The First Coast
Saint Augustine Travel Blog› entry 3 of 4 › view all entries
After a quick breakfast at the Beach Diner in Atlantic Beach, I headed down A1A to St. Augustine. This is where i came on my last visit to Florida, but this time I wanted to do some of teh tourist things my friends decliend to do on the last visit.
My first stop was the most touristy place in St. Augustine, the Fountain of Youth. The site of a spring serving a Timucuan village, the Fountain of Youth is a legitimate archeological site that has yielded evidence of both the Timucuan village as well as early Spanish settlement. The actual spring quit flowing years ago, so they now pump the water, which has a disctinct sulfur smell and taste, up so that they can get visitor's to drink the water and, hopefully, buy some to take home with them.
From the Fountain of Youth I went next door to the Mission Nombre de Dios, the site of the first Catholic mass in what is now the United States. The site is marked with a massive cross.
I had planned to visit Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church, but since it was Sunday I made a stop at Villa Zorayda instead. Villa Zorayda was the first building in the United States designed to reflect Moorish architecture. Built of poured concrete, Villa Zorayda was designed by its first owner, architect Franklin Smith as a reminder of the Alhambra. It is filled with antiques and is an incredible collection. When i lived in St. Augustine I kept saying I wanted to visit Villa Zorayda, but never did.
I made a quick stop into the lobby of the Lightner Museum on my way to Old St. Augustine Village. I decided to bypass the Lightner, however, since I had been there before, and moved on to Old St. Augustine Village. This is the largest collection of historic homes on their original foundations in the Southeast. Most of the buildings were unimpressive; the exception is the Carpenter's House, which is decidedly crooked. It was interesting.
I drove by the Gonzalez-Alvarez Housse, which used to be billed as the Oldest House. It is sad that we no longer consider this to be the nation's oldest house. A little of the romanticism of the past is lost.
My last stop in St. Augustine was the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, another tourist attraaction I had never visited previously.
I was now starved, so I stopped at the Hurricane Grill in St. Augustine Beach for a late lunch. I was attracted to this place solely by a billboard I saw on the side of the road. The buffalo wings I got were great.
After lunch, I headed further south to matanas Inlet, the site of Fort Matanzas. Fort Matanzas was an outpost built by the Spanish garrison at St. Augustine to ensure that other Europeans did not threaten their colony. The fort is located on the site where the Spanish massacred French survivors of a shipwreck who were hoping to reach Fort Caroline. I have visited Fort Matanzas once before -- and was frankly more amazed by it on that prior visit.
Leaving Fort Matanzas, I headed further south to Flagler Beach and Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Developed by Lousie and Owen Young, the gardens are very peaceful and beautiful. The live oaks were incredible and the gardens showed the love of the Youngs for this special plce. Very beautiful.
It was growing late when I left Washington Oaks, but I made one quick stop on my way back to Atlantic Beach. I stopped at Marineland, one of Florida's earliest tourist attractions. Originally built to offer tourists access to sea creatures, Marineland could not compete with other tourist attractions, particularly after Disney World openned. marineland was devastated by hurricanes and ultimately taken over by the University of Florida for dolphin research. It still, however, is a reflection of Florida's tourist past.
Arriving back in Atlantic Beach, I headed back to Beaches Town Center for dinner at Poe's Tavern, another recommendation of the desk clerk at the Palms Retro. Tonight dinner was a gourmet hamburger. It was delicious.