St Augustine - The city and history

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Florida Guide > Other Florida

St Augustine - The city and history

With its old world charm and unique attractions it easy to see why ‘The Nation’s Oldest City’ is one of Florida’s top holiday destinations.

Founded in 1565, St Augustine is Americas oldest permanently settled Euopean city.

Whether you want to explore old life styles and long-ago wars, marvel at the unique oddities or see re-enactments of days gone by, this historical city will provide days of activities. Many tours of the city are available by horse drawn carriage, train or trolley. Events are known for their pageantry and individual charm. Quaint bed and breakfasts, hotels, private rental properties, condos, townhouses and campgrounds ensure that there are accommodations to suit everyone’s taste and budgets.

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you stroll down St George Street in St Augustine’s historical district. You’ll find hundreds of shops and landmarks and speciality gifts such as hand-made candles woven goods and wooden crafts. There are more than 35 antique shops and 20 art galleries!

Surprisingly, families will find plenty to keep them busy in the ‘Nation’s Oldest City’. Everything from popular attractions such as 3D World and Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum to water based activities including jet skiing, sailing, fishing and along with first class golf and tennis facilities - St Augustine even boasts a beach!

But don’t visit St Augustine without first researching the history of this wildly diverse city. To give you some idea - St Augustine was founded in 1565 (55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock!) even though Don Juan Ponce de Leon claimed the continent for Spain in 1513. However, the following six Spanish expeditions all failed. Then in 1565 the Spanish King Phillip II sent Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to colonize the area and drive out settlers of other nations. The successful de Aviles then constructed the town of St Augustine, converting the native Americans to Christians and exploring the land.

Some 20 years later in 1586 Sir Francis Drake attacked St Augustine and set it ablaze. It was rebuilt but the Spanish but it was attacked by pirates 60 years later. It was attacked again in 1702 and 1740 by the British. Neither attack was successful and St Augustine was peacefully handed over to the British when Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763. It remained under British rule for 5 short years and in 1768, under the Terms of the Treaty of Paris, Florida was returned to Spanish rule. The United Sates acquired St Augustine just in time for an epidemic of Yellow Fever and the outbreak of the Seminole war. Forty years later during the American Civil War the town was occupied by Union troops.

St Augustine’s current commercial success can be attributed to Henry M Flagler, co-founder of the Standard Oil Company, who arrived with his railway and a vision of a making St Augustine a winter haven for the rich. To cement this vision he built the luxurious Ponce de Leon and Alcazar Hotels, as well as a number of churches and public buildings throughout the town.

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