Visit St. Augustine, FL – Things to Do, Attractions and Safety
St. Augustine, Florida, is one of the most historic cities to visit in the United States, and with its pristine Florida coast beaches it’s an excellent destination for visitors of all ages and tastes. St. Augustine is most visited for its awesome historical forts and other historical sites, but with so many photogenic backdrops it’s also popular for private events like weddings and family reunions. It’s awesome for solo travelers, and families, and really shines for couples looking for a beautiful, quiet getaway.
To help you get a feel for whether you’ll want to visit St. Augustine and to help you plan a perfect trip, this travel guide will give you everything you need to know about it, including safety, yearly weather, the best time to visit, where to stay, the safest neighborhoods and areas to avoid, top attractions, restaurants, shopping, how to get around in St. Augustine, things to pack, and annual events. You’ll also get access to some money-saving deals to make your trip even better.
Things to Know About St. Augustine Florida
St. Augustine, located in Johns County, is nicknamed “Ancient City” or “Nation’s Oldest City,” having been established 42 years before Jamestown. This town is big on history with the various forts claiming most of St. Augustine’s fame.
St. Augustine is big for golf and country clubs, frequently receiving celebrity visitors like Tom Hanks, Will Smith, and Clint Eastwood. Many other celebrities have winter resorts and multi-million-dollar mansions here.
St. Augustine is home to about 15,000 people and sees about 6 million visitors a year. If you like superstition, St. Augustine is big on ghosts, frequently named the most haunted city in the United States. St. Augustine (by car) is about 45 minutes south of Jacksonville, Florida, and 1.5 hours north of Orlando, Florida. Only 27% of St. Augustine visitors are from Florida.
Make sure to check out fun facts about Florida here.
Best Time to Visit St. Augustine
Most visitors agree that the best time to visit St. Augustine is March, April, and May. Temperatures are cooler, there are less crowds, and costs are reasonable. These months also have the most festivals and events to enjoy local culture, art, and history. The busiest (and most expensive) time to visit St. Augustine is in the summer. June, July, and August are usually completely booked out by April. If you visit during this time expect lots of crowds, though there are plenty of events and things to do. The warm weather brings people outside and makes for a much more exciting atmosphere.
The cheapest month to visit St. Augustine is during the summer hurricane months, with most discounts run in September. This is the tourist off-season, and many children and young adults return to school. It’s still hot in September, with lots of muggy rain. If there are no hurricanes, attractions remain open. If there are hurricanes, you’ll have to reschedule your trip.
Most recommend a 2-to-3-day trip to fully enjoy St. Augustine.
Weather In St. Augustine
St. Augustine has a southern coastal climate, with hot, muggy summers, and warm winters. There’s plenty of rain all year, averaging 5 days of rain each month during the summer, and 10 days of rain during the winter. The hottest month is July, with highs around 91°F and lows around 73°F. The coldest month is January, with highs around 67°F and lows around 46°F.
St. Augustine, with the rest of Florida, has an official hurricane season that runs June 1st through November 30th. Hurricanes are no joke, and an active hurricane will close attractions, hotels, and airports. If you plan your trip during this time, keep your eye on the weather to avoid costly cancellations.
Where to Stay in St. Augustine
When visiting any city, there are areas that cater to visitors, and areas that don’t. That’s why it’s important not only to find areas that fit your budget, but also to find areas that will meet your travel needs. We recommend sticking to well-known tourist areas for all travel. Tourist areas put you closer to attractions and are almost always safer. Transportation is better connected, and you’ll have more options for food and fun. To help you get the most out of your trip, we’ve put together the following list of the most popular areas for visitors to stay in while visiting St. Augustine.
Central Historic District (Downtown)
The Central Historic District is the heart of St. Augustine, and one of the most tourists oriented with well-maintained colonial style architecture. This area is the best area to stay for first-time visitors, sightseeing, and nightlife. It’s the best area for families. It’s a favorite of couples and solo travelers. The Central Historic District is home to most of St. Augustine’s hotels, shops, and restaurants. This area is closest to the Colonial Quarter.
Vilano Beach is just north of the Central Historic District and is the best area to stay for those who plan on spending a lot of time on the beach. This is one of the more romantic areas with hotels giving you access to some of Florida’s best sunsets. It’s a less busy area and with so many trails and walking paths, it’s the best for those who want to spend time outdoors.
