St Augustine Florida is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States. Founded in 1565, it’s a stunning coastal city filled with a fascinating history. Therefore, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of unique things to do in St Augustine.
Intrigued by the city’s old-world charm and Spanish influence, I will admit, it was the ability to drink from Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth that made St Augustine a must-see for me.
Over time, St Augustine’s been under many flags, it has a military history, tasty treats, beaches, and intriguing ghost stories.
There is a definite tourist element with places like Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, but there are also plenty of unique things to do in St Augustine that you won’t find anywhere else. Some of our highlights included seeing an original pirate flag, alligators and crocodiles (an unusual combination), forts, coastal views, beaches, and plenty of museums.
Don’t let its small appearance on the map fool you, this is a city you will want to stop and explore. Stay a night, or better still, a few.
St Augustine is also one of the most haunted cities in the United States means there are plenty of opportunities to mingle with the ghosts. So many in fact, that we gave the haunted locations their own page.
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Unique things to do in St Augustine, Florida: One of a kind
One thing we can promise, you won’t be bored in this city. You can find everything from tourist destinations to historical interests. However, if you are like us, it will be some of the unique things in St Augustine that you never knew existed, that will make your visit truly memorable.
Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
We have all heard of Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth. Now, I have drunk from it, along with hundreds of others every day.
Instantly, I looked and felt younger. Well, maybe not, but drinking from the spring discovered by Ponce de Leon is one of the many unique things to do in St Augustine. (Oddly, I previously drank from a fountain of youth in Norway.)
(Of course, like all good legends, there is some question as to its validity.)
Either way, the archaeological park is a fun visit. It’s located at the site of Timucua Village of Seloy, the first settlement of St Augustine.
There is more than just the spring water here. 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 the 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
As far as unique things to do in St Augustine goes, this one has to be pretty high on the list. Imagine every species of Crocodilian in one place, and you have the St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
The park has grown quite a bit over the years, but its two original structures represent one of Florida’s oldest private zoos. In 1937, they built the current main building and alligator pen. The park’s expansion includes lemurs and exotic birds.
While I have seen both alligators and crocodiles in the past, never together and never so many in one spot. Viewed safely from boardwalks, the animals are in large swamps and waterways underfoot. However, if you are brave, you can zip line over the park.
Castillo de San Marcos
Whether you visit this 17-century fort for its fascinating history, its coastal views, its colorful staff reenacting the past, or its ghost stories, you won’t be disappointed. In its short history, the fort has flown the flags of five different countries.
Open for self-guided tours during the day, Castillo de San Marcos is a United States park service national monument.
Inside, we walked the rooms, climbed to the parapets, and enjoyed a live cannon firing demonstration by participants reenacting the days of the Spanish occupation while wearing replica clothing that weighed upwards of 30 pounds.
If you haven’t been to St Augustine, but are getting a sense of déjà vu as you read this, perhaps it’s because you have seen it on the Travel Channel as part of their Ghost Adventure series.
Colonial Quarter and the oldest wooden schoolhouse
Like a living history tour, we went through the Colonial Quarter 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.
We also visited the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the USA, located in the historic district of St. Augustine near the Colonial Quarter. 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.
Unique things to do in St Augustine: Museums
St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
With over 800 items, the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum boasts the largest collection of pirate artifacts 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. (Check out other pirate flags.)
Best of all, it’s an interesting museum for both adults and children. While many of the exhibits have a criminal element to them, there is plenty to keep kids busy. In fact, successfully completing the museum’s treasure hunt will render you an ‘honorary pirate’ with a piece of treasure to take home. Get tickets in advance.
Potter’s Wax Museum
Potter’s is the oldest wax museum in the USA, opening in 1949. Amongst its over 160 wax sculptures are historic figures including Albert Einstein, Ponce de Leon, and Princess Diana. In addition, you will find modern figures like Harry Potter and Micheal Jordon.
Don’t forget to bring your camera, and take your photo with the wax figures. Get advance tickets and transport
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.
Spanish Military Hospital Museum
This old military hospital highlights medical practices from the Second Spanish Period. The guided tour lets visitors “witness” surgeries and the creation of apothecary medicines. While these were cutting edge in the late 18th century, they will feel a bit off today.
The building itself is a reconstruction of the military hospital that stood on the site.
St Augustine Old Jail Museum
The old jail was built in 1891 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours take you into the cell blocks, sheriff’s quarters, men’s and women’s quarters, and maximum security, as well as viewing the gallows and a collection of weapons.
