2 Days in St. Augustine Florida
Good morning, everyone! After spending a couple of months in Miami, it was time to start heading back to New York City. While looking for excuses to stay in the sunshine state a little longer, I told my husband that it’d be wonderful to make a stop in northeast Florida to visit St. Augustine. New York City was expected to have snow and 18 degree weather, so he agreed with my idea!
Why visit St. Augustine, Florida?
Exploring the oldest continuously settled city in the United States had been a dream of mine for years! I had visited St. Augustine in high school, but I barely remembered anything, so I approached this visit to the city as if I was a first-time visitor. We stayed a week in Jacksonville, and I dedicated two days to exploring St. Augustine’s sites and attractions.
Today I’m sharing the 2 day itinerary that I created for myself, as well as all my photos that I took while I was in St. Augustine.
Read on for my tips on what to see, where to eat, and where to stay!
St. Augustine Itinerary – Day 1
Take the Old Town Trolley Tour
I am a big fan of the Old Town Trolley. Trolley tours are available in only 7 cities in the United States, and St. Augustine is one of them. Whenever I am visiting a city for the first time, I like to take the city tour to get a highlight of the must-see places in the city, and to find those attractions that I want to take time to see on my own.
If you don’t have many days to explore, or are unable to walk for hours, the trolley is your best bet. I wanted to save time and not have to deal with finding parking lots, so this was a practical option. The trolley becomes your taxi, and you can hop-on and hop-off all day long. I’ve taken the trolley or the red bus in various cities around the world and have always found it useful.
The cost of the trolley is around $32.00 for the first day, and $15.00 for the second consecutive day. The fully narrated tour lasts a little over an hour, and I recommend jumping on it as soon as it opens at 9:00 AM. The last trolley departs at 4:30 PM, and it is worth noting that a complimentary hotel shuttle service is included in your ticket.
I forgot to pre-purchase a trolley ticket, so I bought mine at the stand by Potter’s Wax Museum. I also paid for parking, left my car in the parking lot, and hopped on the trolley that arrived within 10 minutes.
Visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
The Cathedral Basilica is the 8th stop in the Old Town Trolley Tour and the first one that I, and half of the trolley, decided to hop-off at. The cathedral is home to the nation’s first Catholic parish, it was first built in 1797, then rebuilt after a fire in 1887. The facade is a combination of Spanish mission and Neoclassical styles, and the interior is adorned with murals and stained glass windows. There is so much to see in the beautiful details, keep reading to see the photo I took of the cathedral’s unique interior…
The Cathedral Basilica offers tours Monday through Thursday at 3:00 PM.
Walk the grounds of Mission of Nombre de Dios
After visiting the cathedral, I waited 10-15 minutes for the next trolley to arrive, and I stayed on it until the 20th stop, the Mission of Nombre de Dios. It is at this location that the Great Cross, which rises 208 feet, was erected in 1965 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first parish mass. I can just imagine Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales celebrating the first mass as he proclaimed the land in the: “Nombre de Dios” (“Name of God”). He was the chaplain who accompanied St. Augustine’s founder and the Spanish explorers.
- When General Pedro Menéndez de Aviles came to the New World from Spain, he arrived in hopes of establishing a colony and securing the land for Spain, and also to convert the native American Indians to Christianity.
- The 208’ bronze cross is the tallest cross in the Western Hemisphere. A gift from the Vatican, it was capped at that height to avoid the installation of a mandatory aircraft warning light.
These first Spanish settlers brought with them a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and established the Holy Virgin’s first sanctuary in the U.S on the grounds. They built a chapel and dedicated it to “Nuestra Señora de La Leche” (“Our Lady of Milk & Safe Delivery”).
The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, America’s first Marian shrine, is located on the mission grounds. Pilgrims come from all parts of the world to pray for Our Lady of La Leche’s powerful intercession and light a candle in the historic chapel. I love visiting churches when I travel and spent an hour strolling the grounds and looking at all the monuments.
Entrance to the grounds is restricted to their daily hours, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Parking is free.
From outside the shrine I hopped back on the Old Town Trolley at exactly 5:00 PM. The trolley continued its way to its final stops of the tour: The Old Senator Tree and the Fountain of Youth. It wasn’t until the trolley dropped us off at stop #1 that I realized that I had parked my car outside of stop #3. Thankfully, a complimentary shuttle service is included in your Old Town Trolley ticket!
