St. Augustine Travel Guide

For the first time in over a year, Dan and I were able to travel together out of state to St. Augustine Florida. Let me just say, after all of the anxiety and uncertainty that this pandemic has brought-- hitting the milestone of 'fully vaccinated' was (and is) an indescribable feeling. I suppose it means that in a way, this pause on life is coming to an end and we can resume some sense of normalcy. Maybe not full normalcy (because I'm not sure that we'll ever quite get that again to the same level), but a step in a positive direction.

Back in February when we were planning this trip, we weren't even sure if we'd be able to take it. But we had hope and thankfully things worked out for the best. I was over-the-moon excited to be apart of Dan's first ever trip to Florida and literally counted down the days until we left. Now it's been a few weeks since getting back, so I wanted to share our fun experiences and the recommendations that we've compiled from our trip down to St. Augustine.

Where to Eat

Maple St. Biscuit Company:

Maple St. Biscuit Company was on the top of Dan's list for eateries to visit and after eating there I can see why! We stumbled in VERY hungry (and equally hungover), first thing on Sunday morning. Luckily for us, St. Augustine enjoys sleeping in. So it was a quick wait and we were able to get a corner table on the front deck without a large crowd looming around us. The quirky service was part of the charm-- with them calling out a hobby you wanted to learn (instead of your name) to pick your order up from the counter. I chose a chicken biscuit with bacon and apple butter (pictured above) and I was absolutely floored by how much flavor was packed into each bite. A+ rating and would 100% return.

Columbia Restaurant:

Columbia Restaurant was mostly about the aesthetic and fun atmosphere for me when I was booking dining reservations prior to our trip. The reviews online were 'just alright' and the food itself was good (though not the greatest I've ever had). But what did stand out to me about our dinner date was how pleasant it was. Though busy, we were seated quickly and in my opinion we had one of the better tables in the restaurant. We sat right by a fountain in the picturesque main observatory and split a seafood paella (though if truth be told, I had almost fully filled up on the free bread). The restaurant was convenient to our inn as well -- only about a five minute walk -- which made it easy to dress up and rock my heels without any blisters on the way home. My mom also told me that this was the restaurant she'd eaten at on her prom night, which made the whole thing feel a little more exciting for me.

Kazu Sushi Burrito:

Ok-- disclaimer -- this is not strictly a St. Augustine spot. Yes, it is a chain restaurant and not one of the many cutesy or fresh dining spots in the area. HOWEVER, I am so glad we spotted this for lunch on a day that the streets around the historic district were too crowded to even move comfortably. We were headed to Anastasia Island to play mini golf and didn't want anything heavily fried -- like a lot of the beachside seafood grills were offering. We also didn't want to waste time on table service and preferred something quick and inexpensive. The concept of a sushi burrito was exciting for me and I was floored when I realized that the spot was like a "subway" for giant sushi rolls. You could completely mix-and-match, building your perfect roll from scratch. I mixed shrimp tempura, eel, lettuce, avocado and then had them roll in eel sauce and spicy mayo. CAN I JUST SAY -- EXPECTATIONS EXCEEDED. WHOAH.

The Ice Plant/Bar:

The Ice Plant Bar wasn't somewhere that was originally on our radar, but we were recommended it by a friendly bartender on George St. The bar is attached to the St. Augustine Distillery, which used to house an ice factory. The industrial ambiance throughout the bar is very trendy with its dark walls, high ceilings and moody lighting. Our drinks and meals were both top notch in flavor and presentation. I highly encourage you to plan a meal here, alongside the free distillery tour. Keep in mind -- this spot is pretty popular. We got there right when it opened and there was already a line to get in. We weren't able to get a reservation, but luckily the line moved quickly for the lunch rush (but then again, we were towards the front). You're likely to have a longer wait time, the later in the day you go. Another thing to note is that the line to get into the bar starts inside the distillery shop (where the tour feeds out). Because of this, I think doing the tour first and getting into the internal line afterwards is the smartest move!

Where to Get Ice Cream

Tedi's Olde Tyme Ice Cream Shop:

You can't really go wrong with ice cream on a hot Florida day, and there's certainly no shortage of options. We ended up getting our ice cream from Tedi's, because Dan compared the ones nearby and that one had the highest rating. The ice cream itself was great, although embarrassingly I almost broke their card reader by jamming my debit card in backwards. Oops.

Another spot that we didn't visit, but came highly recommended, was The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops! We're going to have to try that one next time.

Where to Stop for Coffee

Crucial Coffee:

Crucial Coffee is a spot that my family has visited for years, each time we end up in St. Augustine. I was overjoyed to see that it was still there (as I was under the impression that the building was damaged in a hurricane a few years back). We went there twice on our trip because it was easily walkable from our Inn and allowed us to walk along the outskirts of the historic area, instead of through the thick of it. The little coffee shack has a small outside seating area and is completely open air -- perfect for a not-too-warm morning. I definitely recommend this stop, if not for the coffee, for its eclectic nature.

We didn't make it this time, but a friend also recommended trying out the Kookaburra downtown for a great cup of coffee!

Where to Grab a Drink

Boat Drinks:

Boat drinks was our very first stop in St. Augustine after we checked into our hotel. We decided to wander St. George street and stumble into whatever bar looked fun. There, we'd stake out the rest of our weekend plans over a drink! We just so happened to roll into the perfect little bar to kick off our vacation, full of friendly and helpful bartenders who gave us recommendations that we ended up really enjoying! I got a frozen Pina colada and we split a plate of oysters. The fun lighting/décor and upbeat nature of this bar made it memorable for sure. It also seemed to be a hit among locals, who were coming in looking for deck seating and 'talking up' the drink menu to friends.

