Christmas in St. Augustine

Ah, the holidays! Whether you are in snowy paradise or on sandy beaches, the spirit of the holidays is still the same. Some people might believe that the snow and cold weather makes it the holiday season. But St. Augustine has proven for many years that the holiday spirit is still the same here, whether there is snow or not! With a wonderful display of light and magic that bring the city to life, there’s plenty of festivities to enjoy! But how did these traditions begin?

Let us take a look into the past, to see how tradition has changed or improved throughout the ages. The Minorcan’s came to the new world from the Mediterranean and embarked on a journey to North East Florida. This was one of the largest groups of European immigrants to settle in the New World. More than 25,000 descendants of these Minorcans still live here in the area. They celebrated their holiday by lighting and putting a white candle on the windows of their houses to guide Mary and Joseph to their homes and let them know they are welcomed. As the time and modern technology advanced, the city of St. Augustine continued the traditional white light display.

Night of Lights 2018- 19

  • Nov 2018- Feb 3, 2019 at Plaza de la Constitución

The night of lights festival turns the City of St Augustine into a dazzling holiday display.

The 25th Annual Night of Lights, lights up the city with about three million lights, adorned in every corner of the historic district for two months!  

This award-winning holiday light display runs from November, 2018, to February 3, 2019, in historic St. Augustine. During the seasonal display, businesses downtown stay open later, letting you dine in view of the lights and browse the shops of the decorated buildings.

The trains and trolleys offer special seasonal tours that take you through the best areas, and there are also a variety of specialty tours. Everything from walking tours, to horse-and-carriage tours, and even tours to see the lights from the water and the air!

Old Town Trolleys Famous Nights of Lights Tour

  • Nightly Tours – Visitor Information Center

Old Town Trolleys Famous Nights of Lights Tour is an excellent way to see St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights. Now the lights are electric and not traditional candles, but they remain white, and they are dazzling to see as they decorate the wonderful old buildings, historic homes and bayfront vistas in the nation’s oldest city. National Geographic magazine included St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights in its recent list of the ten best places in the world to see holiday lighting displays.

The 25th Annual Nights of Lights begins on the evening of Saturday, November 17, 2018, when the Mayor turns on the lights in the annual Lighting Ceremony. On the following evening (Sunday, November 18), the Old Town Trolleys Famous Nights of Lights Tour will begin touring visitors around the historic district to see the best of the Nights of Lights displays.

The trolley tours depart from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. continuously every night of the holiday season from November 18, 2018, through February 3, 2019. No reservations are required. The tour departs from the Visitor Information Center at 10 West Castillo Drive. (See below for other parking locations that offer free shuttles to the Visitor Information Center.)

General admission tickets are $13.99 for adults and $5.99 for children 3 – 12, while kids under 3 are free. No reservations are required or accepted for general admission seating.

This year, Old Town Trolleys is offering a Fast Track Pass for their Nights of Lights Tour. With this ticket includes:

  • A separate line with a shorter wait time.
  • Ability to pre-select a reserved check-in time.
  • Priority check-in that is valid up to one hour following your reserved time.

The cost is $16.99 for adults and $8.99 for children 3 – 12, with kids under 3 riding free. The Fast Track Pass does require reservations, which may be rescheduled up to 24 hours in advance of tour time by calling (904) 826-3663. To purchase tickets online and to make reservations for the Fast Track Pass, visit here.

The Tasting Tours – Night of Lights

  • November 2018- February 3, 2019 at The Tasting Tours

See St. Augustine’s Night of Lights from horse-drawn carriage or an old fashioned roadster with The Tasting Tour.

The Tasting Tours offers three holiday tours during St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights celebration, beginning on Saturday, November 17, 2018, and continuing nightly through February 3, 2019.

Their Wine and Carriage Ride Tours are a wonderful way to experience this world-renowned festival of lights in the nation’s oldest city. Guests can experience the festival lights on the horse-drawn carriage and enjoy some excellent wine and great company on these 45-minute tours. There are two versions of the Wine and Carriage Ride Tours available each night: a group tour for up to 12 people and a private tour for 2 – 4 people. Both tours include a bottle of wine (red or white) and souvenir glasses.

