1513 -- 500 years ago. That's when Juan Ponce de Leon came ashore at what is now St. Augustine, Florida. While there were countless people living in Florida prior to Spanish arrival, the establishment of what would become the first permanent settlement by Europeans in what would become the United States of America was a pretty big deal. Though Ponce obviously had no clue as to the importance of his soggy pants on that day, he must've known he was onto something good when he saw natural harbors, vast expanses of beach (not that they were into sunbathing, but attraction to a beach goes way back in the human psyche), and the potential that was Florida.
Of course, there were no vacation rentals around then. Those came much later -- much, much later. A whole bunch of history happened between Ponce de Leon's arrival and the arrival of air conditioning and the subsequent population of Florida in the 20th century.
Florida vacation rentals have taken off
. They’re an ideal way to take in the Sunshine State, and St. Augustine is no different. You can use the oldest city in America as a base to explore some of the nation's new wonders. For example, Disney World and Orlando
are less than 2 hours away. Daytona Beach
and Jacksonville Beach
are even closer. Palm Coast
is just down the road.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. St. Augustine has plenty to see and do all on its own.
The Historic District
has the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park featuring a statue of Ponce de Leon himself. You'll see the old city gate and walls, Aviles Street, the oldest public street in the United States. It's from the 16th century--if you're mostly used to your local mall, this will be amazing. You'll find a wonderful mix of art galleries, enjoyable museums, and great places to eat. The Historic District is at the center of the oldest continuous settlement in the United States.
Castillo de San Marcos
. Built to ward off attacks from pirates and the British, this fort was completed in 1695. It replaced wooden structures which weren't strong fortifications. It was used as a prisoner of war camp for American soldiers during Revolutionary war. Keep in mind that no pets are allowed in the fort itself. Even with that, it is well worth a visit. You'll find lots of great spots for photo opportunities.
. Just southeast of the Historic District is Anastasia State Park (you've got to love the name--another nod to history, even if it is Russian history). Florida State Parks are perhaps the best in the United States, and not just because most of them involve a beach. They are well maintained and offer a variety of services. You'll have to pay a small entry fee, but it is well worth it. In all likelihood, you'll have a big beach all to yourself. Similar to Daytona Beach, you can drive on the beach at St. Augustine. You can buy a day pass and access the beach via several access ramps. Keep in mind that there are no beaches in St. Augustine itself--they're just a short drive away, however, and once you find them, you'll have miles and miles of uniterrupted sand and surf.