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Honeymooning in the “Best City in the U.S.” | St. Augustine

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One of the best things about getting married in Florida is its variety of staycation honeymoon options. Whether you’re looking to keep things easy for your bachelorette party or post-wedding celebration, one of our favorite Sunshine State getaways is in St. Augustine.

Recently named “Best Small Town in the South” by Southern Living and on the top 10 list of “Best Cities in the U.S.” by Conde Nast, the nation’s oldest city is filled with Europen-inspired architecture, brick-lined streets, and water views, making you feel like you’re in a different country, all within a day’s drive.

Getting Around

One of the best things about traveling to St. Augustine is that it’s one of Florida’s truly walkable cities; you don’t need a car to get around. (Which is good because parking is very limited). Restaurants, attractions, and nightlife are steps from your hotel. The historic downtown is just under one square mile but is filled with attractions to fill your leisurely afternoons. In fact, you want to walk around as there are so many cute shops and buildings that you’ll want to stroll into.

It’s a bike-friendly city with an e-bike-share program called Gotcha. Riders can rent a self-operated scooter or electric bicycle via the app and scan the code on the vehicle. This unlocks the vehicle and allows users to travel around the city. When we visited, we took our Bird scooters to zip around town and could be anywhere in the city in under 10 minutes. Bird scooters are a great way to get around the historic city, and an hour on the scooter only costs $10! 

There are also golf-cart-like shuttles, starting at $6 per person, pedicabs, and sightseeing trolleys if you don’t want to walk.

You will need transportation to get to the beaches, but you’ll want to drive down the famous A1A to pass through all of the scenic beach towns. The A1A is the center of beach culture! It is a scenic coastal route through most Atlantic coastal cities and beach towns.

Where to Stay

One thing that stood out during our visit to St. Augustine is that the city’s hotels’ architecture stays true to the historic character of the town. I initially thought there were only B&Bs and inns as I didn’t see any of the typical hotel chains, which were actually there, hiding in plain sight.

I enjoyed the fact that St. Augustine is one of those cities where you want to stay in a non-hotel chain; it’s part of the experience. We were hosted at The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens, named one of USA Today‘s “Top 10 New Hotels in America.” This historic property features a large collection of artwork, furniture, and other antiques that the owner collected throughout the years. The venue sits on the edge of St. Augustine’s Old Town and went through an 11-year restoration.

Nine historic buildings comprise the luxury inn with 30 individually appointed guestrooms. All the rooms at the Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens incorporate the rich history and unique architectural elements of 18th-century construction. The buildings are described as “a labyrinth of lushly landscaped pathways boasting artistic statues and soothing water features” with its verandas, original fireplaces, and quiet nooks. The inn is one of St. Augustine’s most unique hotels that combines upscale, modern lodging, artisanal architecture, and an outdoor heated pool.

The boutique property is ideal for a wedding buyout so that you can have the entire place to yourself. There’s even a courtyard ideal for a ceremony or rehearsal dinner. With its intimate gardens and gathering space, your guests will feel as if they are in a secluded location, although it is less than a 10-minute walk to the city’s most celebrated attractions.

Guests are encouraged to unwind at the cozy fire pits with a glass of wine or a cocktail from The Well Bar, the inn’s perfect spot for a crafted drink. The bar was once the town’s first two-car garage and is now a watering hole for guests who want to up their cocktail game and grab some light bites. The spot even offers a mixology program for those who want to take the experience home with them. The Well Bar has an afternoon happy hour starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. The bar opens up again at 10 p.m. for some nightcaps and closes its doors at 11 p.m.

The hotel features valet service and on-site parking, a European continental breakfast, history tours of the property, bicycles, and lawn games.

Where to Eat and Drink

Every morning, I looked forward to a grab-and-go breakfast at The Kookaburra, an Australian-American coffee shop serving specialty coffee, espresso, and Aussie pies. The Aussie-American espresso bar and pie shop is known for its “breakies,” or Aussie breakfast pies, similar to a chicken pot pie, but with elevated offerings such as egg and cheddar, topped with rosemary or sweet potato mash, spinach, and feta. The baked-from-scratch pies are made daily and offer a breakfast and lunch option. However, we found later in the day that the offerings were limited. The coffee and tea menu is well-priced and offers a variety of unique flavors, including a latte with chocolate and coconut or a five-spice chai with vanilla beans.

