Looking for cool things to do off the beaten path in St. Augustine? Want a list of some of our favorite hidden gems?
This blog is for guests who have been to St. Augustine multiple times–you’ve seen the fort, the Pirate Museum, Flagler College. You have taken the distillery tour, and sat on the rooftop deck of the winery. Climbed the lighthouse? Gone to the Alligator Farm? Check and check. You’ve been there, and done that (and maybe bought the tshirt).
If you haven’t hit the above attractions, then do yourself a favor and see them first! They are some of the most popular destinations in St. Augustine for a reason, and the reason is that they are absolutely fantastic!
But if you’re looking for hidden gems–attractions that most people don’t find on their first or even second visit to town–then THIS blog is for you! So let’s explore off the beaten path a bit!
Not the main fort in town, but a smaller fort (with smaller crowds!) Drive south on A1A on Anastasia Island, and turn right after the signs for Fort Matanzas National Monument. There is so much about this attraction that I love–you have to take a ferry to get to it (you will park at their welcome center), it is much smaller so you can really *see* the fort as you’re exploring, and the guides are fantastic! Plus, you can explore the Matanzas Inlet while you’re there–a little side of nature with your history. Added bonus: it’s FREE (donations are welcome). And, located down scenic A1A, it is truly off the beaten path in St. Augustine! www.nps.gov/foma. 8635 A1A South. 904.471.0116.
You don’t have to go to the Caribbean to swim with the dolphins, you can do it right here in St. Augustine at Marineland. You’ll work with a trainer who will tell you about the dolphins and show you how to interact safely with these beautiful creatures. Take a swimsuit–or take two and use the dry one when you stop by gorgeous Crescent Beach before you come back to town. 9600 N. Ocean Shore Boulevard. 904.471.1111.
St. Augustine Wild Reserve
St. Augustine Wild Reserve is a non-profit exotic animal rescue group–when someone decides they no longer want a lion in their backyard, they call the Reserve who comes to get it (that sounds funny, but unfortunately I’m not kidding). It’s a 2 hour tour, where you get to see a huge number of animals, especially big cats. You might even see a tiger getting a bubble bath! (And yes, that is just as cool as it sounds). No photography allowed, and tours are by appointment ONLY and only on specific days (it was Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday when we wrote this–with a VIP tour on Fridays). 5190 Farm Creek Road. 904.940.0664.
Food and Beverage Tour
You may have seen a little story in Southern Living about St. Augustine being the #1 Town for Food in the South!! Yes–our little town! (Sorry; we’re a little excited about the designation, as it confirms what we’ve always known!)
If you’ve come to St. Augustine a few times, you already know what a great foodie destination we are, and you have probably realized that it is impossible to enjoy all of our restaurants during a single trip. We live here, and it’s still hard to get out and try them all–although we do our best! One way to multiply your efforts is to try a whole bunch in a single afternoon–through a food and beverage tour. There is a tour for every taste–food and wine pairings, food and craft beer, beer and bites…even a taco Tuesday roadster tour!
Deleon Springs State Park
About an hour south of St. Augustine is De Leon Springs, a state park with a crystal clear spring always at a refreshing 72 degrees. Pack a lunch and plan on spending the day paddling in a canoe or kayak (both are available to rent), fishing, or hiking. Or go early and have breakfast at the Sugar Mill Restaurant, a 100-year old replica of the original sugar mill from the 1830s. The restaurant has griddles at each table and you can cook your own pancakes, adding all the extras you would like!
African American History
African American history is deep in St. Augustine–from way back in 1565 when Pedro Menendez noted that there were already generations of free Africans living in the French settlement at Fort Caroline, just a few miles north. You can see a wonderful overview of some of that history here. St. Augustine was also a critical part of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King organized multiple demonstrations here, both at the Plaza de la Constitucion (today you can see a statue to the Foot Soldiers of St. Augustine at the Western end of the Plaza, along with the bronze footprints of Andrew Young on Andrew Young Way), and at a swimming pool at Monson Motel (where King was arrested). There are sites all around the city, but a good place to start is the Accord Freedom Trail Museum, where you can get a map showing all the historic places in town. 79 Bridge Street. 904.347.1382.
Villa Zorayda is the 1883 winter home of Boston millionaire Franklin W. Smith. The home is modeled after the Alhambra Palace in Spain, and despite its small size, it aptly conveys the grandeur of those regal grounds. The museum is filled with antiques, collections, rugs, and artwork, as well as ancient curiosities like the 2400 year old rug made of cat hair, taken from an Egyptian pyramid. It’s a great example of Moorish architecture, and it offers a glimpse into the people who were building castles and stunning hotels in St. Augustine at the end of the 19th century. 83 King Street. 904.829.9887.
This is definitely not a comprehensive list of hidden gems in St. Augustine, but it’s a nice start! If you want to enjoy some hidden gems while dining as well, check out our list of local favorite restaurants in St Augustine. It’s a perfect list if you’ve been to St. Augustine many times and want to try something new.
As always, if you have any questions, or would like us to make a recommendation to your itinerary, just ask! We’re happy to make your vacation perfect for YOU at our romantic St. Augustine getaway!