The Anastasia neighborhood of St. Augustine puts you right next to the Matanzas River and the Anastasia State Park. This is another great area for outdoor enthusiasts and staying here puts you close to hiking and biking trails. It’s one of the greener areas of St. Augustine.
St. Augustine Beach
St. Augustine Beach is one of the more budget friendly areas. It’s a mostly residential neighborhood which gives you more bed and breakfast options but puts you farther from St. Augustine’s major attractions. The beaches in this area are quieter and have fewer direct access points.
West Saint Augustine
The western side of St. Augustine is mostly residential, giving you budget friendly areas that puts you farther from the ocean and closer to St. Augustine’s local stores and businesses. Don’t expect many attractions in these areas, but you can save quite a bit of money by staying here.
Get Deals for St. Augustine Hotels
Our MySittiVacations hotel finder can help you find affordable, safe hotels and bed and breakfast options for your trip. You can type in specific hotels or search by area and select dates of stay that work best for you. We apply special coupons which save you money and make planning your vacation that much easier. Check it out here.
For the best deals you should plan your trip about 4 months in advance. To make sure you get bookings, you should book a month in advance at the very latest.
Safest Areas of St. Augustine, Florida
The safest neighborhoods in St. Augustine are (in order) Vilano Beach, Crescent Beach, Palencia, Bakersville, Elwood, World Golf Village East, World Golf Village, Blacks Ford, Anastasia Hills, Treaty Park. All these areas are a great option for families, couples, and solo travelers, though some neighborhoods are more “touristy” than others and have better access to hotels, transportation, and flights. If you want a cozier option, check out bed and breakfasts. These are great for residential areas where hotels are scarce, or you want to be away from the crowds.
Most Dangerous Areas of St. Augustine
There are only two neighborhoods you should absolutely avoid while visiting while in St. Augustine. They are west Augustine and Lincolnville. As a traveler, it is best to avoid these areas and make reservations in other parts of the city, even if they are a bit more expensive. Assault crimes are common in these areas so it’s best not to walk around these areas or take public transportation through them.
9 Must See Attractions and Things to Do in St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine’s biggest attractions are historical and are mostly enjoyed by solo travelers and couples, but with some planning can be fun for families too. Several of these attractions have areas for children to play, though most of the attractions are focus on adult visitors. If you’re looking for more things to do (and huge discounts/deals) make sure to check out MySittiVacations’ Things to Do page here.
Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, Inc.
Known as the nation’s oldest port, this lighthouse turned nonprofit serves as a historic experience for the community and visitors. Their featured, fully functioning lighthouse is constantly voted as one of the most haunted places in St. Augustine and several tours are offered to explore the historic place: Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour, Dark of the Moon Investigation, Lighthouse Ghost Tales, and private ghost tours are also offered.
The ghost tours don’t stop at the lighthouse, St. George Street is well-known for tours like Secrets of St. Augustine and Ghost Tour of St. Augustine: The Original Haunted History Tour. If haunted expeditions aren’t your thing, St. Augustine Street offers so much more. The pedestrian-only street is filled with shops, restaurants, attractions, and centuries of history. The Old City Gate is a popular beginning to walk the street, with most people ending at the Plaza de Constitución.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Translated as the Castle of San Marcos, this monument is thought to be built by the Spanish to guard the Atlantic trade route and Florida. Explore over four hundred years of history by touring the monument’s most popular locations like the gun deck, the fort’s many casements, or courtyards surrounding the Castillo. Park rangers are located around the park dressed in period clothing, ready to share stories and experiences from settlers over the centuries. You can also witness live musket or cannon demonstrations over most weekends.
Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
Explore over 16 exhibits of the AZA certified St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park: Python cave, Maximo (a 15-foot, 1,200 lb. saltwater alligator), Birds of Africa, Albino Alligators, and much more. In addition to daily wildlife shows, the Farm includes a zip line that runs over the zoo (which means flying above deadly alligators and crocodiles) as well as an aerial obstacle course with over fifty obstacles.
