Monday, July 13, 2020

List: How to plan a family vacation in St. Augustine, FL.

Last year we took a really, really long road trip from Long Island to St. Augustine.  While I've vacationed in many places throughout Florida, St. Augustine was new to me.  We were traveling for my cousin's wedding, but decided that drive warranted some personal days.

To be completely honest, I was not looking forward to this trip at all.  It was an expensive trip, funded by money that we didn't have, to go to a place I never heard of.  ...but The Viking put his foot down.  My cousin came to my wedding so I had to reciprocate.  I was convinced that there wouldn't be much to do there so I didn't even make an itinerary!  Let's just say that I was so, terribly wrong and that I'm so glad we took the trip.

St. Augustine travel trips

How to plan a family vacation to St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is an absolutely beautiful place filled with plenty of stuff to do.  One side of St. Augustine is packed with history, activities, and lots of must see sites.  The other side is dedicated to the beach with a lively strip of beach side fun including restaurants and shops.  With both sides to St. Augustine, there's something for everyone with enough to do to fill a week.

Hotel Recommendations:

Knowing this, I recommend staying on the beach side of the city since the historical area is less than a 5 minute drive away.

The Embassy Suites by Hilton (link) has beachfront access, a gorgeous pool, immaculate rooms, and a decent restaurant.  It also has direct access to the beach with private chairs and umbrellas.  I stayed here with my husband and it was absolutely fabulous.

The Hilton Garden Inn (link) is a more economical choice that's ideal for a family with kids.  I stayed here during our most recent visit with both my children and it was great!  It's literally next door to the Embassy Suites, just not as upscale.  The hotel still has private beach access except you need to bring your own chair or rent one.

things to do in st. augustine, hotel recommendations for st. augustine with beach access

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Ten family friendly things to do in St. Augustine.

There is so much to see in the historic district that it becomes seriously overwhelming.  This tour does a fabulous job of pointing them all out to you with the option of hopping off to jump on later.  While this is a very high level tour, it's a great starting point for your trip so that you can highlight your biggest wants.  Note-  This was a little scary with an 11 month old child.  There's no straps or place to put a car seat.

This isn't your typical visit to a local lighthouse.  Prepare to spend at least half a day here because there's lots to see.  The highlight is obviously climbing to the top of the lighthouse and looking over the balcony.  Unfortunately, I didn't go up thanks to the warning signs of mating paper wasps up top.  That's a big NO from me!  There are several smaller buildings filled with artifacts to look at and tidbits of history to be learned.  There's also a refreshment stand with surprisingly tasty treats, a butterfly garden, nature trails, and a playground.

We ate at several different restaurants, but this was my favorite of them all.  There's outdoor seating, yummy beverages, and a huge array of fresh seafood all with a beach vibe.  There's also live music, onsite photographer, and an overall fun environment.  It's the perfect seaside eating spot.

I didn't get to spend much time here, but you could easily have a lovely afternoon shopping in the historic district.  It's filled with dozens of local shops with unique finds and ancient alleyways begging to be explored.  If we ever return, I hope to spend a day exploring all the shops and eateries.  They were practically calling my name!

The colonial experience at Colonial Quarter was maybe the best stop we made on our trip.  The tour was packed with information and debunked many historical facts that we believed to be true.  There was a watchtower to climb, ancient artifacts, blacksmith lessons, and even a musket shooting demonstration.  Our tour guide was dressed in colonial attire, filled with information, and possibly the smartest man I ever met.

As the nation's oldest city, there's bound to be an unlimited number of hauntingly good ghost stories.  While I didn't get to go myself, my cousins went and said it was one of the best ghost tours they experienced.  For the record, this is the ONE thing I was begging to do, but we ran out of time.  I vow to return and see this!

This was one of the coolest things we got to see since it's existence dates back to 1891.  While they do offer tours for a fee, we opted to skip another paid tour and experience the jail on our own.  The best part was being caught putting my baby into a bird cage jail cell.  My captor imprisoned the whole family!

We got to appreciate the magnificence of the world's oldest masonry fort in the US from the outside.  We didn't get to enjoy a tour and get to see all the fun history lurking on the inside, but I heard it was great!  From the moment you enter historic St. Augustine, this fort is in view and completely takes your breathe away.  We learned a bit about the fort during the colonial experience and know that we must return to see behind the walls.

This was fascinating to see and definitely something to check off of a bucket list, but I wish we did the fort instead.  The price of the tour was high for something so tiny.  The tour was great, but also very short for the price.  See it if you have the time and money, but peek through the windows if you don't and go see something else.  This is not to be confused with the oldest schoolhouse.  That's in Staten Island and also on my bucket list to see!

When you purchase tickets for the trolley tour, you get free tickets for this museum experience.  I wouldn't have paid extra money to see this, but it was still a cool place to visit.  It's a self guided walk through tour with tons of things to see and play with.  The kiddie's loved that it was interactive!

If we ever return, I hope to visit one of the famous distilleries, the pirate museum (link), aquarium, and alligator farm.  The Fountain of Youth, agricultural museum, Whetstone chocolate tour (link), and Fort Matanzas are also on my bucket list.  I'd also take the time to tour all of the historic churches, museums (link), and enjoy more restaurants and night life.

Have you ever been to St. Augustine?



  1. Looks like a ghost and gravestone tour in the old city is worth visiting.
    Did your cousin see a ghost sighting, Jax?

    1. She didn't but enjoyed the history and spooky stories!

  2. Can't imagine how the ghosts of the old convicts feel with the place of their pain being turned into a tourist attraction, a fun location. Hope hubby gave you a permission to post his nekkid beach photos here :)

    1. No shame here, he's proud of that dad bod!! Besides, the dad bod is totally in. We were laughing at an article last night about Zac Efron being sexier than ever thanks to his dad bod. lol lol

    2. I'm often shocked with what they call a dadbod these days, they usually use it for men who are fit and hot, just a bit hairy. There was a photo of Scarlet Johansonn's husband at the beach last week at DailyMail and they laughed at him in comments, left me shocked as he is smoking hot and very attractive. Zac Efron probably won't have a dadbod even when he really becomes a dad one day...

    3. I have more of a dad bod than Zac Efron!

  3. My brother-in-law and his family have been to Saint Augustine a couple of times. They love it! It’s definitely on my list of places to try to visit someday. We did a ghost tour in Williamsburg before kids. It was so much fun! Trolley rides are a great way to learn about a city. I’ve done them in San Diego and San Francisco. And even in Cleveland!

    1. I was pleasantly surprised at how much there is to do. We like action. Not much for sitting around and relaxing, so this place was perfect! Hopefully we will get there again one day. :)

    2. We are the same way as far as needing action! That’s why we never went to Hilton Head like everyone else we know. I can sit around and cook and do laundry at home! The whole condo on a beach for a week idea escapes me. My kids would have been bored after a few hours.

  4. I've only been to Clearwater and Disney World in Florida. I definitely need to get down that way and explore more of the state. It seems like Saint Augustine has some really cool attractions. I've never heard of it to be "the place" to visit, but I'm glad you've opened my eyes to a totally cool place!

    1. We went down there kicking and screaming, only to be so glad that we went. It was a really great place. Hopefully we get to return without extended family so that we enjoy what we want without their schedule. :)

  5. That would be a fun spot. Goes to show there are lots of things to do in places, just have to look. Throwing the kiddos in the slammer would be fun lol


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