I originally visited the oldest city in the USA, St. Augustine, back when I was a freshman in college. My family decided to get out of the cold on the south shore of Long Island, New York and visit relatives in Florida for New Year’s. We made a day trip to St. Augustine. I absolutely fell in love with the Spanish architecture and the palm trees. I loved that the town was easy to walk around. This visit was the reason I eventually moved to the state in my early 20’s. It is rich in history and culture. There are also many things to do in the area. I have since made a road trip here from south Florida to share these experiences with my family.
What is the oldest city in the US in continuous existence?
Most people know that Saint Augustine as the oldest city in the USA, but there are many interesting facts you may not know. According to history.com, the Spanish tried numerous times to colonize Florida between 1513 and 1559. All of which failed. After that King Phillip II gave up until the Huguenots built a fort in Jacksonville. He then sent an expedition which landed in Saint Augustine. The Spanish subsequently massacred many of the French.
Although attacked many times, the oldest city in the USA continued to survive. For example, the Native Americans attacked the fort with flaming arrows. The British under Sir Francis Drake also attacked the settlement. The original settlers constructed the site with wood so it burned down numerous times and had to be rebuilt. The Spanish eventually surrendered to the the U.S. navy during the civil war.
What is the oldest city in the United States?
You might be thinking, ok, St. Augustine is the oldest city in continuous existence in the USA, but is St. Augustine the oldest city in the USA? There are cities that are older, but they had large periods where that were uninhabited or are uninhabited now. Acoma Pueblo dates back to the year 1200, and Oraibi dates back to 1100 inhabited by indigenous people.
What is the oldest city in North America and who founded it?
If you expand the search through North America, you will find that Flores, Guatamala dates back to 1000 BC and Cholula, Mexico is even older, dating back to 2000 BC. This city is known for its great pyramid and was founded by the indigenous people of the area long before European settlers came to the new world.
Castillo de San Marcos in the Oldest City in the USA
Due to being constructed of coquina, a stone made from shells, this fort has withstood the test of time. The original forts were composed of wood which often caught fire. While visiting the fort you will learn about the many battles with the British, Spanish, and local Native American tribes.
Explore this fortress with the help of brochures and maps or through the park app. Of course park rangers and volunteers in period dress make themselves available to answer questions and pose for photos. In addition you can witness cannon firing. The park charges an entrance fee of $15 per person for those 16 and up and is open daily between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
Looking for a place to eat nearby? Several restaurants are nearby on St. George Street. If you enjoy Spanish food head for Taberna del Caballo which is an 18th century inspired tavern serving food Thursday through Sunday for lunch or dinner. Another option is Saint Augustine Seafood Company which boasts a locally inspired menu and open every day except Tuesday. On the other hand, if you prefer pub food go to the Bull & Crown which serves burgers, wings, and fish & chips.
Potter’s Wax Museum
Located at 31 Orange Street, Potter’s Wax Museum occupies the oldest pharmacy in the U.S. Exhibits include Roman Centurions, celebrities, and even a horror section. At times you may even get to tour the workstation with a wax artist. During the evenings you can have an extra scary experience by taking a Ghosts and Gravestones Tour.
The museum opens at 9am daily and closes at 5pm.
Originally the Hotel Alcazar, this museum houses an interesting collection of antiquities. The building itself dates back to the luxurious days of railroad magnate Henry Flagler. Located at 75 King Street, the building itself emanates an iconic presence. Allow 1-2 hours to guide yourself through 4 1/2 floors covering 20,000 objects. The collection originally owned by Otto Lightner contains an eclectic mixture of fine art, and other pieces he bought during the depression from Gilded Age mansions. When you get hungry you can dine at the on site restaurant located in what used to be the hotel’s indoor pool. However, reservations are recommended.
If you are looking for something cheaper and quick try the Kookaburra. It is an Australian coffee house which serves breakfast pies such as The Corker- sausage, egg, and pepper jack or lunch pies such as Traditional Meat Pie- minced meat and onions in a rich
Can’t Visit the Oldest City in the USA Without Seeing the Fountain of Youth
Since the times of ancient Greece, stories of a mythical fountain of youth have inspired explorers over the ages to set forth on expeditions in search of it. Supposedly the spring restores youth to whoever bathes in it or drinks from the spring.
In 1513 Ponce de Leon landed Saint Augustine while searching for the fountain of youth, making it the oldest city in the USA with continuous inhabitants.
The park is open from 9-6 daily with the last ticket sold at 5pm. Pets are welcome, and parking is free. The park charges $18 per adult, $10 per child, but kids under 5 are free. When you finish seeing the sights, grab a bite to eat at Smoked Southern BBQ on site.
Exhibits include the Spring House where you can actually take a drink from this historic spring which contains over 30 minerals. Another must see is the Navigator’s Planetarium where you can see the sky as it was during the time of these early explorers and learn how they found their way. In addition, visit a reconstruction of a Timucuan Indian village as well as their burial grounds. Learn about the area history, see the Blacksmith Exhibit, the Nombre de Dios Mission, and the 1565 Menendez Settlement.
Here are some additional things to try:
Where Should I Stay in the Oldest City in the USA?
I have compiled this list of different types of lodging to help you plan your visit.
This are all hosted by Superhosts and have good reviews from guests:
- Uptown “Romance” Private Entrance in Magic Garden– 2 guests studio with bath. 2 person soaking tub. Guest access to bikes and grill. Minutes to restaurants and shops.
- Shabby Chic Meets 50s Beach Place– 1 bedroom , 1 bath condo, sleeps 3 Part of Ocean Villa Club, pool and beach access.
- “The Vintage Blue” Beach Studio– Studio with 2 beds, sleeps 3. Across the street from the Pier and Anastasia State Park.
Hotels in the Oldest City in the USA
These all won Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice Award for 2020 and by clicking on the links you will be taken to the best deals for booking through Trivago:
- Edgewater Inn– 2 N. Saint Augustine Blvd.on the beach, short walking distance to historic downtown. Starting at $189 per night
- Marker 8 Hotel & Marina– 1 Dolphin Drive themed rooms, within walking distance to the historic downtown, rain showers, waterfront views. Starting at $229 per night
- Guy Harvey Resort on St. Augustine Beach- 860 A1A Beach Blvd. Saint Augustine Beach. Formerly the Holiday Isle Oceanfront Resort Travelers recommend upper floors for quiet and better views. Starting at $179 per night
- Castillo Real An Ascend Hotel Collection Member– 530 A1A Beach Blvd. Saint Augustine Beach- Beautiful Spanish decor. Starting at $239 per night
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham St. Augustine– 250 Outlet Mall Blvd.This didn’t win an award, but it still has good ratings and is more budget friendly starting at $82 per night
If you are like me, you will enjoy planning the trip almost as much as taking it. Please let me know if you find additional hotels, restaurants, or things to do which I should add to my post. Safe travels!
Donna Emperador is a travel and food blogger and copywriter. Donna believes in learning about different cultures while sharing good food and cocktails. She has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time exploring the road to find unique places to share with readers. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.