Naturally, this beautiful beach offers sun-kissed waves, warm sand, and stunning views. However, it offers even more than that! Check out the Farmer’s Market at St. Augustine Pier, Tennis at Treaty Park, or even head to historic Lincolnville a short drive away to tour museums and cultural centers. The city is bustling where this beautiful beach is located, so an afternoon of seeing the many restaurants, oddity shops, and Spanish architecture—either by walking or on one of their famous golf-cart tours—St. Augustine offers a diverse range of activities to enjoy.
Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
Set over three hundred years ago near Port Royal, Jamaica, the Museum aims to capture the height of the Golden Age of Piracy. Educational as well as fun, the museum explores the history of colonial America and how pirates were an influential element in the country’s early development. The Museum is located next to the Castillo de San Marcos, so tourists love to stop by both when in the area.
One of the most stunning buildings in St. Augustine, the Lightner Museum was formerly Hotel Alcazar—a gilded age resort metropolis which spared no expense in its design or style. Apart from the amazing architecture, the museum features art exhibits, history, and sculptures. The museum is filled with oddities from post war eras, hobby crafts from the years following the Great Depression, and personal collections of curiosities from across the country. From quilted art to hand-blown salt and pepper shakers, the museum offers a multitude of artistic history to explore.
Old Jail Museum
The builder of the St. Augustine Jail wanted natives and visitors to feel comfortable having a jail nearby and so was built to mimic a hotel of the Romanesque revival style. The jail has since been renovated and turned into a museum for visitors and natives alike to enjoy. Along with a ghost tour, tourists can walk the halls of the jail to find costumed actors retelling lives of inmates or view some of the historic weapons and artifacts the jail has preserved.
Anastasia State Park
Filled with the natural wonders and beauty of nature, Anastasia State Park is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, abundant wildlife, and captivating sand dunes. You can explore the Ancient Dune Nature Trail where native ospreys, spoonbills, warblers often take flight or kayak along the beach to tour the tidal marshes. With four miles of protected shores, this park is hard to pass up visiting—especially with Island Beach Grill open nearby for hungry adventures.
This list is confined to things within the city limits of St. Augustine, but there are plenty of other things to do nearby if you’re looking to get outside the city. Make sure to check out our list of the best attractions in Florida for ideas of other places to check out during your trip.
Deals and Discounts for Tickets in St. Augustine
MySittiVacations has special discounts and deals for these and other major attractions in St. Augustine. From tickets to entrance fees, as well as tours and other entertainment packages that can help make your trip even better while saving you some money. Check deals on attractions and things to do in St. Augustine here.
9 Best Beaches in St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine’s beaches are nationally known and some of the best beaches in Florida to visit. The water is warm and clean making it awesome for surfing lessons, boat tours, fishing, crabbing, sunbathing, picnicking, walking, running, cycling, and swimming.
Located on Anastasia Island with Atlantic facing waters, St. Augustine Beach is loved by many visitors for its fishing piers and soft sand beaches.
Ponte Vedra Beach
Best known for its golf, Ponte Vedra Beach is closest to St. Augustine’s luxury resorts with plenty of attractions nearby. It’s one of the highest rated beaches in the U.S with lots of access to courts (tennis, volleyball, etc.), spas, and high-end restaurants.
A calmer beach for visitors to enjoy, Vilano Beach offers seaside and riverside fishing—the Atlantic shoreline and Tolomato River are a short distance from each other. Tourists can also enjoy mosaic artwork alongside native wildlife on the Vilano Beach Nature Boardwalk.
Matanzas Inlet Beach
If you enjoy water recreation, then this is one of the better beaches for you. It’s a favorite for boating and surfing, and just a few minutes south of St. Augustine. Currents are strong here, which makes it less fun for swimming, and much better for fishing.
Butler Beach is a wide white-sand beach located on Anastasia Island. It’s one of the few where you are allowed to drive your car directly onto the sand making it awesome for picnics and wave watching.
Located in St Augustine Beach City, Crescent beach has a long boardwalk, soft sand shores and rolling waves. This Beach is known for being less populated and having fantastic parking.
The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (it’s a long name, we know) is a large area dedicated to preserving and studying local Florida wildlife, while also teaching visitors to the wonders of the world. If you’re looking for a fun, beautiful, and educational experience, this is the beach for you.
