St. Augustine - the OLDEST city in the US!
St. Augustine is just below Jacksonville on the Atlantic Florida coast. It is known for its rich history, Spanish colonial architecture, and also stunning beaches. It is actually the oldest continuously occupied European Settlement in the continental United States.
See our video of St. Augustine HERE!
Castillo de San Marcos
HINT - show up early (we got there at 9am) to snag parking in the lot right in front. It costs $2.50/hour but totally worth it for it's proximity to the sights and lack of other parking close by.
With our National Park Pass we were able to skip the line and go right in.
The Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th-century Spanish fortress built out of coquina - a sedimentary rock made of compressed shells and harvested on the beaches. You can still see the shells in the coquina making up the fort walls, and the mortar binding it together is made from crushed oyster shells. It was fascinating learning about the construction of the fort, and the amazingly thick walls are so impressive. Supposedly, the coquina absorbs the force of cannon fire rather than shatter like stone, so it was easier to repair and maintain as well.
We also all learned so much about the different types of cannons used at the fort, where they came from, what they're made of, and how far they could shoot. The information readily available here via signs, volunteers and exhibits is amazing. The upper level allows for magnificent views of the blue water expanse across the inlet.
The kids all participated in the Junior Ranger Program and received their badges. This is also a completely free program provided by the National Park System, and the rangers love talking with the kids.
Old Town St. Augustine
After touring Castillo, we walked right across the street into Old Town. We strolled down St. George Street and loved checking out the cute shops and little dives. It is a little touristy, but plenty of charm still abounds. We ducked into a delicious lunch spot - St. Augustine Seafood Company - and found an amazing outdoor seating spot under winding vines and verandas. The Spanish architecture is charming. One of my favorite things is spotting historical marker signs on buildings and learning little tidbits about its original occupants. We even found the oldest wooden school house in the U.S.
Ocean Grove RV Resort
We stayed on Anastasia Island (St. Augustine Beach) at Ocean Grove RV Resort. The community at this resort was really great, but being originally designed many moons ago, the roads are tight making it difficult to get in and out of some sites. The golden star here is the proximity to the beach - right across the street. Also, this campground backs up to intercostal marsh waterways that rise and fall with the tides, creating an excellent fishing spot. The boys found that the best fishing was later in the evening when the tide was coming in, and they fished mainly with fresh shrimp. We caught several black drum, lots of toad fish, a few crabs, and Stuart even reeled in an eel. Sawyer landed a really nice black drum - 24 inches and 7lbs.
On top of this, there is a great (heated) pool, plus a restaurant + bar with occasional live entertainment. During our stay, the campground was bought out by a corporation from Miami, so changes may be on the agenda in the near future for this quaint getaway.