Exploring St. Augustine, Florida: History and Culture

This post contains sponsored links. The item featured and linked, in this post is provided by St. Augustine Lighthouse (six admission tickets); all opinions and reviews are my own.]

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St. Augustine: History 

In June of this year, we had the pleasure of visiting St. Augustine, on the Atlantic cost of northeastern Florida. St. Augustine is a gem situated neatly along the shores of the Matanzas River and holds heavy historical significance! The Southern and Spanish-influenced St. Augustine, Florida was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and it is the oldest inhabited European-established settlement in the United States. When you are walking around on its centuries-old cobblestone streets, you will instantly feel like you are either in Europe or Old Florida, depending on which street you’re on! It’s a charming escape for anyone wanting to take a vacation!

Bridge of Lions; St Augustine, FL; Plate Girder; Painted, Metali

 

St. Augustine: Arrival

The Bridge of Lions will take you across the Matanzas River to the heart of the historic old town. Once across the bridge you have the choice of turning left on Avenida Menendez to the marina and sight-seeing cruises or right to the Castillo de San Marcos. You can also continue straight ahead on Cathedral Street into the heart of downtown.

 

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St. Augustine: Beaches 

One of the reasons we wanted to travel to St. Augustine was for the beaches! The beaches are so pretty! With a historic city being one of its main attractions, don’t forget about the  beaches near St. Augustine! From their sunrises to sunsets, they are stunning!

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Located on Anastasia Island, a barrier island off the mainland, St Augustine Beach has a natural feel with a wide beach and lots of good surf and shorebirds!

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St. Augustine: Lighthouse & Museum 

While traveling, one of our family goals is to visit every lighthouse we come by! The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum was a highlight for our entire vacation! When we arrived at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum  , we were greeted by Daniel Lee, who  took us on a tour of the property and we learned quite a bit of history about the lighthouse. He was very welcoming and informative on the history of the lighthouse.

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History: Pre-1862 

The story of the the current lighthouse in St. Augustine is not the original St. Augustine Lighthouse. The Spanish constructed the tower that became the first lighthouse in 1737. They used a naturally occurring stone called coquina to construct the original tower. The coquina tower replaced wooden watchtowers the Spanish built dating back to the beginnings of Spanish Florida.

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A map of Francis Drake’s 1586 raid on St. Augustine reveals the presence of a small tower on Anastasia Island. The map refers to the tower as “a Beacon or high scaffold standing on the sand hills, wherein the Spaniards did use to discover the ships at sea.” In 1823, John Rodman, Collector of St. Augustine, wrote to Stephen Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the U.S. Treasury, that despite the tower’s presence, “…it was never built for a lighthouse or used as one, but merely a look-out-house. The location is well suited…but a great proportion of the tower, nearly one half, is not sufficiently strong to bear any greater elevation either if wood or stone work.” 

John (Juan) Andreu became first keeper of Florida’s first official U.S. lighthouse in St. Augustine. Not only is he one of the first, he also holds the distinction of being the first Hispanic-American to serve in the Coast Guard and the first to oversee a federal installation of any kind.

Juan Andreu served as keeper until 1845 and the records are unclear as to who took over and served as lighthouse keeper from 1845 to 1849. John (Juan) Carrera served as keeper from 1849 until his death in 1853. Joseph took care of the lighthouse until his death, which he fell, while painting the lighthouse.

Joseph’s wife Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu was appointed keeper in place of her deceased husband. The Coast Guard recognizes Maria Andreu as the first Hispanic-American woman to serve in the Coast Guard. Maria was the lighthouse keeper from 1859-1862.

History: Current 

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The current St. Augustine Lighthouse is nestled among live oaks and beautiful Spanish moss making a stunning nautical canopy. Also located on the property is Maritime Museum, along with the light keepers house.

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There is also the Maritime Hammock which is a natural area that the coastline formed when it receded, creating stabilized beach dunes that allowed for larger growth trees.

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There is even a cute gift shop located on the property as well!

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St. Augustine Lighthouse: Climbing the lighthouse

To climb the lighthouse, you will need to climb 219 stairs! Trust me when I say that is is worth it! There are eight landings and even one with a bench. Plenty of space for others to walk past you and if needed, space for a break!

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When you walk into the lighthouse, walk to the first set of stairs, go to the very middle and look up! This is the view that you will see!

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The view from the top is amazing! We had a couple that were a little nervous to be up so high, yet is not our first time on the top of a lighthouse either!

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Amazing view of St. Augustine from the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse!! If you decide to come to visit St. Augustine, don’t forget to stop by the lighthouse!

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St. Augustine: Downtown Old City Gates & St. George Street 

The Old City Gates are a site to behold toward the north end of St. George Street. The Old City Gates were at one time the only entrance into St. Augustine. The two ancient columns made of coquina were built in 1808 as a line of defense for the city.

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After visiting the Old City Gates, walk through to enter St. George Street, which is a historic street, that is filled with galleries, shops, restaurants and popular St. Augustine attractions.

 

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St. Augustine: Castillo de San Marcos

The Castillo de San Marcos is the largest masonry fort in the continental United States and was built to protect Spain’s claim to the New World!

Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fort was closed on the inside. We did walk around the exterior of the fort!

St. Augustine: The Fountain of Youth  

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The Fountain of Youth was believed that anyone who drank from the fountain would have their youth restored. In 2,400 BC, the Native Americans, a tribe known as, Timucua, were amount the first to inhibit the land. Ponce de Leon was the first Spanish explorer to find the Fountain of Youth. The grounds at the Fountain of Youth are beautiful and you will also find several peacocks throughout the property!

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Drinking from the Fountain of Youth is wonderful experience that our family will never forget!

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I could honestly go on and talk about St. Augustine for a long time! We love this city so much!  It is such a pleasure to visit the historical St. Augustine and we know we will definitely be back!

❤️~Shae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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