If you’ve never been, you may wonder, is St. Augustine, Florida worth visiting? Take it from us, the answer is definitely yes. America’s oldest city, it was founded in 1565 and served as the capital of Spanish Florida for more than 200 years (as well as spending a brief period under British rule).
You can see the city’s Spanish origins in its layout and architecture. St. Augustine has a wonderful European atmosphere that, when combined with its beautiful waterfront setting and Old Florida vibe, creates the perfect setting for romantic vacations and honeymoons.
And while the historic downtown area is easily walkable, there’s a ton of things to do in St. Augustine. In this article we’ll tell you about our picks for the 20 best St. Augustine things to do and see, including St. Augustine things to do at night, free things to do in St. Augustine, and unique things to do in St. Augustine.
Wander the historic downtown
One of the best free things to do in St. Augustine is just to roam the brick-lined streets, browsing shops, enjoying the atmosphere, and letting yourself be astonished at the interesting historical sites, beautiful hidden gardens, and lovely public spaces you come across.
St. George Street is one of the main streets in town; full of shops, historic sites, restaurants, and art galleries, it’s pedestrian only from Orange Street to Cathedral Place. Be sure to explore the side streets and alleys as well as the main areas and keep an eye out for unexpected places.
One of these is St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine on St. George St., a memorial to the first Greek settlers in America Through a tiny courtyard and behind an unassuming door lies a fascinating glimpse into the Greek Orthodox religion and the history of the ill-fated New Smyrna colony of Mediterranean settlers. This peaceful spot, which is the first Greek Orthodox National Shrine in the country, features incredible colonial artifacts and a full recounting of the tragic story, as well as St. Photios Chapel, a serene and sacred space covered in vivid frescoes.
Take a trolley tour
A more relaxing way to get an overview of St. Augustine and its fascinating history is on one of the city’s trolley tours, which will take you around in an open-air “trolley” while the driver points out interesting historical sites. Choose from Old Town Trolley Tours or Red Train Tours for a variety of tour options.
This is a great way to get to attractions that aren’t within walking distance if you don’t have a car, such as the St. Augustine Distillery and the Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth and Archaelogical Park.
Enjoy the waterfront
Another fun and free thing to do in St. Augustine is to enjoy its beautiful bayfront setting. The long stretch of waterfront gives you many opportunities to stroll along the seawall or have a refreshing drink or delicious meal while gazing at water views.
Set on Florida’s Atlantic side, the town faces east, so you can see amazing sunrises over the water if you get up early enough. The sky and water are also beautiful at sunset. For a romantic thing to do in St. Augustine, pick up dinner or some wine and cheese and have a picnic on the sea wall as the sun sets. If you walk down several blocks, heading away from the fort, you’ll reach a quieter section and will likely have the area all to yourselves.
Take a themed walking tour
A unique St. Augustine thing to do is take a themed walking tour. St. Augustine Experiences offers a variety of walking tours of the area, including The Ale Trail Craft Beer Tour, The Perfect Pairing Wine Food & Cocktail Experience, and Not Just a Chocolate Tour.
Saint Augustine Photo Tour Company offers Photo Tour Walks to help you capture amazing shots of all of the lovely spots in the city. There are also ghost tours, history tours, and more.
Check out the Colonial Quarter
For a real sense of St. Augustine’s history, check out this living museum on St George St., which has 4 sections: 16th century, 17th century and 18th century Spanish plus 18th century British. Guided tours of the Colonial Quarter give you details about the city’s different periods and what life was like for colonial residents.
Visit Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
The oldest structure in St. Augustine, this huge stone fort on the waterfront in downtown was built by the Spanish between 1672 and 1695. This is the last remaining military site from the 17th century in the United States. You can tour it from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, either on your own or with the ranger-led guided tour. There are also cannon firings and weapons demonstrations. Admission to Castillo de San Marcos is $15 for adults.
Tour the Lightner Museum
Architecture and art lovers will enjoy the Lightner Museum, located in the old Alcazar Hotel. Built by Henry Flagler in 1888, this ornate Spanish Renaissance Revival building offers 4 floors of fascinating exhibits and a wide array of 19th-century art in a breathtaking setting. Located at 75 King Street near Flagler College, it is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is $17 for adults (guided tours are extra).
For a great free thing to do in St. Augustine, you can walk around the ground floor of the building and enjoy shops, cafés, and pretty and private courtyard.
Explore Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
Another unique thing to do in St. Augustine is to head to Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, which contains the site of the original Menendez settlement in 1565 and (supposedly) the spring that Ponce de Leon called the Fountain of Youth. You can drink from the spring and learn all about the Spanish settlers and the Timucua Indians who predated them in the area.