Additionally, The Tasting Tours offers a nightly Rockin’ Red Roadster Ride. This is a family-friendly 45-minute tour that does not include wine, but features great holiday music and lots of Christmas cheer.

Admission: $49 per person (21 years and up) for the Group Wine and Carriage Ride. The Private Wine and Carriage Ride is $159 per couple (can accommodate up to 4 guests for an additional $35 per guest). $25 per adult and $15 per child under 12 for the Rockin’ Red Roadster Ride (with option to book private roadster tour of up to 7 people for $135). Tours depart from 47 Cordova Street.

Please call (904) 325-3911 or visit here to check availability and book a tour.

The Nutcracker Ballet 2018

  • Sat. & Sun., Dec. 22 & 23, 2018 | 1:30 & 7 p.m. each day at the Lewis Auditorium

The St. Augustine Ballet presents their annual production of the holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker,” with four performances over two days.

The St. Augustine Ballet performs The Nutcracker every holiday season at Flagler College Lewis Auditorium. This year, there will be four performances over two days: at 1:30 and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, December 22 and 23, 2018.

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is a traditional performance to see during the holidays, and one of the most loved Christmas stories based on E.T. A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The St. Augustine Ballet production is directed by Artistic Director Luis Abella. The St. Augustine Ballet offers performance opportunities to ballet dancers from the St. Johns area and surrounding locations. The company brings in professional dancers to perform in the two large shows they produce each year, including The Nutcracker. The St. Augustine Ballet is a nonprofit performing arts organization founded in 2010.

Admission: Prices range from $20 to $30 for adults, children, and seniors, depending on seating. Visit here to view options and purchase tickets.

Call (904) 824-1746 for additional details.

Old Wooden School House- A Traditional Menorcan Christmas

November 17, 2018 – February 3, 2019 at Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

Visit the oldest schoolhouse in St Augustine and experience a traditional Menorcan Christmas.

The Oldest Wooden SchoolHouse, located in the old Menorcan quarter of historic St. Augustine, presents a traditional Menorcan Christmas display this year.

The museum and garden will be lit up with the white lights of the Nights of Lights, a tradition that stems from the white candles used during the holidays in Colonial times. Inside the School House, Menorcan decorations and a fully decked-out Christmas tree will set the stage for visitors to experience what it was like to celebrate Christmas in the late 1700s in St. Augustine.

Admission: $5.00 for adults; $4.00 for children ages 6 – 12; kids under 6 are free.

For more information, call (904) 824-0192

No matter where you come from, you will enjoy Florida’s holiday celebrations, without the inconvenience of snow storms but with the same holiday spirit that makes the holidays festive and enjoyable.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s beloved here in America. But, How did it all get started? Who brought it into this land? How much has it changed throughout the years?

First Thanksgiving Celebration

Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated by many for as long as we can remember. Getting the perfect turkey and putting it in the oven as you watch the Macy’s Day Parade, playing football while you wait for everything to be done, and then sitting at the table with your family enjoying good times and good food is what it’s all about.

But how did this tradition get started? By whom? According to historians, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in October, 1621. It was celebrated by the pilgrims after their first successful corn harvest in the New World. Their guest, the Wampanoag Tribe, also shared food with them. This is what the history books teach school age children.

The Real First Thanksgiving

Let us rewind 66 years before this event, on September 8 1565. Spanish explorers landed in what was deemed the ‘New World’. Don Pedro Menendez Aviles landed in the city of St. Augustine, Florida. The Spanish Colonists were in celebration mode after traversing the dangerous seas and making it out unscathed. Their arrival fell on the Catholic holiday of “The Birth Of the Virgin Mary”, which added to the celebratory air of the day.  The Native Tribe of the Timucua were invited to this event (sounds similar to the traditional Thanksgiving story, doesn’t it?).

