St Augustine Florida is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States. It’s a city filled with old world charm, Spanish influence, plenty of things to do, and ghost stories. Even non-believers (like my scientist husband) are fascinated by the legends and stories of haunted St Augustine.
Why is St Augustine haunted? Some say its just time, any city this old would obviously have ghost stories to tell. Others say it dates back to a boat arriving in 1821 that brought with it yellow fever, ultimately wiping out about one-third of the city’s population. Perhaps many of the casualties didn’t like being in the mass graves.
St Augustine Ghost Tours
One of the most haunted cities in Florida, nearly every local we spoke with had St Augustine ghost stories to share. Only a fraction of hauntings manifest as full body figures. Some involve orbs, while others are translucent circles or vortex funnels. Whichever form the apparition takes, there is no shortage of haunted St Augustine stories.
We had prebooked the Ghost and Graveyards tour, one of many optional evening St Augustine ghost tours. It was a perfect mix of storytelling, sites, walking, riding (on a trolley) and fright. While we had one guide with us for the duration of the tour, she is part of a team of talented individuals who know how to tell spooky stories. Prebooking turned out to be one of our better choices. Even with tours starting every 20 minutes from 6 pm, by 6.30 pm on the evening we went, they were fully booked until 11 pm.
Or, check out one of these St Augustine Ghost Tours:
|Secrets of St Augustine Ghost Tours||Guided walking tour
Tales of trauma and tragedy
Visit the Hugenot Cemetery and the old city gates
Small group size (15 max)
|Haunted Stroll Through Old St Augustine||Guided walking tour
Visit the Old Fort and Love Tree Cottage
Small group size (10m max)
Good for families
|Ghosts and Gravestones Tour||Trolley and walking tour
Guides tell ghostly stories of St. Augustine’s past
Cemetery, wax museum, and jail visits
This is the tour we did
Haunted Places in St Augustine Florida
Welcoming visitors to the city, or at one point keeping those unwanted out, the city gate stands at the end of St. George Street. Sometimes Elizabeth, the gatekeeper’s daughter smiles and waves to passers-bys. Dressed in colonial style clothing, her apparition appears so real, people often ask shopkeepers about her. In fact, she died of yellow fever in the 1820s.
Castillo de San Marcos
How could a 17th-century fort that has flown the flags of five different countries over time not be haunted? Open for self-guided tours during the day, Castillo de San Marcos is a United States park service national monument. Inside, we can walk the rooms, climb to the parapets, watch a live cannon demonstration with men dressed from the days of Spanish occupation wearing upwards of 30 pounds of clothing.
Castillo de San Marcos is so haunted that the Travel Channel did an episode here in part of their Ghost Adventures series.
⇒ The Travel Channel visited. Check it out on YouTube
Potter’s Wax Museum
Potter’s is the first wax museum in the United States. Entry is through old drug store (apothecary), a building that is one of the most haunted places in St Augustine. We visited Potter’s Wax museum as part of our Ghosts and Graveyard tour, but many of the wax displays were covered at night. If we had more time, I think this is one place we could go back and visit.
Authentic Old Jail St Augustine
We visited the old jail at night, as part of our Ghosts and Graveyards tour. In character as a former inmate, we were led through with personal stories that brought the place to life. At one point we were locked into a maximum security area for a few moments, while our guide slinked around the outer area, recounting creepy tales as he passed the individual cells. It was scary, but not too frightening (and I am an adult who still has nightmares from horror movies).
While we have visited jails in cities all around the world, there is something special about this one. An eeriness, possibly from the ghosts that lurk the hallways, that makes it worth a visit. ⇒ Visit the Old Jail in St Augustine.
St Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum
A climb to the top of the lighthouse is rewarded with lovely views of Saint Augustine. It was built in the 1870s and haunted right from its beginnings. If you stand quietly outside the lighthouse and listen, they say you can often hear the laughter of three girls who died there in 1873 when they were playing inside a construction railcar that broke away and fell into the sea.
And the girls are not the only apparitions. There is also the smoking man, whose smoke is reportedly smelled more often than he is seen.
Outside the city gates at the north end of St. George Street sits the Huguenot Cemetery. Closed to new burials since 1884, it is the final resting place for many of those who succumbed to yellow fever. The mass graves hold up to 25 bodies, and only the name of the one on the top of the stack is listed on the stone. We didn’t get a chance to visit here, but many who do report seeing footprints, hearing voices, or even seeing full bodies walking.
We stood outside the cemetery gates in the dark of night while our guide told one unusual story after the next. The apparitions seen here are rarely noticed with the naked eye but often found later on images shot without a flash. As I combed through my first images, I found nothing out of the ordinary. Later I returned and shot this. Those green light were not there when I looked, and there is nothing nearby to reflect them. Could it be an apparition our guide described? Or is it just a reflection of city lights that I can see.
Catalina de Porras lived in a building that is now Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill until she was 10 years old and the British had taken over the city forcing her family to Cuba. Later she returned, and today she walks the hallways, mostly on the second level. The upstairs women’s bathroom is considered the most space in the building. However, when I identified myself, I was denied permission to take an interior photo. It left me wondering if the apparition is “enhanced” like the one in the Moss Beach Distillery in California.
