Why You Should Visit the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park This Spring

Spring is the perfect time to visit St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. Why? Between March and May, the daytime temperatures sit comfortably in the 70s and 80s and the Florida humidity levels are hardly a bother. And, there are fewer crowds which also means lower hotel and airfare rates, less time standing in lines, and more time doing what you want. 

To take advantage of this springtime bliss, we suggest you plan a day trip to the one-of-a-kind St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. This famous park is located on Anastasia Island in close proximity to several other must-see St. Augustine landmarks, such as the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum and, of course, the beach. Opened in 1893, the park is one of the oldest continuously running attractions in the state of Florida, yet it’s constantly keeping guests entertained with exciting developments and creative new exhibits. 

Alligators and Crocodiles

If you want to get up close and personal with massive, scaly alligators and crocodiles, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park does not disappoint. Tiptoe across the boardwalk as dozens of reptiles swim just feet below you in the Alligator Swamp. Visit the Oasis of the Nile exhibit to experience an Egyptian-themed habitat with other-worldly “Gaboon Vipers,” and several spectacular Nile gators. Or get an up-close look at Maximo, a stunning 1,250 pound saltwater crocodile which can be seen via an underwater viewing area. 

Birds, Bullfrogs, Boas – Oh my!

There are over 800 alligators and dozens of different species represented at the park, but there is a wide variety of other wildlife to see as well. The park is home to monkeys, lizards, snakes, owls, turtles, and more. The Python Cave houses an enormous 21-foot python that is worth seeing with your own eyes. The Rookery is the place to find a rainbow of native birds from herons and parrots to hornbills and storks. Spring is birding season, which is just another reason to check out this signature landmark before summer. During the earlier part of the year, the trees are full of birds, happily chirping and cooing, and it’s likely you’ll spot a nest with a baby hatchling or two.

Exhibits and Adventures

Guests don’t have to travel far for a host of hands-on learning opportunities, interactive exhibits, and wildlife shows for all ages. The “Rainforest Review” showcases the personable parrots and introduces guests to other rainforest residents like the expressive Madagascar lemur. There are various chances throughout the day to touch and feed the alligators and learn more about their diet, habitat, and history. At the “Scales and Tails” Reptile Show, you can even hold a snake! 

Before you call it a day, you’ll want to experience the Zip Line, a speeding adventure through the zoo and over the live exhibits. Those feeling adventurous can take a leap and also try the “Python Challenge,” a 40-foot free fall with a reassuringly soft landing. Don’t wait until summer to visit the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park – adventure is calling!

#adventureseeker #alligatorfarm #alligator #visitstaugustine

How to Spend One Unforgettable Morning Exploring Anastasia Island

Dreaming of white, sandy beaches and the warm coastal sun on your skin? Welcome to Anastasia Island! Now, we may be biased, but we think you should stay for an entire month to fully experience the wonders of Anastasia Island and the surrounding historic St. Augustine area. However, even in one morning you can experience so much and we want to take you on one, action-packed Anastasia Island adventure that you’ll never forget!

Sunrise over the beach is stunning, so get your day started right with a hot cappuccino at The Kookaburra Beachside. This Aussie-American espresso bar and pie shop is an eclectic place where you can savor a mouth-watering Aussie meat pie for breakfast. Hurry – they can sell out quickly! 

Now that you’re up early and properly caffeinated, it’s time for an adventure! We recommend the Ancient Dunes Trail, a winding, jungle like trail surrounded by overgrown plants and trees. This half-mile loop can be a bit strenuous at times, but worth it just to see the natural habitat and escape into the jungle for a bit. 

Next up is a visit to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. This local treasure could be a blog post all on its own, but if you have even an hour or two, it’s worth the visit. Climb the historic lighthouse tower and explore the museum to learn about the region’s rich maritime heritage dating back to 1513. This landmark is definitely kid-friendly with a variety of educational exhibits and interactive activities. If you have the chance to return at night, we highly suggest you book your ticket for the “Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour,” a spooky guided tour that lets you explore the Lighthouse grounds at night. 

Named for its natural crescent moon shape, Crescent Beach boasts crystal blue waters and a network of wooden decks and walkways to explore the sand dunes. This peaceful spot offers a perfect place to swim, canoe, bird watch, or just enjoy sunbathing next to the surf. 

How could you leave Anastasia Island without tasting some delicious fresh-caught shrimp? Although locals fiercely debate which establishment prepares the best seafood, you can’t go wrong with Sunset Grille, a casual, beachy spot with a loyal following. Come back for supper for a real party!

What an exhilarating morning! There are so many ways to enjoy Anastasia Island and we hope you’ll return soon to check out other experiences not mentioned in this list. From horseback riding on the beach to a paddle boarding adventure on the water, you will find something for everyone in the family. Check local COVID safety guidelines, pack your bags, and plan your adventure now!

#springbreak #anastasiaisland #takemetothebeach

219 STEPS: Why the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is Worth the Climb

There’s no elevator available for guests to journey to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse, a historic landmark proudly standing 165 feet above the ground. However, if you haven’t been frequenting your gym’s stair climber recently – don’t worry! The winding staircase to the top offers several platform landings with stories and fun facts to absorb while you take a rest. Thousands of past visitors will attest that the breathtaking view from the observation deck is well worth the climb. 