This Thanksgiving feast did not have a turkey as part of the menu. In fact, they had the food the Spanish brought on their ships. They made a stew containing beans and salted pork from what we can gather.  The record does not show if the natives brought any items but if they did, it most like was vegetables, seafood and possibly even had gator meat! Check out more of the story here.

There’s a lot of history here in St. Augustine. The rich heritage of this city continues to surprise and captivate visitors and locals alike. Let us see how we honor that heritage and look at what there is to do this Thanksgiving around town.

Thanksgiving in St. Augustine

4th Annual Turkey Run 5K

Want to start the holidays off healthy? Join an early morning Thanksgiving day run to get the family out and running before the big feast! The 4th Annual Turkey Run 5K will take place in World Golf Village just north of St. Augustine. The course will take runners along World Commerce Parkway. The registration fee for the 5K varies depending on the time ordered. On the day of the race, registration will be payable in cash or check only. Race day registration starts at 6:30 a.m. and closes at 7:35 a.m.

  • Perks: All runners will be given a unique long-sleeve T-shirt, a custom medal, and post-race refreshments including fruit and cranberry sparklers.  Kids will receive a short sleeve shirt. Shirts and medals only guaranteed by Thursday, November 15.
  • Awards: Massage gift certificates will be given to Top Overall Male and Female finishers and the Top Overall Masters. The top three runners in the following age groups will receive awards: 9 and under, 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80 and over.

World Golf Village is located at 500 S Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, FL, 32092. For more information on this event, visit the website or call Ultimate Racing at (904) 710-2458.

St. Augustine Art & Craft Festival 2018

Don’t miss the 53rd Annual St. Augustine Art & Craft Festival, a premier outdoor art fair that is a Thanksgiving weekend tradition attracting thousands of visitors, art collectors, and savvy shoppers. It features over 150 top national and regional artists exhibiting paintings, pottery, jewelry, sculpture, glassware, fiber art, photography, mixed media, and more! This is a great opportunity to get your holiday shopping started!  The event also includes live music, food and beverages, a kids art zone, and a historic village featuring the Textile Arts Guild of St. Augustine.

Times:

  • Saturday, November 24 — 10:00am-5:00pm
  • Sunday, November 25 — 10:00am-4:30pm

A $2 entry donation entitles visitors to free tickets for a drawing for entry into select area attractions or specialty gifts.  All day parking is available in the Historic Parking Garage. There will be a free park & ride shuttle service on Saturday that starts at 1pm from the St. Johns County Health Department and San Marco Avenue, north of town.

Check out the event website for more details or call the Art Association at 904-824-2310.

Night of Pints

You may have heard of the Night of Lights, but have you tried the Nights of Pints? This event is a bar-hopping special offered by four local St. Augustine breweries during the Nights of Lights season 2018-19. Participants can enjoy a seasonal pint on the house at any time between November 17, 2018, and February 3, 2019, from any of these four breweries:

  • Ancient City Brewing Downtown Taproom, 18 Cathedral Place
  • Bog Brewing Company, 218 W King Street
  • Dog Rose Brewing, 77 Bridge Street
  • Old Coast Ales, 300 Anastasia Boulevard

For $30, participants receive a commemorative T-shirt and a passport that entitles them to a free pint at the four local breweries above at any time during the Nights of Lights event.

Dining out on Thanksgiving? Here’s a list to help vacationers find local places in St. Augustine that offer Thanksgiving meals with all the good food you get on Thanksgiving and a few extras. Choose from traditional sit-down meals, buffets, and special menus.