North Beach is unique in the fact that it offers campgrounds for travelers who want to spend a little more time in nature. RV’s, campers, and tents are welcome. Make sure to reserve a spot in advance.
10 Best Restaurants in St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine has incredible Florida food which is best described as comfort seafood. You’ll see lots of grilled, fried, and buttered shrimp and crab. Because of all that fresh seafood, you should try eating at local restaurants rather than eating at chains. Most of St. Augustine’s restaurants are mid-price and casual, making for a perfect family meal or date without wrecking the budget. There are plenty of high-end and low-end options as well. The top-rated restaurants in St. Augustine are as follows:
- Harry’s Seafood, Bar & Grille – Seafood – Dine-in, takeout – $$
- Catch 27 – Seafood – Dine-in, curbside – $$
- Columbia Restaurant – Spanish Food – Dine-in, curbside – $$
- Prohibition Kitchen – Gastropub – Dine-in, takeout, delivery – $$
- O’Steen’s Restaurant – Seafood – Dine-in, drive-through – $$
- Raintree Restaurant – American – Dine-in, takeout – $$$
- Michael’s St. Augustine – Steak – Dine-in only – $$$
- Collage – Eclectic – Dine-in only – $$$
- Preserved Restaurant – Southern – Dine-in, takeout – $$$
- Llama Restaurant – Peruvian – Dine-in, curbside – $$
MySittiVacations has a variety of deals to help you save while dining. You can also search other popular restaurants in the area, and we automatically find you the best deals and coupons. Check out restaurant deals here.
14 Best Shopping Centers and Local Shops in St. Augustine
If you’re looking to do a little shopping in St. Augustine or want a great way to spend some time with friends, there’s no better place than St. Augustine. With several up-class malls and commercial districts you’ll see lots of specialty shops and boutiques. St. Augustine is big on local-made high-quality fashion, jewelry, art, and novelty items. We’ve listed the best places to check out below.
7 Best Places to Shop in St. Augustine
- Riverside Center Shopping Mall
- Augustine Premium Outlets
- Cobblestone Village
- Heritage Walk
- Gates of St. Johns
- Aviles Street
- Old City Farmer’s Market
7 Best Local Stores in St. Augustine
- Yield Workshop – Trendy Minimalist Boutique
- Red Pineapple – Women’s Fashion and Jewelry Boutique
- Whetstone Chocolates – Local-made Gourmet Chocolate
- Anchor Boutique – Local-made Metalwork Jewelry
- Spanish Main Antiques – Collectibles & Antiques
- Artsy Abode – Trendy Gifts and Jewelry
- So Mermazing – Souvenir; Printed Clothes and Novelty
Is St. Augustine Safe to Visit?
St. Augustine’s crime rate is slightly above the national average but has low risk to travelers. Tourist locations are safe, especially when it comes to beaches. Two things to prepare for though are pickpockets and hurricanes. The rate of theft is about twice the national average, so if you leave your stuff somewhere, it’s likely to get stolen. Rape statistics are also above the national average, so solo female travelers should walk in groups at night and practice general caution. Risk of muggings is low. Public transportation is safe.
Safety Tips for Visiting St. Augustine
On top of the two tips, we’ve already mentioned above, there are a couple other safety tips you should follow for a safe trip to St. Augustine.
- Check the weather. Hurricanes are no joke.
- Drink water. Dehydration is riskier than crime.
- Always lock doors.
- Stay alert and know where you are and where you’re going.
- Go out with a group at night.
- Keep your eye on your children.
- Watch your drinks and don’t drink too much.
- Know how to use and carry pepper-spray.
- Always keep your eye on children while at the beach.
- Don’t go night swimming in the ocean.
- Respect local laws for fires, fireworks, and food on beaches.
- Don’t go swimming too far out, and don’t swim around rocks.
Best Ways to Get Around St. Augustine, Florida
When visiting St. Augustine, the best mode of transportation in the downtown area is by foot. If you want to visit places outside the downtown area or plan on visiting other areas of Florida, then a car is the best way to go. Other methods are pricey or have limited reach.
You can check out car rental companies and cheap car rentals in St. Augustine through the MySittiVacations Cheap Car Rental Deal Finder.
Taxis as well as rideshare services like Lyft and Uber are all popular and reliable in St. Augustine but cost significantly more per trip. Boats are not common but do offer a unique way to tour Florida and get to different points of the shore.