St. Augustine Itinerary – Day 2
A friend of mine and her husband joined me during Day 2 of my visit to St. Augustine! While she has been living in Jacksonville since 2014, her husband has lived in the surrounding area his entire life. He is incredibly familiar with St. Augustine and was our guide for the day. He mentioned that his sister lived in a home within the historic district of the city of St. Augustine for fifteen years, and I thought that was really cool. I had told them that I was interested in checking out Flagler College, so it was our first stop of the day!
Take a Tour of Flagler College
Flagler College is perhaps my favorite building in all of St. Augustine! The college is named for industrialist and railroad magnate Henry Flagler who built it in 1888 as a hotel. The property is a masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture and was one of the most exclusive resorts of its day.
Flagler College was the first of Flagler’s series of luxury resorts along Florida’s east coast, others include the neighboring Hotel Alcazar (now, Lightner Museum). I highly recommend taking a tour of this gorgeous property, exploring the courtyard, the grand lobby, the rotunda, the 86-foot domed ceiling supported by eight oak caryatids hand carved with robed women, and the Flagler Room!
Tours of Flagler College are guided and based on the college’s academic calendar. The cost of admission is $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for seniors / military, and $1.00 for children 4-12.
Flagler College – Fun Facts:
- Architects John Carrére and Thomas Hastings were young men right out of college when they designed Hotel Ponce de León (now, Flagler College) and Hotel Alcazar (now, Lightner Museum). They are noted most for the New York Public Library and The House and Senate Office Buildings adjacent to the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
- Louis C. Tiffany is credited with the building’s interior design including the stained glass & mosaics.
- Hotel Ponce de León was one of the nation’s first electrified buildings. The Edison Electric Company powered the building with steam heat and 4,000 electric lights.
- During the Depression, the federal government sponsored arts programs at the property that were attended by Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
- The U.S. Coast Guard commandeered the property during World War II for use as a training center.
- Mark Twain, President Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth and Babe Didrikson stayed at the hotel.
- Henry Flagler’s great nephew sold the property to a group from Mount Ida College to establish a women’s college, known today as Flagler College.
The Lightner Museum
The Lightner Museum occupies the former Hotel Alcazar, a resort also commissioned by railroad magnate Henry Flagler. The Hotel Alcazar opened in 1889, it was slightly less expensive than Hotel Ponce de León but had lots of amenities for guest enjoyment, like saunas, a casino, archery ranges, and the world’s largest swimming pool at the time. The hotel began to decline during the Depression and eventually closed in 1932. In 1947, Otto Lightner purchased the building to house his massive art collection. This property is now known as the Lightner Museum and it occupies the back half of the former hotel.
Walk St. George Street
After stopping for lunch at Casa Reina (I’ll get to it in a bit!), we made our way to St. George Street, a lovely pesdestrian-only street lined with bars, restaurants and shops. This street represents the center of the town, and the site of many of the reconstructed Spanish colonial buildings in St. Augustine. We grabbed coffee and tea at the cutest little store, and strolled up and down St. George Street while visiting local shops.
If you visit St. George Street, be sure to check out the following spots! The first image is of the Oldest School House, a wooden structure located at 14 St. George Street. The school house was built over 200 years ago, with red cedar and cypress, and put together with wooden pegs and handmade nails. In the second image you can see the Old City Gates, one of St. Augustine’s most recognizable landmarks located at the north end of St. George Street. Be sure to take a photo in front of this historical site!
Explore the Castillo de San Marcos
The Castillo de San Marcos is a must-see during to your visit because it is the focal point of historic St. Augustine! This 17th-century Spanish stone fortress was built over 300 years ago by the Spanish to defend Florida and the Atlantic trade route. An interesting fact is that many forts preceded the Castillo, however, this one made of coquina was impenetrable to enemy attack and was fire resistant. Construction began in 1672 and lasted 23 years, until 1695. I loved walking around the fort during sunset time, I got to enjoy views of the inlet and the most beautiful bright pink sky!
The Castillo is open seven days a week (except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day), from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The entrance fee for adults is $15.00 and it is valid for seven consecutive days. Children (age 15 and under) are admitted free of charge but must be accompanied by an adult. I used the parking lot located in front of the Castillo, but the lot has a very limited number of spots.
