St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. It’s actually the oldest continuously occupied city of European and African descent in the United States if you want to get specific.
St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish in 1565 and is a must see for any family touring the US in an RV studying American history.
Being the planner I am, I didn’t make reservations for Anastasia State Park located near St. Augustine. In all fairness, I didn’t hear about Anastastia State Park until we got to Florida and since reservations typically need to be made up to 11 months in advance, it was too late. However what I lack in planning, I make up for in persistence.
For three weeks, I checked the Florida State Park multiple times a day for site for cancellations at Anastastia. I didn’t get as lucky as I did with Bahai Honda but I did get us a spot for one night. Two nights would have been nice but one worked out due the free RV parking behind the St Augustine visitor center. The one problem with pulling a 5th wheel is that it’s not easy to find a place to park. The free parking allowed us to have two full days to explore St. Augustine.
parents a family who loves to explore on foot. Not too big and not too small St. Augustine is the perfect size town for walking. We wandered down the streets lined with old houses and cemeteries following a route suggested to us at the St. Augustine Vistor Center.
While Ponce de Leon might have been the first European to discover St. Augustine, oil tychoon, Henry Flagler (remember him from the railroad in Bahai Honda?) played a large role in making St. Augustine the destination it is today. In 1888, Henry Flagler built the Ponce de Leon, a grand hotel desinged in the Spanish Renaissance style. The hotel is now part of Flagler College but you can still walk through and get a glimse of what it would have been like to be part of the elite during the turn of the 20th century.
Not far from the old Ponce de Leon hotel, is another building built by Henry Flagler, the Memorial Presbyterian church which houses the Flagler family’s mausoleum. The Memorial Presbyterian church was Florida’s first Presbyterian congregation established in 1824. We enjoyed the Venetian Renaissance style, especially Thing One who has developed quite an interest in old churches.
The star (literally since it’s foundation is star shaped) of St Augustine is Castillo de San Marcos. While Thing One was in his element as the Memorial Presbyterian church, Thing Two was no less in his element looking at cannons at the fort. What we thought would be a quick visit to the fort ended up being a three hour exploration complete with a cannon firing. Both boys earned their Jr. Rangers badge. They are racking up quite the collection.
Of course there is more to see in St. Augustine besides old buildings and cannons. There are museums, a lighthouse, restaurants, and shops. A favorite shop of the boys was the St. Augustine Textiles Colonial Goods Merchant, a local shop with a large assortment of handmade period clothing and goods. While St. Augustine is clearly a tourist destination it still boasts a lot of charm as the lady at the visitor center proudly pointed out “there isn’t one chain restaurant downtown”.
Anastasia State Park was as beautiful as I hoped it would be. The sites were private and lush. We really wished we could have spent more time there despite getting yelled at for “harassing a tortoise”. Thing Two was only trying to feed it a blade of grass not poke it. In the evening, the boys sat under the canopy of green at out picnic table and practiced writing with their new quill pens. (Ahem. Homeschoolers) Quill pens have become their new obsession. Thankfully they take up less space than wooden rifles.
Our Visit to St. Augustine in a Glance
Where We Stayed
- Anastasia State Park. It was beautiful and we had a good internet connect. If you want to stay at Anastasia it would be a good idea to make reservations as soon as you are able.
- Castillo de San Marcos Flagler College Do not miss!
- The Memorial Presbyterian Church
- Flagler College (Formerly the Ponce de Leon hotel)
- Nations Oldest Drugstore
- Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse – We didn’t go in but it was neat to walk by.
- Plaza de la Constitución - The Oldest public park in the US.
- Free RV and Bus Parking at the corner of Castillo Dr. and Cordova St.
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