St. Augustine Lighthouse
Florida Lighthouse Trail // Along the Buccaneer Trail
Get your comfy shoes on and take the 219 steps to get to the top of the 165-foot St. Augustine Lighthouse. Because of a lack of workers and funds, it took three years (1871-1874) to build the lighthouse, which stands at the north end of Anastasia Island. It is thought to be the oldest maritime port in the U.S.
While the view from the observation deck is spectacular, it also compares favorably with the view down below. St. Augustine is one of the top tourist destinations in Florida. The sights and sounds range from the Castillo de San Marcos — a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress with views of the St. Augustine Inlet — to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
Rich in history, St. Augustine is considered to be the oldest city in the United States. But the young at heart may want to visit the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. It marks the spot where Ponce de León allegedly landed according to promotional literature (although that claim is disputed because it lacks historical or archaeological evidence).
You can also test the waters along St. Augustine’s beaches which stretches over 42 miles. One of the more popular destinations is Crescent Beach which is located on Anastasia Island. Named because the shoreline has a natural crescent moon shape, Crescent Beach is one of the most scenic and unspoiled beaches in the area.
Flagler College is another must-see. Founded in 1968, it was originally built as a hotel by railroad magnate and industrialist Henry Flagler in 1888. College schedules permitting, visitors can take tours that depart daily from the main lobby (Rotunda) of the college located at 74 King St.
If you want to take in an encompassing view of what this city offers, Old Town Trolley Tours is a must. A one-day trolley pass allows you to jump on and off 22 trolley stops. It includes free admission to the St. Augustine History Museum and free shuttle to the Alligator Farm and the beach.
Assuming you’re not on a tight budget, go ahead and splurge and stay at the
Casa Monica Resort & Spa in downtown St. Augustine. Originally built in 1888, the hotel has been described as having vintage Moroccan charm with luxury amenities | marriott.com
The city is full of excellent dining options, but Columbia Restaurant (98 St. George St.) is our pick. It combines award-winning Spanish/Cuban cuisine with the ambiance of hand-painted tiles and Spanish-style fountains. The restaurant is owned by the fourth and fifth generation of the original family, which opened the first Columbia in Tampa’s Ybor City in 1905 | columbiarestaurant.com
Wait until the holiday crowd subsides and catch the Christmas lights in mid-to late January. Go on a weekday later at night and you may have the city all to yourself.