Restaurants Open for Thanksgiving

Maybe you are visiting and staying at a resort on the beach and don’t have the resources available – or maybe you just want to avoid cooking for hours straight – but it’s nice to know where you can get a warm meal with the family this Thanksgiving. Luckily, St. Augustine has some great restaurants open this turkey day! Here’s some to check out:

 

Restaurant                   Phone  Hours Information

La Pentola (904) 824-3282 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. Traditional plated dinner and limited menu items available. Call for reservations.
Reef Restaurant (904) 824-8008 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Brunch buffet. Reservations strongly suggested.
Raintree Restaurant (904) 824-7211 12 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Traditional plated dinner and limited menu items available. Call for reservations.
Old City House Inn Restaurant (904) 826-0113 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Traditional meal and limited menu items available. Call for reservations.
Costa Brava (904) 810-6810 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Breakfast buffet and brunch, then Thanksgiving dinner station starting later. Adults $69, Kids $25. Call for reservations.
Columbia Restaurant (904) 824-3341 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Traditional plated dinner and menu items available. Call for details and reservations.
O.C. White’s (904) 824-0808 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Traditional meal. Call for details and reservations.
Aviles Restaurant (904) 829-2277 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. & 6 p.m. Holiday buffet. Call for details and reservations.
TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse (904) 273-3238 12 – 7 p.m. Thanksgiving buffet featuring traditional favorites. Call for reservations. $78 for adults, $39 for children. Kids 5 – 11 are free.
Athena Greek Restaurant (904) 823-9076 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Holiday menu with Greek specials. Call for details and reservations.
Georgie’s Diner (904) 819-9006 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Holiday specials along with regular menu. Call for details and reservations.
Aunt Kate’s (904) 829-1105 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Traditional plated dinner available. Call for details and reservations.
Le Pavilion (904) 824-6202 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Call for details and reservations.
Gypsy Cab Co. (904) 824-8244 1 – 8 p.m. Holiday menu. Call for details and reservations. Walk ins are welcome.
Zaharias Restaurant (904) 471-4799 12 p.m. – 9 p.m. Special Thanksgiving menu. Walk-ins welcome, no reservations.
La Cocina at Castillo Real (904) 461-8288 12 – 7 p.m. 4-course holiday meal. Call for details and reservations.
Oak Room (904) 825-1923 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Complete holiday meal. Reservations recommended.
The Conch House (904) 829- 8646 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Special Thanksgiving meal in addition to regular menu.
Casablanca Inn (904) 638-7104 7:30 a.m. – 12 a.m. Regular brunch food menu at Restaurant Brunchfrom 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tini Martini Bar open from 3 p.m. to 12 p.m. for cocktails.
Villagio Grille at Renaissance Resort (904) 940-8696 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day Buffet. Call for reservations.
Barley Republic (904) 547-2023 1 p.m. – 10 p.m. Limited Holiday Menu. No reservations accepted or needed. Walk-ins only.
Romeo’s Italiano Cafe (904) 679-4785 12 p.m. – 9 p.m. Regular menu with holiday specials. Walk-ins welcome.
Sangrias (904) 827-1947 12 p.m. – 11 p.m. Regular Menu

For details or more information contact the restaurants.

You can enjoy these events and more through the season. Just come out to good old St. Augustine! As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, remember that Thanksgiving meals have changed through the ages.  As the years go by and more people come to Florida from all different walks of life, they add new food items and new traditions. But Thanksgiving remains the same in spirit.

We are so happy the north end elevator is back in service as of 11/13/18.

Trick or treat and Happy Halloween! October is here and with it you will find a variety of fun reasons to be out and about. One of the best places to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve in particular is America’s oldest city, St. Augustine Florida. Full of history, it’s the perfect scene for all activities involving haunting and mystery.  Let us journey into this legendary city to find some thrills and chills, with some fall family festivities .

The Haunted Barn

Location:

Rype and Readi Downtown Farmer’s Market

115 La Quinta Place, St Augustine, FL

Dates and time:

Fridays and Saturdays from October 5 – 28, 2018 at 7:00 pm – 9:30pm

If you and your 13+ year old are looking for a haunted and challenging adventure, come on and check out the haunted barn. It has a creepy cemetery full of scare jumps (don’t worry; the people doing the scaring will not touch you). So pay them a visit to see what kind of scary stuff they have up their farmer’s sleeve.  

