St Augustine – the Oldest Settlement in the USA

This episode is also available as a blog post: https://travelswithallie.blog/2022/09/22/revelstoke/
  1. Revelstoke
  2. Mt. Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park
  3. North to the Kootenay Rockies: Revelstoke
  4. Creston to Nelson in the Kootenays
  5. Crossing into Canada: The Creston Valley

After a quiet day settling into Daytona Beach, we ventured out today, but first a couple of words about the beautiful beach here, and how interesting it is to sit on our balcony and look down on it. Yesterday, it was flat calm at breakfast time and we could see dolphins swimming just in the surf line. The beach has never been crowded, it’s too huge. Uniquely here you can drive your car onto the beach, keeping to the back, and we saw that underway. People were parking up in their trucks and putting canopies or tents out the back to make a “base camp”. I could see the attraction. Later there was a bit of a parade across the back with drivers showing off their vehicles and playing their radios. Fascinating. It’s a much better beach than I was expecting to be honest.

today we headed about one hour north to St Augustine. St Augustine is the oldest European settlement in the USA.

St. Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565, by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Florida’s first governor. He named the settlement “San Agustín“, as his ships bearing settlers, troops, and supplies from Spain had first sighted land in Florida eleven days earlier on August 28, the feast day of St. Augustine. The city served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years. It was designated as the capital of British East Florida when the colony was established in 1763; Great Britain returned Florida to Spain in 1783.

Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819, and St. Augustine was designated the capital of the Florida Territory upon ratification of the Adams–Onís Treaty in 1821. The Florida National Guard made the city its headquarters that same year. The territorial government moved and made Tallahassee the capital of Florida in 1824.

It is a quaint, historical little place. I first visited here in 1977 (yes, I’m that old!) and it was just as it had always been with very little commercial tourism. 45 years have changed a lot. St Augustine is now a major tourist centre and it’s approaching Key West in terms of commercial development of downtown and the historical centre. If you venture a little bit outside of this area, there are still narrow residential streets of fabulous wooden homes, surrounded by gardens featuring azaleas and southern oaks dripping with Spanish moss.

We started by meeting Steven and Pamela, Stuart’s brother and wife, at a restaurant called The Ice House, sited in…… an old ice house….. right next door to the St Augustine distillery. https://iceplantbar.com/ What a beautiful building!!!! I have rarely seen such a nice makeover of an industrial site. We had drinks at the bar and then brunch. I had a great cheese burger with home fries, Bob had eggs and mushroom benedict…. everyone’s dishes looked great. I really enjoyed it there.

Afterwards, we went downstairs and did the self guided tour around the distillery. It was free and we got tasters along the way. They make craft gin and rum and mixes but their main product is bourbon whisky. Everything we tasted was delicious. An interesting tour.

We then boarded the tourist shuttle that took us around town – 22 stops. We didn’t get off at all of them by any means. Our second stop was the winery. Again, a free visit with 3 dry wines, 3 sweet wines and 2 fortified wines tasted. Frankly all of the wines other than the fortified ones were – imo – utterly hideous. The dry ones were wincingly dry. The sweet ones were wincingly sweet.

We toured around the historic district and then finally got off the shuttle train near the fort. the Castillo San Marcos National Monument. Its a star shaped fort with a moat around it that was built to hold off pirates and the British and then taken over by the Americans.

We then walked up King Street, a narrow street with historic houses on every side. All of them are now restaurants, bars, shops…. very touristy but a pleasant area. We had some amazing ice creams as we walked.

At the end of King Street we went into Flagler College, now a private liberal arts college, but originally buit as the Ponce de Leon Hotel. which was built in 1888; Obtained by William Flagler under somewhat dubious circumstances. It is a beautiful little campus with the hotel building forming the centrepiece. We could visit the garden with fountains and into the entrance hall which had a superb rotunda.

Across the road was the Lightner Museum, sited within the superb old Alcazar Hotel. Again, a lovely Spanish style building with a beautiful courtyard garden . We couldn’t visit inside because there was a wedding in process, but it was a superb place.

We had a really brilliant visit. I sort of wish it was still as unspoilt as it was in 1977 but on the other hand, the town looks a lot more prosperous than the slightly run down historical monument it was then. It’s a dilemna isn’t it.? But, hugely enjoyable and many thanks to Pamela and Steven for guiding us around.