Florida Guide > Travelling
St Augustine Lighthouse & Jail
If you have a couple of days spare on your Orlando holiday, we can thoroughly recommend a trip to St Augustine; Florida' s oldest continuously settled town.
Start off in the holiday mood by heading up to Daytona Beach and taking the A1A route up the barrier islands. It will take a bit longer than the interstate but is much more interesting and pleasant. Check out the fabulous properties on route!
There is such a lot to do in St Augustine; this is just going to give a taste of what is on offer. We went for a couple of days and stayed in a city centre motel with an attached diner, which was clean, comfortable and well placed for what we wanted to do.
On our first afternoon after our leisurely drive up, we visited the Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, just off the A1A on Anastasia Island. The lighthouse was originally built between 1871 and 1874 and is still a working lighthouse today.
Climb the 219 steps to reach the 165 ft high viewing platform with its original restored Fresnel Lens. It is owned by a non-profit maritime museum and open to the public. Back down to earth, there is a cute Lighthouse Keepers cottage you can explore along with several other outbuildings.
Later that evening, we visited the Old Jail. Built by Henry Flagler in 1891 to replace an existing jail, which he thought was ugly and too close to his fabulous hotel, this is further away, and a very attractive building on the outside. Inside it is a very different story!
There are regular guided tours from “inmates” in period costumes who show you the women' s cells, maximum security cells and the death row cell as well as the kitchen.
You can also see where the Sheriff had his office and his family lived. The contrast with the prisoner accommodation is unbelievable.
The conditions for the inmates were truly terrible! Cramped, dirty, no glass in the windows, so the bugs and mosquitoes had free reign to attack the prisoners, scrawny mattresses filled with Spanish moss infested with more biting bugs and no sanitation to speak of, it was appalling to say the least! Worse still, it was in use as a working jail until 1953!
Upstairs there is a two-story group of steel cages, originally designed to sleep four prisoners per cell that regularly slept eight with only a bucket as a toilet. Outside you can look down onto the gallows where eight prisoners, who had to help build the gallows, met their ends during the working life of the jail.
A must see; if only to count your blessings!
On the same Old Town site you can also catch an Old Town Trolley around St. Augustine or visit the Oldest Store Museum, The St. Augustine History Museum and a gift shop.
Author: Stephen and Wendy Downs
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