The Forgotten Tonic:

This spot is easy to rave about with awesome food, carefully crafted drinks and EXCELLENT hospitality. Dan and I loved our waitress. Not only was she personable (I want to be friends) -- but she gave us amazing/personalized drink recommendations the entire night. She took a few spirit preferences and coaxed us out of our comfort zones from traditional drinks to memorable custom cocktails that were right on the nose in terms of flavor! The atmosphere is intimate but upbeat -- located slightly off the main drag, away from large crowds. But definitely book a table in advance, because the wait started to go up in time the later it got.

Bin 39:

We didn't even realize when we'd initially booked our lodging, but our Inn housed a small wine bar called Bin 39. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine in the cozy outdoor courtyard, enjoying live music and the relaxing fountain ambiance. Our waitress was super sweet and recommended great wine selections that we both enjoyed -- even with vastly different palettes. I enjoyed the laid-back experience of this wine bar so much, that I even bought a wine glass to commemorate our fun evenings there.

What to See & Do

The St. Augustine Distillery:

If you enjoy a drink, the St. Augustine Distillery is a MUST DO activity. They offer a free tour, which not only gives you a great history lesson -- but also free samples of the different liquors they distill in mini cocktails. As someone who thoroughly enjoys a G&T, I was excited to try their botanical Gin. The bartender even explained the different notes that would stand out with each new sip and I was shocked by how on-the-nose he was about the flavor profiles. We went right when they opened at 10:30 am -- which yes, seems a bit early for a drink. But hey, we were on vacation. We got there JUST in time to beat the crowds and leisurely stroll the tour at our own pace. Honestly, I think we timed things perfectly -- because we made it through the tour and shop at the end with only 15 minutes to spare before the Ice Plant Bar opened for lunch. So I'm happy with my early morning Gin!

Fiesta Falls Mini Golf:

Dan and I are both fans of playing mini golf on vacation, so we knew that this was a must-do. I hold the opinion that the more over-the-top the mini-golf is, the better. So we scouted out the different options in the area and landed on Fiesta Falls, located about a 20-minute drive away on Anastasia island. Luckily we drove to St. Augustine, which made it easier to get over there for the day and do activities on our own time. This was a fun spot, but VERY crowded. We were waiting at pretty much every hole, getting crispier by the minute (hello sunburn). But it was worth it because we had a fun time. If I could change one thing, it would be going earlier in the morning before it gets too busy and hot. Definitely bring a bottle of water and wear your sunscreen!

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum:

Let me start off by saying that we were tired and VERY sunburnt by the time we made it to the lighthouse, so we didn't go to the top. We weren't interested in paying the entrance fee to the Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, if we weren't going to fully enjoy our time there. So instead, we walked up as close as we could get to the entrance and took some photos/explored the public area outside the property. I have been in the past though and think it's a worthwhile activity if you have the energy and excitement to make it to the top!

Tour of Flagler College:

We didn't do an official guided tour -- and I don't think they're currently running with the pandemic. But we did spend our last morning in town slowly perusing the outskirts of campus and appreciating the architecture. Fun fact -- the liberal arts college was originally built as a hotel!

Castillo de San Marcos:

We made a mistake on this one. We didn't get there before opening (although only an hour later) and ended up having to wait in a long line. The fort is currently operating on limited capacity due to Covid, so only 100 people were allowed on the grounds at a time. The time passed quickly and they had Park Rangers walking down the line giving mini history lessons, which was enjoyable for us. My biggest regret was not having put sunscreen on before leaving the room, which naturally resulted in a giant back and shoulder burn from direct sunlight for an hour. Wear your sunscreen and pack a little umbrella -- Trust me, there is nowhere to escape the sun in this line!

Explore St. George Street:

I loved staying on St. George street, because everything was so walkable from where we were. It was fun exploring all the shops along the main and side streets (both tacky tourist giftshops and small business treasures)! One thing that surprised us a little bit on our first morning there was how long St. Augustine seems to sleep in. The shops didn't open first thing in the morning and it was fun eating breakfast in the courtyard, watching the shopkeepers slowly trickle in. I really appreciated the slower pace of things.

Where to Stay

St. George Inn:

We've been planning for this trip since February and the first thing I wanted to lock down was lodging. We combed through countless reviews of different hotels, inns and Airbnb's before landing on St. George Inn.

I could tell from the positive reviews and the location, that it would be a good fit for us and our trip. I was a little worried that it would be noisy in the evenings, as it's right on the main drag -- but was pleasantly surprised by how quiet the rooms were.

The Inn was very charming, with friendly staff and a cozy Florida feel. The rooms were all located above various shops circling a small courtyard. Ours was actually above a very popular cigar shop and the smell made it all feel a little more eclectic (which I liked).

Our bed was comfortable, the AC worked much better than I could've hoped for from an older inn and we had great water pressure in the shower. For those who haven't lived in Florida before, the sulfur water smell is always a bit shocking at first -- but it reminded me of home and my time living in Orlando.

We had a shared back porch that overlooked a quiet garden area and a long shared front porch that overlooked the main courtyard/fountain. This was great because they had a live musician out playing music, which we could listen to from the comfort of our own porch space with a glass of wine.

The Inn offers free breakfast -- light continental foods -- which were perfect for giving us a light boost of energy in the morning. We ate alongside the fountain, which is also where the inn seats its visitors to their wine bar -- Bin 39. I highly recommend stopping by for a relaxing drink (see the drinks section above for more details).

The nightly rate was a little pricey, but to me it was fully worth it for the memorable experience we had. I would definitely stay here again!