The best vacations offer the ability to travel back in time. To wander narrow streets gazing up at buildings constructed centuries ago. To eat new-to-you treats that families have been making the same way for decades. To stand on the beach and marvel at the way the waves crash upon the shore, and to spot colorful birds and vibrant plants that look straight out of a fairy tale.
Usually, finding all that magic in just one destination requires traveling a significant distance, but St. Augustine, Florida | Ponte Vedra, has it all. Settled in 1565 by Spanish explorers, it’s the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States—a place where more than 500 years of history, architecture, art, and food will make you feel like you’ve just discovered the world’s best-kept secret. It’s also within minutes of some of Florida’s spectacular outdoor adventure—whether that's suntanning on the beach, playing a round of golf, or doing some exploration in a majestic national monument.
What’s even more exciting is that St. Augustine | Ponte Vedra Beach are a short flight from virtually every major city on the East Coast, meaning you can leave after breakfast and touch down in time for lunch. Whether it’s a long-planned escape or a spur-of-the-moment getaway, a visit to Florida's Historic Coast is exciting, and just as crucially, stress-free.
We’ve put together a weekend itinerary that touches upon the best of what St. Augustine | Ponte Vedra has to offer—no passport required.
Day One: History, Culture, and Architecture
Start the morning meandering through St. Augustine’s Historic District, where St. George Street, one of the oldest main streets in the country, is dotted with galleries, boutiques, and cafés offering freshly-made snacks you can take to go.
From there, head to the Lightner Museum, housed in the former Hotel Alcazar, a Gilded Age resort hotel built in the Spanish Renaissance Revival style. Terra cotta ornaments decorate the façade, and in addition to the world-class art exhibitions, the interior boasts what was once the largest indoor swimming pool in the world. Today, visitors can enjoy lunch at the elegant restaurant in what was once the deep end of the pool.
For lunch, try some local empanadas—sold at several spots in the Historic District, they are a great on-the-go option. For a more leisurely option, stop at Casa de Vino 57 for a charcuterie board and a glass of wine in a secluded, romantic courtyard.
After a repast, it’s time to visit Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, home to the Spring of Eternal Hope, made famous by the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon. Also housed within the park is Timucua Indian Village of Seloy, plus a still-functioning historic Spanish cannon.
Another afternoon stop worth making is Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest masonry fortress in the continental United States. Made from native materials, the fort sits in the middle of a 20.5-acre park; standing on the gun decks is a great way to enjoy the late day sun washing over St. Augustine’s impressive architecture and the beautiful Matanzas Bay.
Day Two: Outdoor Adventures
Start the morning—after breakfast, of course— at Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, a protected landscape that is home to interconnected habitats from oceans to forests, all spanning 75,760 acres of coastal lands. The 21,000 square-foot visitor’s center is home to regular exhibitions detailing interesting aspects of the landscape. Hikers will find much to admire on one of the park’s trails, where visitors report sightings of deer, owls, endangered tortoises and forest-dwelling birds.
At Marker 2, explore the large Timucuan midden (shells) and the remains of La Natividad de Nuestra Señora de Tolomato, the first Spanish mission in the New World and one of the oldest historic sites in the country. If more wildlife is what you’re after, head south to Anastasia State Park, where from a kayak or canoe you might spot a bright-pink roseate spoonbill or dolphin frolicking in the water.
By lunchtime, you’ll be ready for a waterfront meal from the The Reef Restaurant. From there, you’re within arm’s reach of Ponte Vedra Beach, where an afternoon spent relaxing on the gleaming white sand, or a luxurious spa treatment at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, is an afternoon well-spent.
Heading back into the city for dinner, it’s time to explore some of St. Augustine’s culinary highlights, which reflect exciting cuisines from around the world. Aviles Street, the nation’s oldest street, is home to old world bistros and locally-beloved spots today. Just down the road, stop into Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill, where you can dine outdoors, the night brightened by twinkling courtyard lights. If your visit happens to fall on the First Friday of the month, check out the city’s First Friday Artwalk, where galleries stay open later into the evening, often serving cold drinks to be enjoyed as live bands perform.
To keep the evening going, head to Dog Rose Brewing Company in the bustling Lincolnville neighborhood—here, you’ll find handcrafted beer, boutique wines, and good vibes.
Day 3: A Trip to the Golfing Green
The golf courses in Ponte Vedra Beach are some of the best in the world. Start your day off with a round at TPC Sawgrass, designed by Pete Dye and named one of the “Best Courses You Can Play” by Golfweek Magazine. If relaxing in the clubhouse is more your speed, the on-site restaurant serves award-winning food that can be enjoyed on a breezy patio with views of the course. To make golf the centerpiece of your day, make your next stop the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum, where you can learn about the people, places, and inventions that shaped the history of the sport.
As the afternoon winds down, take a leisurely stroll through Ponte Vedra’s Sawgrass Village, Ponte Vedra's "new town square", home to excellent dining, exquisite shopping, sophisticated galleries and special events.