Spanish Charm – St. Augustine, FL

St. Augustine is not your typical Florida beach town. Walking along the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Town, surrounded by proud Spanish architecture and influence, St Augustine is a unique Florida destination. For the art lovers, there is an extensive gallery walk that is alive and bustling in the evenings with wide open doors and plenty of tasty bites and wine. Seafood restaurants line the streets and the beach and historic fort are mere blocks away.

For fresh, delicious seafood, check out Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill. They have a pleasant walled-in patio set for dining and often with live music. The food is fresh and tasty, primarily inspired by Bourbon Street. I couldn’t get enough of the Oreo Beignets!

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At night, the town is lit up with lights covering the trees and under lighting on most of the Spanish style buildings. This is very common to see in Spain and St Augustine emulates a similar look and feel. Many of the streets in Old Town are cobblestones and pedestrian only; lined with cute shops, galleries, and restaurants, even the narrow alley ways will often have vendors or artwork. Driving and parking in this area can be a challenge. I highly recommend taking an Uber or Lyft into the area versus attempting to find parking.

Within the limits of Old Town and along the outskirts, there are many museums and historic homes you can tour. I did not make it inside any of these, but walking along the streets and seeing the old architecture gives a great respect and appreciation for the history.

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After strolling through Old Town and exploring the many shops and galleries, we headed to Stogie’s Cigar Bar for their Happy Hour of a free cigar with your first beer. Next was Scarlett O’Hara’s for a few cocktails. We didn’t plan for this stop, just were wandering around and thought it had a cool vibe. Slipping onto a bar stool, we were greeted by a friendly South African, former Rugby player turned barkeep. He was a true mixologist. Simply rattle off what you liked or were in the mood for and he would make you the tastiest custom cocktail.

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For brunch we went to Preserved. A short walk outside of the Old Town, Preserved is in a beautiful Victorian home with a wrap around porch. Specializing in locally sourced, authentic Southern cuisine, Preserved offers an incredible brunch available both Saturdays and Sundays. We started with the roasted oysters with garlic cream, bacon lardons and Parmesan-herb crust, and the house-made lemon scones and jam. For my entree, I enjoyed the arugula salad with roasted golden beets, spiced pecans, point reyes blue cheese, apple vinaigrette. The food and wine were phenomenal. This is place is a must!

While in the area, we also took a tour through the local distillery. The Saint Augustine Distillery gives free tours and tastings and makes its own gin, whiskey, rum, and vodka. In addition, they also bottle their own mixes for cocktails. I am a bit partial to a good gin and tonic and enjoyed their Strong Tonic Syrup. While I did not get a chance to try their bitters, they do have a very interesting selection which is worth checking out. In addition, they sell many bar and glassware goods. The business is fairly new and run by locals, but the buildings and grounds are historic. If you have time to take the free tour, it is pretty quick and gives you a brief, but interesting history of the area.

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On our last day, we headed to the beach. It was a bit too cold and windy for a swim, but well worth the walk in the sand. Right along the water at Saint Augustine Beach is the Beachcomber. A small shack of a bar situated right off the sand with an array of outdoor seating and a shockingly gourmet menu. The chef prides himself in his interesting concoctions and the food is very good.

I stayed in the Courtyard Marriott at St. Augustine Beach (loyal Marriott girl), which is south of the Old town and about a 15 minute Uber ride. This location is very convenient to the beach and there are many AirBnb rentals. If you’re looking to really hit the beach, I recommend staying somewhere close to the water in St. Augustine Beach. There is not a lot in this area other than the beach and it isn’t as pedestrian friendly as Old Town. If you prefer everything to be walk-able and enjoy the shops and culture of the downtown, stay in or around the Old Town area. There are many B&Bs in the area, though not many brand name hotels.

As always, feel free to ask questions or leave other recommendations in the comment section below. Happy travels!

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