The best overall way to get around in St. Augustine is by using the Old Town Trolley. This service buses between the most popular attractions in St. Augustine is a reliable way to get to other parts of the city in a convenient, cheap, and fun way. Not many cities have a system like the Old Town Trolley, but it’s one of the best tourist transportation systems in the country.
Buses are the only official form of public transportation in St. Augustine, though their reach is limited, and they aren’t well rated. These routes will take you much longer to get around, and generally, we don’t recommend them while visiting.
Things to Pack for St. Augustine
St. Augustine has a standard packing list, with an emphasis on clothing that is breathable and heat/sun friendly.
- Water Bottles
- Augustine is plagued by mosquitoes, so make sure to pack some bug spray.
- With so much rain, always have an umbrella at the ready.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a sunhat. A must for Florida’s bright sun. (Check for SPF in makeup and Lip Balms).
- Sandals or flip-flops for the beach.
- Quick-dry towel.
- Allergy medication. Tree pollen counts are high October through May.
- Use SunPass to breeze through Florida’s many toll-roads and save money.
- Good walking shoes for museums and attractions.
- Sweaters and jackets for winter trips.
Is St. Augustine Family Friendly?
When it comes to families, St. Augustine ranks average. It’s safe for families, and while there’s plenty to do and see, there aren’t many attractions geared towards children. The museums and monuments focus on older audiences which will likely bore youngsters. The beaches, on the other hand, are great for families. You might consider pairing a trip to St. Augustine with a trip to Orlando. If you’re looking for something else, the top city we recommend for family-friendly attractions is Boston (check it out here).
Is St. Augustine Good for Solo Travelers?
St. Augustine is a great destination for solo travelers, and many travelers report feeling completely safe walking around alone. Nightlife is active and has something to offer visitors of all ages and tastes. It’s a wonderful city to visit alone because you can take attractions at your own pace, exploring parts of the city as you want. Tours are readily available to keep you busy and entertained.
Is St. Augustine Good for Couples?
Yes! St. Augustine is a fantastic city to visit as a couple, particularly if you like seeing beautiful architecture, beaches, and history. Accommodations for couples in St. Augustine are classy and sweet and the city plenty to do for fun and romantic dates. Food is awesome, matching the nostalgic energy of the city.
Is St. Augustine Good to Visit with Friends?
Yes! Taking a trip to St. Augustine with a friend or group of friends is an awesome idea. There are tons of bed and breakfast options in St. Augustine which are perfect for getting lots of space without spending so much like you would in hotels. St. Augustine has tons of nightlife and other adult-oriented attractions perfect for checking out with friends.
Annual Events in St. Augustine
St. Augustine has a variety of ongoing yearly events, so make sure to check them out to make the most of your trip to Florida.
Saint Augustine Film Festival
Matanzas 5000 5k and Fun Run
Flight to Freedom (Reenactment)
Spanish Food and Wine Festival
Searle’s Sack of St. Augustine (Reenactment)
The Players Championship (Golf)
Blessing of the Fleet
St. Augustine Easter Parade
Florida’s Birding and Photo Fest
St. Augustine Food and Wine Festival
Annual Craft Brewers Fest
Drake’s Raid (Reenactment)
St. Augustine Music Festival
Battle of Bloody Mose (Reenactment)
4th of July Fireworks and Concert
Ancient City Kingfish Challenge
St. Augustine Founder’s Day Celebration
Sing Out Loud
St. Augustine Greek Festival
Rhythm & ribs Festival
Whiskey, Wine, and Wildlife
Ponte Vedra Auto Show
St. Augustine Christmas Parade
Garden Club Christmas Tour of Homes
Regatta of Lights
Light up the Night! (New Year’s Fireworks)
Music by the Sea Concert Series (May-September)
Concerts in the Plaza (May-September)
Night of Lights (November-January)
Other Cities to Visit
If you want a little more music then St. Augustine has to offer, we recommend Austin (known as the Live Music Capital of the World). If you want more of a resort feel, check out Las Vegas. For southern culture New Orleans. If you want a great party/nightlife atmosphere, check out Miami. If you want someplace with more family fun and themed attractions check out Orlando.