Spanish Military Hospital Museum
We didn’t visit here, but it has the haunting reputation of many old military hospitals. The guided tour witnesses surgeries and the creation of apothecary medicines, as well as discussing many of the herbs that were used, and how they are still used today.
Other Things to do in St Augustine
The list of things to do in St Augustine is quite long, but all are not haunted.
Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
We have all heard of PonceDe Leon and his fountain of youth, and now, I have drunk from it. Instantly, I looked and felt younger. Well, maybe not, but drinking from the spring discovered Ponce De Leon is one of the many unique historical experiences in St Augustine. (I have previously drunk from a fountain of youth in Norway.)
The archaeological park is located at the sited of t Timucua Village of Seloy, the first settlement of St Augustine. There is more than just the spring water. It’s a place to discover some of the histories of the early explorers. Included in our entry price is a presentation of the explorer’s routes to and from the new world on a huge 30ft high globe (this was similar to NOAA globe we saw on American Samoa). Also, there is a watchtower, old church, blacksmith shop and live demonstrations of crossbow and cannon firings.
• St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
Imagine every species of Crocodilian in one place, and you have the St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. I have seen alligators and crocodiles before, but never so many in one spot. Plus there are lemurs and exotic birds. Viewed safely from boardwalks, the animals are in large swamps and waterways underfoot. However, if you are the super brave, you can zip line over the park.
• Colonial Quarter
A living history tour, we went through far too quickly as our time was limited. Inside we found a home, print shop, shipyard, blacksmith shop, sentry, watchtower and gunsmith with a musket firing demonstration.
Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse
As the name implies, the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the USA is located in the historic district of St. Augustine. It’s virtually untouched from its original format. The one-room schoolhouse was constructed during the first Spanish occupation. When we visited, life-sized mannequins filled the classroom, while mirrors allowed us a peek into the upper level where the teacher lived.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum
Located in a former castle, the building itself is half the fun of this Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. Inside we found over 800 exhibits of the unusual.
St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
With over 800 items, the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum has the largest collection of pirate artefacts in the world. Included amongst the treasures are one of the world’s three remaining authentic Jolly Roger flags and the only known surviving pirate treasure chest.
It’s an interesting museum, as it is aimed at both adults and children. Successfully completing the museum’s treasure hunt will render you an honorary pirate with a piece of treasure to take home.
Whetstone Chocolates Tasting Tours
More than just a tour of Whetstone Chocolate Factory, chocolate fans will be rewarded with five pieces of chocolate for tastings along with some fudge.
Where to Stay in St Augustine Florida
Haunted Hotels in St Augustine
If you’re reading this article, then you probably believe, at least a little, in the paranormal. But, do you trust it? How brave are you? Will you stay in one the haunted hotels in St Augustine, or not? Here are a few top picks in the historic district all with great reviews:
St. Francis Inn
If it’s ghosts you hope to see, ask to be on the third floor of this classic historic inn. Located in the historic district, it’s the attention to details that will keep you smiling. Fresh flowers and sherry, along with individually decorated rooms make this the ideal romantic getaway or take a larger unit for families (children aged 5+). If you just want the ambience, but don’t want to think about the hauntings, request a room on the first or second floors. ⇒ Check availability and pricing at St Francis Inn.
Casa de Sueños
Also located in the historic district, Casa de Sueños is a charming bed and breakfast with exceptional reviews. It’s perfect for a romantic weekend. If you’re lucky, you might meet Randolf, their playful resident ghost. Occasionally spotted, Randolf is well known for moving things around. Nothing goes missing for long, as Randolf always returns anything he borrows. ⇒ Check availability and pricing at Casa de Sueños.
Casa de Solana
Another haunted and quint bed and breakfast in the historic district, at Casa de Solana guests, have heard whispers or footsteps, felt gentle touches, and even had things mysteriously moved. Best places to experience this is the common areas of the courtyard, parlour, and the dining rooms, as well as the Montejurra Room and the British Suite. ⇒ Check availability and pricing at Casa de Solana.
More St Augustine Hotels
If haunted hotels are not your thing, we recommend staying in the historic district so you can walk everywhere (parking isn’t that easy in this town). The hotel options there vary from hostel to luxury and from old to modern. ⇒ Check availability on hotels in St Augustine.
Practical Information on Visiting Haunted St Augustine Florida
- Pro Tip: Head straight to the St Augustine historic district when you arrive.
- Arrive with an open mind. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, listen to the stories and the legends and find the grain of truth that somehow became a ghost story.
- While there seems to be plenty of public car parking, it fills quickly and finding a car par is often and difficult. We recommend getting an early start as we found parking before 10 am to be pretty easy.
- If you can stay in the historic district, you will be able to walk to most of the venues recommended on this page.
- If you prefer transportation, consider the Old Town Trolley Tours.
- If you are on a budget, choose your activities carefully. Nearly all of the things to do in St Augustine come with a price tag.
We visited St. Augustine as part of a larger USA road trip from southern Florida to Chicago.
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Which haunted St Augustine site will you visit first?
Disclaimer: We worked with Florida Historic Coast, the local tourism board. Also, we were provided with many complimentary entrances, tours, sample items, or media rates to assist in the writing of this review. The opinions expressed here are strictly our own.