St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest city in the United States. Founded in 1565, St. Augustine was established by the Spanish forty-two years before the English colonized Jamestown, and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
We had a great week touring the city and learning about its rich history. We visited some of the notable sites like the Pirate & Treasure Museum, the Whetstone Chocolate Tasting Tour, and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth.
Pirates and Privateers
In 1565, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles led an expedition of 800 men and women to protect and settle the Florida coast for Spain. One of their primary missions was to protect the large ships traveling the Atlantic waters from Mexico to Europe. Pirates and Privateers (essentially pirates who carried papers stating they were fighting for one of Spain’s enemies) would attack the slow moving “treasure ships” and steal their gold and silver.
The pirates actively fought the Spanish, destroying nine wood forts at St. Augustine. Sir Francis Drake, one of the more infamous pirates, burned the town in 1586. In 1672, Spain constructed the Castillo de San Marcos – the oldest and best preserved stone fort in the continental United States.
We visited The Pirate and Treasure Museum, the largest and most authentic collection of pirate artifacts displayed under one roof. The museum exhibit includes one of only three remaining authentic “Jolly Roger” pirate flags.
The museum also houses the world’s oldest wanted poster, the only known authentic pirate chest in existence (the original treasure chest of Captain Thomas Tew), and other items of interest.
Ponce de Laon’s Fountain of Youth
Legend has it that Ponce de Leon’s quest to conquer and settle the land in Florida was also driven by his desire to find the fountain of youth which turned “old men to boys.” Although many historians dismiss the claims, the legend of the fountain of youth continues. By the early 20th century, a statue of Ponce de Leon had been erected in a central plaza of St. Augustine and nearby the “actual” Fountain of Youth began drawing the curious.
We paid a visit, and made sure to get a drink. Couldn’t hurt.
The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is the original site of Spanish St. Augustine. It has a number of exhibits, including live recreations of life in the 1500s.
The Great Cross
The 208 foot high cross “marks the approximate site where in 1565 the cross of Christianity was first permanently planted in what is now the United States.” It was erected in 1966 to mark the 400th anniversary of that day. It is part of the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche.
Whetstone Chocolate Factory
Who could resist a tasting tour of a chocolate factory? We couldn’t – especially when the cost was only $8. Billed as St. Augustine’s “Original Chocolate Tour,” this tour is led by Whetstone Chocolatiers. Our tour guide was quite funny as he gave us the history and processes of making of chocolate.
We had what was called “a 4-tiered tasting” to distinguish the different characteristics of dark, milk and white chocolate. It was a decadently delicious experience!
Of course, St. Augustine is also known for its white sandy beach. We had direct beach access from the RV resort, and took the dogs for several walks there. They loved the beach – especially Mandy. She couldn’t get enough of it. It was chilly while we were there, but that didn’t stop us.
We continue our journey to the Keys. Next stop is the West Palm Beach area. Until then, Happy Trails!