More Things To Do in St. Augustine
- Take a Ghost & Gravestones Tour
- Lighthouse & Maritime Museum (climb the lighthouse)
- Anastasia State Park
- St. Augustine Distillery (free self-guided tour & tasting available)
- San Sebastian Winery (free self-guided tour available)
- Sunset Cruise of St. Augustine
- Fountain of Youth
Where to Eat in St. Augustine?
CASA REINA TAQUERIA & TEQUILA
If you want to sip on a margarita while enjoying the flavors of Mexican cuisine, this place is a must! It is located in St. Augustine’s historic downtown area, on the bay front at the foot of the Bridge of Lions. I ordered the house margarita, and the ‘nachos reina style’ that were the best loaded nachos I’ve ever had! This restaurant has lots of seating areas, both indoors and outdoors. I suggest that you go during the day, so that you can enjoy the outstanding view (see my images above & below)!
CAP’S ON THE WATER
Cap’s On The Water is a waterfront spot located 6 miles from St. Augustine’s historic downtown. This restaurant is a hidden gem that only locals know about (and was recommended by my friend’s husband!). Be sure to arrive before sunset, and enjoy dinner from the wooden deck! The truffle parmesan fries and the seared catch that came with mashed potatos & roasted carrots were delicious! If you are looking for fresh local seafood and coastal cuisine, go here.
Where to Stay in St. Augustine?
Staying at an AirBnb while visiting St. Augustine can be a wonderful option! While we initially intended to stay in a hotel within St. Augustine’s historic district, we quickly realized that renting an AirBnb was a more comfortable option for us travelling with two pups! We rented a four bedroom house located thirty miles north of St. Augustine, for the same price (per night) as a small hotel room in downtown, and stayed for a full week. The house was spacious and beautifully upgraded, it was located in a peaceful residential neighborhood, it had a huge open kitchen, a fantastic jacuzzi outside, and the owners lived in the property next door. The drive from the house to St. Augustine’s historic district was super easy and direct via Florida State Road A1A.
Bed & Breakfast
You will find numerous Bed & Breakfasts within walking distance of the historic district of St. Augustine!
If you prefer to stay in a hotel within St. Augustine, take a look at these options below by clicking on their name.
- Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront
- Casa Monica Resort & Spa
- Renaissance St. Augustine Historic Downtown Hotel
An interactive map of St. Augustine FL
More info for your days in St. Augustine
When was St. Augustine founded?
The city of St. Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565 by a Spanish soldier named Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. He named the settlement “San Agustín,” as his ships bearing settlers, troops, and supplies from Spain had first sighted land in Florida eleven days earlier on August 28, the feast day of St. Augustine.
When is the best time to visit St. Augustine?
I recommend visiting in January / February. It is not too busy, and the weather was breezy and pleasant. If you would like to avoid the crowds, visiting right before Spring or Fall is your best bet.
Are 1-2 days in St. Augustine worth it?
Absolutely! Seeing all of St. Augustine in 1 – 2 days is doable because it is a compact and walkable city. St. Augustine is the perfect city for history lovers, and those who want to experience Old Florida.
How far is St. Augustine?
The trip from Miami to St. Augustine is around 311 miles (500 km) via Florida’s Turnpike and I-95. The drive usually takes 5 hours, with normal driving conditions. If you are visiting St. Augustine from Orlando, the trip is a little over 100 miles (165 km). St. Augustine’s location makes it a perfect day trip or weekend destination.
Which airport is best for St. Augustine?
Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) is 51 miles from St. Augustine, a 1 hour drive.
Orlando International Airport is 121 miles from St. Augustine, a 2+ hour drive.
A final note!
In February of last year, we made a similar stop while making our way from Miami to New York. That time we stayed one week in Atlantic Beach, a lovely city with laid-back beaches located 15 miles from downtown Jacksonville. To read about our stay at a resort located on the prettiest beach in Jacksonville click here. Staying in Jacksonville or Atlantic Beach, and making a day-trip to St. Augustine, is another option for making the most of your visit to northeast Florida.
If I didn’t answer your question about St. Augustine, leave it in a comment and I’ll get back to you!
What will you do with your days in St. Augustine?!
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR ST AUGUSTINE TRIP
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