Southwest Florida is, in general, a very new place. Much of the construction has occurred over the past 20 years. There are older sections for sure, but there’s very little that’s OLD here.
Thursday’s journey led my fiancee and me to the old parts of Florida. St. Augustine, on the East coast south of Jacksonville, bills itself as the oldest European settlement in the United States. The original Spanish settlers arrived in 1565 and the town is planning its 450th anniversary ceremony this year. A popular vacation spot, St. Augustine is full of both historical and modern amenities.
Arriving in town along the bayside Route 1 the first thing we noticed was the massive fort – Castillo de San Marcos. The Spanish fort was an important outpost for the empire and later served British and American troops. The fort now hosts thousands of visitors a year. One of the most interesting pieces of history is the masonry. Bricks consist of a material called coquina, a unique sedimentary rock that is made up of shells. While the fort might have been the impotice for the town, St. Augustine came into its own in the 1880s as a vacation spot.
Walking around the town it feels like the original settlers planned for current-day vacationers. St. Augustine is undeniably walkable. The old-town section is easily traversed by foot and is often devoid of cars. There are dozens of shops and restaurants, many with Spanish themes. Happily missing are chain restaurants.
Prince of Wales is an English-style tavern that served a foot-long piece of whitefish as its “small” fish and chips. Dinner was cheese, scallops, and a hamburger at Michael’s Tasting Room. Dessert led us to The Hyppo for a unique frozen treat. My fiance tried the Elvis – a popsicle made from peanut butter, honey, and banana.
Alas, everything must end. As we pulled out of Saint Augustine this morning (after a pastry stop) we were five hours from home – pulling into the driveway before 4 p.m. It was a great four days on the road.