Our first dining experience was Ice Plant Bar, a restaurant with locally sourced dishes and seasonal cocktails set in a 1927 industrial building. The farm-to-table restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and serves grass-fed beef and burgers, local seafood, vegetarian options, and daily specials. With a wide assortment of bitters and specially developed syrups, it focuses on the art and craft of mixing exceptional local ingredients to create the perfect flavor profile, resulting in flavorful cocktails. While it’s not in the center of town, the 10-minute walk is well worth it.

With so many highly-rated restaurants, a wine and food tour with The Tasting Tours was definitely the way to go. It was a perfect way to fill an entire afternoon at a leisurely pace. I recommend scheduling it for your first or second day, as it’s a great way to get the lay of the land and recommendations for the rest of your stay.

The Tasting Tours is a women-owned business that has evolved into one of the area’s largest culinary experience providers. It offers local neighborhood culinary adventure tours. We attended the Corks & Forks tour, which included stops at four different locations. We started at the Old City House Inn and Restaurant and had one of the best salmon entrees I’ve ever tried (and I’m not a huge salmon fan). The portion was hearty, making it much more than just a tasting. From there, we walked a few blocks to a Greek restaurant that had a lively presentation, but the food was average, though the other attendees seemed to like it. Our next stop was a wine tasting at Casa De Vino 57. I’m not a huge wine drinker, but I actually sipped some that I enjoyed. The leisurely wine tasting was a wonderful experience on their back patio. I highly recommend coming back later in your stay. The evening ended with dessert tasting at Bay Harbor Cheesecake Company, which features cheesecakes, chocolate, and wines. The tour three-hour tour is $135/per person (not including the guide’s tip). I highly recommend it as the guide was likable and knowledgeable, the group was small, maybe ten people, and we received a tasting experience that we wouldn’t have received on our own.

TIP: If wine is on your to-do list, read more about St. Augustine wineries and tastings.

What To Do

You can’t visit St. Augustine without wandering up and down the pedestrian-only St. George Street. The architecture, local shops, and street performers tell a story of the city’s diverse history and influences, from Spanish and British to Native American. Many of the buildings and structures date back to the Spanish colonial era. Whether you want to shop at a local boutique or sip a refreshing lemonade, grab a bite, or meet up for drinks as daytime transitions to a livelier evening atmosphere, this is where the action is.

Even if you’re not into history, Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States and a significant historic landmark, is set right on the water and features panoramic views of Matanzas Bay, the city of St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean. The picturesque location is an ideal spot for vacation selfies and adds to the architectural charm of the city.

While you may not be thinking about college tours during your bachelorette party or honeymoon, Flagler College is a must-visit. The tour highlights the architectural history of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, known as one of the country’s most exclusive hotels of its time. With a 68-foot domed ceiling, Tiffany Stained Glass windows, and handcrafted Austrian crystal chandeliers, the National Historic Landmark property is awe-inspiring with its Spanish Renaissance architecture. Tours are $17/pp and last one hour.

Just across the street, the Lightner Museum is home to unusual exhibits such as shrunken heads, life-size animals, and cigar labels as well as art collections. The former Gilded Age hotel is home to the world’s largest indoor swimming pool, which is now home to the elegant Café Alcazar.

While we didn’t make it to the Fountain of Youth, we surprisingly really enjoyed the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. We stopped in on our way back to Tampa and wished we would have budgeted more time at the wildlife habitat. It is one of the oldest zoological attractions in Florida, having been established in 1893. It’s not your corny roadside spot; amidst the excitement, the park also offers tranquil spots where adults can relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. The lush landscapes and serene habitats were impressive, as the park is home to to every species of crocodilian in the world. It also features exotic birds and monkeys, and a zip line over the park offers a bird’s-eye view of the habitats and animals below.

TIP: St. Augustine is known for its various festivals, including its Nights of Lights holiday event, named by National Geographic as one of the “10 Dazzling Holiday Lighting Displays in the World.”

Why You Should Visit St. Augustine

If you want the feel of a quaint European city and are looking for a leisurely spot for your honeymoon or bachelorette party, we highly recommend the historic city. With its boutique properties, food-forward restaurants, walkability, and proximity to the beaches, it offers the feel of Charleston or Savannah but with Spanish architecture and a unique vibe. We love the city so much that we spent our 1-year anniversary here!

About the Author

Anna Coats

Marry Me Tampa Bay editor Anna Coats created Marry Me Tampa Bay in 2012 to showcase the area’s best local weddings and vendors. She has been featured as a wedding expert on the national talk show Daytime, Fox13, ABC Action News, Great Day Tampa Bay, and Bay News 9 (now Spectrum).

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