Don’t have teens? At the same location, they also host a “Not so scary night” for kids 12 and under. This event will take place on Friday, October 19th and Sunday, October 28th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. Come let your younglings see the barn without jump scares, and instead enjoy the trick or treating. They will be serving food and treats for your little monsters as well!

Admission price: $5 plus 2 cans of food

The Haunted Barn is also hosting a canned food drive fundraiser for the benefit of local charities. Not only will you be getting spooked, you will also be helping the community. Every night they collect goods for different charities.  If you happen to forget your cans of food you don’t have to worry, as they have a store for you to purchase some.

For all of you eager beavers out there who don’t feel like waiting in line, you can purchase your tickets prior to the event.  Visit their website here for more information and go have some fun with your crew while helping the community!

Scarecrow Building Contest

Location: Ryde and Readi Downtown Farm Market, 115 La Quinta place, St Augustine, FL

The Rype & Readi Downtown Farmer’s Market is not only doing haunted barn, it is also hosting scarecrow building sessions at the Downtown Market on Saturdays and Sundays from September 22 through October 14, 2018. This activity will require reservations for the building sessions, so make sure to sign up for it as soon as possible. Registration will take place from:

9:30am to 12:30pm on these dates:

September 22, 23, 29 and 30 and October 6, 7, 13 and 14, 2018.

Rype & Readi will provide a pole, clothes, straw, tools and fasteners for participants to embellish their scarecrow with. You can bring your own add-ons to create a unique scarecrow!

This opportunity is open to civic organizations, school groups, sport teams, and anyone who’d like to flex their creative talents.  Photos of all the scarecrows will be posted on Rype & Readi’s Facebook page and website, where visitors can vote on their favorites. Votes will be tallied on Tuesday, October 30, and prizes will be awarded to the best in these categories:

  • Best in Show
  • Most Creative
  • Scariest
  • Most kid friendly
  • Funniest
  • Rype & Readi Staff Pick

Don’t forget the admissions fee of $10.00 with reservation, as it’s required to participate. For more info and dates to pick from, take a look here.

Pumpkin Patches

Want to find a good pumpkin to carve this year? Check out all the pumpkin patches in the St. Augustine area.  There are plenty of activities for the whole family! There are children’s activities, plenty of food to try, and of course hayrides! There is a number of locations to get a pumpkin to carve, decorate, or donate to someone else. Here are some of them listed below:

Sykes & Cooper Farm

Location: 5995 Brough Rd. Elkton FL 32033, (904) 692-1370  

Sykes and Cooper Farm hosts its annual challenging and unique Corn Maze. The farm will also have hayrides, duck races, a kids area, and a tube slide. That sounds like a lot of fun! They may have that perfect pumpkin you are looking for.

First United Methodist Church

Location: 118 King Street, St. Augustine Fl 32084, (904) 829-3459

Every year, The First United Methodist Church hosts their pumpkin patch sale beginning on Thursday, October 4, 2018 from 10:00am to 7:00pm. The church has pumpkins of all prices and sizes. In addition, at the end of October they will be holding a special “Trunk or Treat” at the church from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. For those who don’t know what a ‘trunk or treat’ is, it’s a sponsored event by the community of churches to provide a safe way for children to trick or treat. People will gather and park their cars in a parking lot, open their trunks, decorate them in fun ways and give out candy to all the children.  

Shores United Methodist Church

Location: 724 Shores Blvd., St. Augustine FL 32086, (904) 797-4416

Shores United Methodist Church will be selling pumpkins right after church on Sunday, October 7, 2018. The patch will be open daily from 12:00pm to 7:00pm throughout October. The Church will also hold its Fall Festival, featuring children’s games, a bounce house, food, and live music. There will be a ‘Trunk or Treat’ on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 from 5:00pm to 7:00 pm.

Halloween in St. Augustine is a great time! You don’t have to go too far to find places that will give you the sense of what Halloween is all about, or how St. Augustine celebrates it. The haunted history of the city sets the stage. Are you looking for some Halloween fun with a side of history? Come to St. Augustine to find a bit of both.

