Between 1513 and 1559, the king of Spain chartered several major expeditions to Florida, most of which were failed attempts. After hearing about the final mission’s misadventure in present-day Pensacola, King Philip II decided not to attempt any further colonization…that was until Philip II heard about the French Protestants’ (the Huguenots) success with Fort Caroline in modern-day Jacksonville. In response, the Spanish king decided to drive them out by sending Menendez and his team across the Atlantic Ocean in 1565. Once they arrived in an area near St. Augustine, Menendez and his men had the opportunity to overrun the French fort and proceeded to kill most of its male inhabitants. Several days later, St. Augustine was founded and is now known as the oldest continuously settled city in America. Today, St. Augustine is known for its beautiful scenery and colorful background. Some of the best things to do include visiting the local lighthouse, tasting ports and wines at the San Sebastian winery, or even trying out the craft balsamic and olive oil as you walk through the historic town center. No matter what you decide to do, you will not be disappointed.
In my most recent trip to Florida, I had the pleasure of visiting this quaint town, and although I only had 8 hours to spend here it was truly a gratifying experience that satisfied the traveller within. The first stop I made was at the Columbia Restaurant known for its traditional Spanish cuisine and cultural atmosphere. Inside you will even find a gift shop, complete with recipe books, ceramic plates, and spices. While I was here, I decided to try the Paella Española, which is a classically Spanish dish made with Valencian rice accompanied by fresh seafood. I strongly recommend this to anyone, even those who rarely eat fish. Another suggestion I would make is to pair your meal with one of their mojitos that is made with sugar cane and a generous amount of mint…truly refreshing. Next on my list of stops was Relámpago Coffee Lab, a name that means lightning bolt in spanish. This local roaster focuses on small batch coffee and offers a variety of drinks including pour-overs and nitro cold brew…stay tuned for an upcoming post on this small town hangout.
After refueling with caffeine, I headed off to the town’s winery called San Sebastian, which was started in1996 and continues to be a family-run corporation. Within their grounds is over 18,000 square feet of land that is matched with a storage facility capable of holding 40,000 gallons of wine. There is so much to say about this place, but the most important thing you need to know is that it offers a free tour and wine tasting to any of its visitors. As any rational person would, the next thing I set out to find the town’s best known chocolatier- Whetstone Chocolates. This small business was created by Henry and Esther Whetstone, lifelong residents of northeast Florida, who had a desire to share their homemade fudge recipe, and the joys of baking in the kitchen through their chocolate. Interestingly enough, Hershey chocolate and M&M Mars sought after this recipe in the early 1980s. My trip continued to get better as I finally met the climax of my trip, which took place at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. This was my first time seeing a lighthouse in person! In order to get to the top, you
must pay a small fee and climb roughly 200 steps on a spiral staircase, but don’t worry, there are small areas to take a break if you need to catch your breath. If you are going to make this trip, I would recommend going about 45 minutes before sunset (if the season allows) and watching the daylight slowly disappear from the horizon…an excellent opportunity for family photos!
St. Augustine is one of Florida’s finest treasures, but it is often overlooked. I hope that the next time you visit you will take some time to visit this city and soak in the rich history that still lives in this city today. Please stay tuned for more things to do in the upcoming weeks’ posts.