While there can be a bit of a theme park atmosphere here, it’s set on 15 acres of waterfront with mature oaks and magnolias, and there is a lot to check out. This includes a Navigator’s Planetarium, a recreated Timucuan village, a boathouse and shipbuilding exhibit, a reconstructed 1587 mission church, and a blacksmith’s shop. Plus, you can see the dozens of blue and white peacocks that roam freely, walk out on the Founders’ Riverwalk over Matanzas Bay, and get panoramic views from the top of the 16th-century watchtower.
Tour Flagler College
The lucky students at this college go to class in the ornate Spanish Renaissance buildings that originally housed Henry Flagler’s luxurious Hotel Ponce de Leon. This National Historic Landmark features multiple beautiful buildings and lushly landscaped grounds over almost 50 acres. Located at 74 King Street, Flagler College tours are available between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily for $16 per person. Since they are capped at 30 people per tour, the college recommends booking in advance.
Visit a unique St. Augustine museum
With 450 years of history, St. Augustine offers all sorts of museums to choose from. Some of the more unique museums are the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, The Norman Rockwell Museum of the South, The Oldest Store Museum Experience, Old Jail, the Oldest Wooden School House, the Spanish Military Hospital Museum, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, the Oldest House Museum Complex, and Villa Zorayda.
Relax and boost wellness in a salt cave
One of the most unique things to do in St. Augustine is also one of the most restorative and romantic things to do in St. Augustine. Salt Spa St. Augustine offers a wide range of services for couples, including massages and facials for two, but its most distinctive offerings are the Himalayan salt cave and float tank salt therapy.
Take a break from all the exploring and head to this lovely oasis for a magical and rejuvenating experience. Founder Beata Kosakowska opened this innovative spa to share the benefits of salt therapy, something she is familiar with from her native Poland and its world-famous hospital set in the Wieliczka Salt Mine (now being used as a recovery center for COVID patients due to its antimicrobial atmosphere).
Salt, which is an essential element of all life, has a variety of therapeutic benefits and has been used in healing treatments since ancient times. The spa’s Salt Cave is a beautiful space covered completely in 25,000 pounds of Polish and Himalayan crystal salt, which is kept at the perfect cool temperature and humidity level to maximize ionization.
Inhaling ionized salt air boosts the respiratory and immune systems, reduces stress, improves mood, and increases energy. Wonderfully, all you have to do to enjoy these benefits is just relax and breathe deeply. For a romantic experience, couples can schedule a private salt cave session and enjoy lounging in the zero gravity chairs next to each other as soothing music plays. You can even have massages in the cave, to further enhance the benefits of both.
The Salt Therapy Float Tank allows you to experience weightlessness and let all tension go, relaxing muscles, decreasing pain and inflammation, reducing stress, increasing energy, and gently exfoliating and hydrating skin.
Salt Spa’s Body Renewal Cycle combines sessions in the salt cave and float tank with time in the full spectrum infrared sauna, which has a host of benefits including increasing oxygen flow and circulation and decreasing inflammation. Salt Spa St. Augustine is located in the historic downtown area at 28 Cordova Street and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Custom hours are available.
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride
A really fun thing to do in St. Augustine is to ride in one of the horse-drawn carriages you’ll hear clip-clopping along the brick-lined streets. You can do this during the day for a private tour of downtown, or at night for a more romantic experience.
Taste locally produced spirits
St. Augustine Distillery produces craft rum, vodka, gin, and whiskey from local grains and sugar cane at its historic plant, located just north of the downtown area. A fun St. Augustine thing to do is enjoy free tastings and self-guided tours here every half hour starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m., 7 days a week. There’s also a restaurant onsite.
For an in-town experience (or if you prefer flavored spirits), check out City Gate Spirits at 11 St. George Street for free tastings of their locally produced, naturally flavored whiskeys, rums, vodkas, and moonshine. Some of the most popular flavors include maple whiskey, cinnamon whiskey, pineapple rum, and sweet tea vodka.
Get out in nature with an eco-tourism experience
You’ll find several unique St. Augustine things to do with local eco-tourism provider Earth Kinship Kayak Tours and Nature Education. This company, founded by a local who previously served as the county’s naturalist, offers guided kayaking and forest bathing experiences close to the downtown area but a world away in atmosphere.
Kayak tours with Earth Kinship’s knowledgeable guides go beyond just paddling through a beautiful area to give you details about the area’s ecosystem, wildlife, and Native American history. Earth Kinship offers a diverse set of scheduled paddles, including at sunrise and sunset, but can create customized trips for couples who want a private tour.
Forest bathing experiences in private wilderness areas along the St. John’s River will immerse you in the restorative power of nature. A popular activity in Japan, forest bathing has a host of positive effects on physical and mental health (including reducing stress and anxiety). Earth Kinship’s are led by a certified forest bather. You can check their website for scheduled sessions or call to set up a private experience.