WHAT YOU’LL SEE

If you’re lucky to make the climb during sunrise or sunset, you’ll likely be greeted by a stunning panoramic view that is difficult to capture in a single photo. From the top, you can see the sprawling Atlantic Ocean, dotted with boats and various vessels coming to and from the coast. You can also see a birds-eye view of St. Augustine, the rugged landscape of Anastasia Island, and so much more!   

HISTORY

This proud landmark on the coast of northeastern Florida has a tumultuous history. Visitors can learn this history at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum through guided tours, educational programs, and a host of interactive exhibits. This historic lighthouse has survived an earthquake, several wars, and much more!

Records indicate that a wooden watchtower was built by the Spanish in 1589, shortly after first discovering the area. The current St. Augustine Lighthouse; however, roughly dates back to 1874 after being rebuilt and repaired several times due to general wear and the damaging effects of war. It is primarily constructed from brick and was originally fueled by lard, before kerosene and later electricity was discovered. 

MUSEUM

Once you’ve taken in the salty ocean air from the top of St. Augustine Lighthouse, spend the rest of the day immersing yourself in history at the Maritime Museum. Dive deeper into the history of this monument by learning more about the lighthouse keepers, those tasked with building, fixing, and protecting this local treasure. Or learn about the role of St. Augustine and the lighthouse in the new WWII exhibit. Heritage Boatworks offers boat enthusiasts the opportunity to learn from real boatwrights and see wooden boatbuilding in progress. Whatever your interest, the museum has something for you! 

FAMILY FUN

For something a little different, the Maritime Hammock Nature Trails offers a scavenger hunt that takes kids on an adventure through the nearby forest. Another family favorite is the Maritime Education Center that features a climbable wooden lighthouse, puppets, and an abundance of educational opportunities. The museum loves to partner with local schools to provide state-of-the-art educational programming so check out their website to learn how you can bring the museum to your classroom or home.

GHOST TOUR

The ghost tours at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum are very popular and you won’t regret purchasing your ticket well in advance. Part-history, part bone-chilling tales of the past, the tours offer visitors the chance to explore the lighthouse at night. 

STAY TUNED!

We love ghost stories so much that we’re planning to share an exclusive terrifying tale with you right HERE. Until then, visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum and catch the Dark of the Moon tour.  

#lighthousemuseum #anastasiaisland #wanderlust

St. Augustine, Florida: The History Behind the Name

Did you know that St. Augustine, Florida was officially established by a Spanish admiral, Don Pedro Menéndez on August 28, 1565? 

Or did you realize that this beautiful oceanside city has changed hands four times in its history, never taken by force, most notably handed over to the British in 1742?

You may not have known these facts as you walked the old streets of St. Augustine, passing by museums, land markers, and other historical sites that preserve this important history. It would take years to fully grasp the historical timeline of the city, but we think you’ll be fascinated by learning just a little before your next big trip to St. Augustine.

The Arrival of the Spanish

In the early 1500s, there were many failed attempts by the Spanish to colonize Florida. When neighboring rival, France, successfully established Fort Caroline in present-day Jacksonville, King Phillip II was outraged and commissioned Don Pedro Menéndez to expel the French. 

On August 28, 1565, Menéndez and his Spanish fleet sighted land in Florida. The day of the sighting was also the Feast Day of St. Augustine, a religious holiday to celebrate and honor the patron saint. So, they named the place St. Augustine. 

As planned, the Spanish quickly laid claim to the land and effectively eliminated the French from the area. Matanzas Inlet, which translates to “slaughter” in Spanish,” was named after the massacre of French on the inlet that still holds this name to this day. 

For 200 years, the Spanish developed the St. Augustine area as a trading port and military outpost. In the 1670s, they constructed the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest standing fort in the United States. In 1763, the Spanish ceded Florida to the British and thus marked the first official change of control for the coastal city.  

Who was St. Augustine?

St. Augustine was born in 354 in present-day Algeria. As a young boy, he struggled with morality and the weighty prospect of living up to Christian ideals, so he experimented with other religions and atheism. He was an intelligent scholar and eventually moved to Milan to continue his teaching. In Milan, he had a divine encounter with God, feeling profoundly moved to seek redemption and pursue a life of Christian study. 

St. Augustine believed that a true philosopher must be a “lover of wisdom” and he exemplified that belief by writing a wealth of books, letters, and other written works. He had well-defined beliefs regarding freedom, knowledge, and the role of grace and salvation in Christian thought. One of his most popular works, “Confessions,” is written in the format of a dialogue with God and attempts to make sense of his own uncertainties and doubts about God. 

St. Augustine is a controversial figure in the church to this day. Yet despite the caution of some, the Feast of St. Augustine is still recognized widely to this day and his work has greatly influenced doctrine and theology in the church. 

History Lives On

Just from touching on the founding history of St. Augustine, we have identified several major people, settlements, and moments in time that define the city of St. Augustine, Florida. Many of these significant sites can still be visited today, such as the Castillo de San Marcos. We hope your curiosity will lead you to discover more stories and to visit St. Augustine to experience them for yourself!   

#visitstaugustine #historylovers #historicalplace #explore