florida you should visit the it's a great resource for planning a Florida vacation.

Great and interesting article on St Augustine and I may do a similar article for my UK visitors to my website Cheap Flights To Florida and once again great article for us Brits.

The beaches should not be missed when visiting Florida. Florida has so many magnificent beach areas that offer so many activities for all to enjoy. Miami is my personal favorite and I cannot wait to go back to Florida again.

Thanks so much for reading our Beach Bytes posts! Hope you will visit our new blog also.

I have been visiting St. Augustine since the late 60's. No matter how many times you visit, it still is the best. No one can ever get tired of seeing St. Augustine and the surrounding area. Great blog. All the best.

Thanks for reading my Beach Bytes blogs! Updates with new pics coming soon too!

Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

I have lived in Florida for years now but I’ve never been to St. Augustine. I think I’m really missing something great. Time to plan my next mini vacation.

Life in the Keys revolves around fishing, boating, SCUBA diving, eating, and drinking beer. Beaches are few and far between on these dry rocky islands. Most beaches are just a few feet wide at low tide and the water is just a foot or two deep for perhaps a thousand yards out, except in deeper channels and holes. The few beaches that exist in the Keys are on the Atlantic Ocean side of the islands. The shore on the Gulf side is mostly rocky and is more suited to fishing and boating.

This is not a "timely" comment, but I just discovered you this week so please excuse me. And thank you for leaving a comment on my blog! I'd definitely be interested in exchanging info or images.

I think anyone who visits St. Augustine should check out Anastasia State Park while they are there. It is close to downtown, has a 4.5-mile undeveloped beach, and also has an excellent campground where my wife and I have tent-camped a couple of times. You can walk on the beach all alone at night with no city lights to dilute the natural experience, and you might be all alone when you watch the sun rise over the ocean in the morning.

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