Take a chocolate tasting tour
Chocoholics will love visiting Whetstone Chocolates, which offers tours of its factory plus the chance to sample a wide variety of handcrafted confections, including dark, milk, and white chocolates as well as artisan creations. Whetstone Chocolates is located at 139 King Street.
Head to the beach
There are two beaches close to downtown St. Augustine; if you have a car you can easily be on the sand within ten minutes at either St. Augustine Beach (over the Bridge of Lions, to the south of the city) or Vilano Beach (over another bridge, just to the north of Bridge of Lions). Both beaches offer peaceful stretches of sand lined with dunes and not much else, for a relaxing break from all your exploring.
Get out on the water
St. Augustine is surrounded by water, and you’ll have multiple options for getting out on it, such as going for a sail on the 76’ topsail schooner Freedom, departing daily from the city marina; or taking the Dolphin Bay Scenic Shuttle between the St. Augustine Municipal Marina and Vilano Beach Public Pier. There are also guided paddleboarding excursions in the bay.
Feast on delicious cuisine
St. Augustine offers a wealth of restaurants in all sorts of cuisines, from Southern to seafood to French to Italian to Mexican to Cajun to Cuban. Here are some of our top recommendations for excellent food and romantic ambiance, as well as great spots for lunch while you’re out exploring.
A few of the most romantic restaurants in St. Augustine are the award-winning Collage, a gourmet global fine dining restaurant with a great wine list; the casually elegant Michael’s (whose chef has been named the best in St. Augustine), which serves inventive dishes featuring steak and seafood with a Spanish influence in a charming historic home with outdoor seating; and Sainte-George Restaurant, a tiny bistro on the corner of St. George and Castillo streets.
Located on Avenida Menendez in a building dating from 1791, OC White’s offers delicious seafood and a variety of other dishes (try the clam chowder and crab cakes). You can sit indoors, on the second-floor balcony, or in the lovely courtyard, which has bay breezes, twinkly lights, and mellow live music at night for a romantic atmosphere.
Also on Avenida Menendez is Harry’s Seafood, Bar & Grille, which serves New Orleans-style specialties in a large historic home with courtyard and balcony seating.
For authentic Spanish cuisine in a gorgeous setting, don’t miss Columbia Restaurant on St. George Street. Inside the huge white building you’ll find two floors of tables, brightly colored tilework, arches, a skylight, and a fountain, creating a vibrant atmosphere that feels as if you’ve left the U.S. far behind. Have some house-made sangria from a colorful pitcher while you peruse the extensive menu, then enjoy the delicious dishes. Don’t miss desserts like white chocolate bread pudding and flan!
Foodies rave about Llama, an intimate Peruvian fine dining restaurant just over the Bridge of Lions whose chef serves unique and mouthwatering creations with flair. Another foodie favorite is The Floridian, which features Southern cuisine with a twist in a laidback setting, with both indoor and outdoor seating.
Great lunch options are the Cuban Café and Bakery on St. George St., which has a range of authentic Cuban sandwiches and mouthwatering pastries, as well as Cuban coffee (sit inside or on the patio); Mojo BBQ on Cordova Street, which offers excellent barbecue and Southern dishes in a spacious dining room and front patio area; and Ancient City Brunch Bar on St. George St. just off of King St., which serves tasty baked goods, light bites like quiches and breakfast sandwiches, and sweet treats including pastries and waffles as well as a selection of coffees, teas, and alcoholic drinks in a cozy and chic space.
Listen to live music
One of the best things to do in St. Augustine at night is listen to live music. There are plenty of options for this, with a variety of bars featuring local acts; you can also see who’s playing at larger entertainment venues like the St. Augustine Amphitheater.
A fun place to go is Colonial Oak Music Park on St. George Street. Here you can enjoy bands in a spacious private courtyard under lanterns suspended from huge live oaks dripping moss.
Have a refreshing drink at an elegant bar
Another of the best things to do in St. Augustine at night is head to one of many romantic, sophisticated spots to enjoy a glass of wine, a beer, or a perfectly poured cocktail. Some of the most popular are the swanky bar inside the Casa Monica Hotel, a Spanish Colonial masterpiece built by Henry Flagler, and the Tini Martini Bar, which has water views from the porch and patio.
Locals love the craft cocktails, delicious food, and romantic ambiance at the hip lounge Forgotten Tonic, tucked away on Aviles Street, as well as the wide selection of wines, cheeses, and charcuteries at Casa de Vino 57.
Now that you’ve read our picks for the 20 best St. Augustine things to do, what do you think? Will you be heading to the Ancient City for a romantic getaway? Let us know in the comments! (And if you’re looking for a place to stay in St. Augustine, check out our reviews of the historic Bayfront Marin House and St. Francis Inn.)