St. Augustine is a beautiful city located at the northern Atlantic coast in Florida, founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and said to be the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the continental US. The historic downtown area with cobblestone streets is lined with beautiful Spanish colonial architectural remains. Although plenty of the downtown stores cater to tourists, there are a few pearls in the mix that make this a really great place to visit. From locally sourced food options, affordable accommodations, nearby outdoors activities and pedestrian-friendly town, there are many options for the green-loving adventurer.
Our Ratings 0-10
Food Quality/Vegetarian Friendly/Fresh/Healthy: 9
Eco-friendliness: 9 (recycling at the campground and parking lot).
Hiking difficulty: easy strolls
We recommend combining this trip with a stay at Anastasia State Park, a peninsula located just across the Matanzas River, a quick 10min drive from downtown St. Augustine. The park includes 1600 acres of wilderness with 4 miles of pristine natural beach along the dunes, tidal marsh, hammock and abundant wildlife as well as a campground. We visited the park in late October and we had the beautiful beach pretty much to ourselves and enjoyed some lonesome walks along the water while watching seagulls catch fish in-flight. Anastasia also provides great kayaking and canoe opportunity with an easy launch site and waterway to Matanzas River leading to St. Augustine.
St. Augustine – The History
The Timucua Indians lived in the area of today’s St. Augustine and throughout Northeast and Central Florida and Southeast Georgia since 1100-1300 AD as per archaeological finds. Once the Spanish settlers arrived, a great number of Timucua had been abused, forced into slavery and killed by the Spanish through battles and the spread of infectious disease from the Spanish settlers. It is said that the Timucua population was reduced from 200’000 to 50’000 by1595, by 1700 population was reduced to 1000 and soon after 1800 the tribe was extinct. After the European settlement took place, the city went from Spanish occupation to British and back to Spanish before becoming American Territory.
Around 1885 the city became a vacation destination for wealthy Americans with the construction of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway. Later during the civil rights movement, St. Augustine was a place of protest for African American students and activists who tried to get the city to integrate the public schools and accommodations but were met with arrests and Ku Klux Klan violence. In a series of demonstrations that took place in 1964 Martin Luther King was part of the demonstrations where hundreds of civil rights supporters were arrested. The Klan and police violence in St. Augustine were widely reported on national TV and became a key factor for passage of the Civil Rights Act. To this day, the historic city with the beautiful cobblestone streets and old downtown district is still a popular tourist destination.
Anastasia State Park
The beautiful park has great wildlife viewing opportunities. The estuarine tidal marsh hosts dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, fish, crabs, and birds. There are miles of remote beach for walks or runs and swimming or paddling in the ocean.
There is a concession stand with kayak and canoe and bicycle rental and a restaurant and grill with freshly made food and free (although spotty) wifi located at the parking lot at the beach as well.
There are 3 picnic areas, the Hill Top picnic area near the beach parking lot has shaded picnic tables, free wifi, electric outlets, bbq grills and restroom access, ideal for some relaxation or remote computer work.
The campground is located within a short walking distance to the beach.
Where To Stay
We recommend a stay at the Anastasia State Park Campground. There are 139 campsites, both RVs and Tents are welcome. The sites include a fire pit with grill, picnic table, water and electric hookup. The restrooms are clean with hot showers and there are coin operated laundry machines and dish-washing stations, dump-stations and trash containers. Pets are allowed on leash. Sites are $28/night plus tax plus reservation fee.
Of course there are plenty of hotels and AirBnB’s in the area starting at $55 and up.
Where To Eat and Shop For Groceries
Rype & Readi – Downtown St. Augustine
Offering local, fresh organic produce, cheese and dairy products and breads from local neighboring farms.
Old City Farmers Market at the St. Augustine Amphitheater– every Saturday morning.
St Augustine Farmers Market on Wednesdays is located at 350 A1A Beach Blvd, St Augustine, FL 32080
Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants
Present Moment Café – delicious food at a beautiful café. The large and creative menu offers all-vegan, fresh and organic dishes with raw and gluten-free options. From appetizers, fresh juices and smoothies, craft beer and organic wines to the main menu, salads and desserts – it’s a dream come true and a must-visit for any vegan.
The Floridian – excellent food with locally sourced ingredients and an original and creative menu with meat and fish and many vegan and vegetarian options.
Manatee Café – vegetarian and vegan breakfast and lunch with certified organic produce as possible and gluten-free options.
Blue Hen Café – Serves fresh and locally sourced breakfast and lunch with vegetarian options.
Creative Juices Natural Café – Small café offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options for wraps, sandwiches, soups, acai bowls, fresh juices and smoothies.
Healthy Ice Cream and Italian Ice
The Hyppo – Gourmet Popsicle store selling hand-crafted popsicles made from fresh fruits and veggies, herbs and spices, up to 450 flavors that change with the season and lots of vegan options available.
Things To Do
Sightseeing around town, visiting the National Monument Castillo San Marcos, the Old City and Colonial Quarter is definitely recommended.
Take an Eco-Tour by sailboat or kayak or bring your own kayak or paddle board and paddle the waters around St Augustine and Anastasia State Park where rental kayaks and canoes are also available.
Explore the area by foot or bicycle. The city has a few great cycling paths:
The 5,5mi Mala Compra Plantation Greenway Trail is located between Bing’s Landing in St. Augustine and Flagler Beach.
The Moses Creek Conservation Area has cycling trails around the tidal creek region at the Matanzas River.
Of course swimming in the Ocean at the beautiful beach at Anastasia State Park and St. Augustine Beach are great options. The beach is kept wild and looks almost untouched. We were visiting in October and we encountered only a total of about 10 other people while walking for miles and miles along the beach every day.
How To Get Around
The city is very pedestrian and bicycle friendly with many bike lanes.
Public transportation within the area is available through The Sunshine Bus Company http://www.sunshinebus.net/
There is also a downtown trolley for sightseeing around town.
Public transportation to St. Augustine is available by Greyhound bus, or by train via Amtrak.