Like so many old places, it’s the stories shared by the guide that make it such a great place to visit. Take a guided tour of the Old Jail
St Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum
An active lighthouse, visitors can climb the 219 steps to the observation deck where they can look into the lens room or enjoy lovely views of Saint Augustine. Visitors can also enjoy the maritime museum exhibits and see wooden boat building in progress.
Tips for visiting St Augustine
- Pro Tip: Head straight to the St Augustine historic district when you arrive.
- While there seems to be plenty of public car parking, it fills quickly and finding a parking spot is often 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.
- The Old Town Trolley Tours look like a fun way to get around town.
- 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.
- Try a caramel apple.
Where is St Augustine Florida
Located along the Atlantic coast of northern Florida, St Augustine is a city in the Southeastern United States. It’s about 40 miles (65 km) south of Jacksonville, and 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Orlando.
Save on your trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or VRBO (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
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Which of these unique things to do in St Augustine will you try?
More from the USA you might like, including our USA Adventure road trip.
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.
Paul (Paul Passing Through)
I’ve always wanted to visit St Augustine but for one reason or another have not been able to. Maybe this summer will finally be the time to go! Thanks for sharing these tips!
St. Augustine is one of the city in Florida that I want to visit. Like you mentioned, it’s rich with history and Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth is interesting in itself. Thanks for the tip to go straight to the historic district.
You are such a nice person to share your trip with us all. I would never be able to do such a thing. Thank you ever so much. I know I’ll be back again to see all your wonderful pictures. I’m disabled so I could never do such a thing, but thanks to you I feel like I’m right there with you. THANK YOU EVER SO MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR JOURNEY. God bless you and keep you safe and healthy and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Can you know tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles? The fountains of youth will help you retain that knowledge as well!
We’ve road tripped through Florida, but didn’t make it to St. Augustine. But will have to stop there next time, since there’s so much to do.
St. Augustine is not a place I had heard of until now. It sounds very interesting and diverse so surprised I have not.
As an Australian it would be funny to see crocodiles over there. I think of maybe seeing one Alligator here.
Yeah! You captured St. Augustine here in Florida! It is a wonderful place to visit. If you are ever on the west coast of Florida, I ‘ll tell you to go to North Port to visit a warm mineral spring . It was also visited by Ponce de Leon as a possible fountain of youth.
Lydia C. Lee
Wow. There’s a lot to do! #WWOAT
I didn’t realize St. Augustine had so much to offer.. what a great place to visit. You could stay busy for days! Thank you for putting this together! – Linzey @thefamilyfuntour
Thank you so much for sharing all the great info and photos. You must be the queen of travel! And you give so many useful tips.
I’ve never been anywhere in Florida so all these attractions in St Augustine look fun! I’d most like to go to the Pirate and Treasure Museum. My kids are blown away that pirates are real.
I’ve only done an overnight in St. Augustine. Need to return and check out all these cool things to do.
I’m not one to mingle with ghosts, but I would love to go (and take the kids) to the crocodile park! That would be a blast!
St. Augustine seems to be full of unique and historical activities! There are a variety of museums that could pique just about anyone’s interest. Thanks for sharing!
I’ve visited Florida several times, but I haven’t been to St. Augustine. I’d be interested in visiting the Castillo de San Marcos. Great suggestions!
Great post! A lot of these activities sound fascinating and I love that there’s so much history to be discovered. I can’t imagine witnessing the surgeries that were performed during the Second Spanish Period, since they’re so outdated; something about that just sounds creepy to me, haha. We also did an alligator/Everglades excursion on our last visit to FL and it was so much fun! Thanks for sharing all of this. Xx Sara
I have heard of this destination before but didn’t know much about it. Great round up of activities and travel tips. Thanks!
Linda (LD Holland)
We have stayed in many places in Florida but have missed St Augustine. A chance to drink in the Fountain of Youth may add this to our future travel plans. An alligator park with them kept at a distance might let me enjoy these guys. But I would soak up all the lore about the pirate past in the museums. Hubby would definitely want to visit the Maritime Museum. Sure would keep us busy for a few days.
Love St. Augustine so much! I haven’t gotten to the Archaeological Park yet, but we’ve done a lot of the other things to do there. I’d also love to visit Matanzas State Park. Last time we visited was for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago; highly recommend seeing the city all lit up for the holidays. So beautiful!