St. Augustine is so much more than just the oldest city in the United States. Along with it’s deep history, it has a great deal of natural beauty to appreciate as well.  If you are looking for some fun in the Florida sun, than St. Augustine is the place for you!

Of course there are the usual things to do that many already know about when visiting St. Augustine, such as the fabulous beaches that are here.  However, if you are wanting to experience more than laying on the sand and beachcombing, we have some great ideas for you!

The Nature in St. Augustine

With so many nature activities and marine life to partake in, it may be hard to decide what you will want to do first.  Let’s divide the activities up into two groups, which might help you determine if you’re going to do something on land or on the water.

Fun Land Activities to Try

  • Birding – The St. Augustine area is rich with a large number of birds to watch such as; Sandhill Cranes, Owls, Eagles, Woodpeckers, Scrub Jays, Black Crowned Night Herons and Roseate Spoonbills.  Of course this is just a few that you might come across, and you should be able to see any of these around this region. Some of the best places to view these birds include Fort Matanzas, the State Parks, the Vilano boat ramp, St. Augustine’s Alligator Farm, the City Parks, Vaill Point Park, Matanzas State Forest and the Southeast Intracoastal waterway park.  There are also guided nature walks within the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, in which you will be able to see many different types of birds.
  • Animal Sightings – You can view a large amount of different animals besides birds as well, ranging from alligators to dolphins and everything in between.  Two of the best places that you are guaranteed to spot a wide variety of animals is the St. Augustine Wild Reserve and the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
  • Biking – There is a wide array of areas to enjoy this fantastic pastime.  These routes range from high impact to laid back and relaxing. With over twenty cycling trails in and around the city, you are sure to find the one that is right for the pace that you are looking to keep.
  • Hiking or Walking – With the many trails that are in the local parks, as well as the miles of beaches, you have a large area in which to choose.
  • Plants – It would be wrong not to mention that all of the places so far have a broad number of different plants and trees with all different shapes and sizes. This of course includes our beautiful Palm Trees and Florida’s State flower, the Orange Blossom. A must see is the famous ‘Love Tree’, where an oak tree has a palm tree growing out of the top of it.

Fun Water Activities to Try

St. Augustine is filled with water activities! Between the beach, the Matanzas River, and the St. John’s River, we have a lot to offer to those who want to stay in their bathing suit and work on their tan!

  • Guided Boat Tours – Hop on board a tour boat to see some of the resident marine life that we have to enjoy.  There’s a lot to choose from! There are motorboat tours, sailboat tours, and many more!
  • Marineland – This attraction has been open for some years, but has changed into a dolphin experience.  You can come and learn about these bright and funny creatures and also interact with them.
  • Pirate Ship – This family friendly activity is a great way to get out to see marine life – and have some fun doing it! By hopping aboard the “Black Raven”, you’re transported back into the early days of St. Augustine!
  • Jet Skis – A great way to explore the water is to rent a jet ski and have some fun.
  • Charter Boats – If you are into fishing and want to make sure you catch some great fish, check out one of the local charter boats. If you happen to be at the Conch House, go down to the marina’s first entrance and you’ll find a few of the various charters available in the area.

State Parks to Visit

There are three beautiful State Parks around St. Augustine that offer many fun and enriching things to do:

  • Anastasia – This extraordinary park has an abundant amount of exciting things to do such as; exploring hiking trails, bike riding, and boating (such as catamarans, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and surfboards). All boats can be rented at the park. Of course if you have a surfboard or boat of your own, you can launch it from within the park.  There is also geocaching, fishing, bird watching, swimming, shelling and picnicking. The park is also excellent for exploring the areas that were once used by the Spaniards. They used this area to obtain Coquina rock, the material used to build Fort Castillo de San Marcos.
  • Faver-Dykes The park is South of St. Augustine and it borders a state canoe trail.  Some of the things to do there are; canoeing, kayaking, birding, biking, boating, fishing, hiking, viewing wildlife and picnicking.
  • Washington Oaks Gardens – This is a beautiful formal garden which features a grand rose garden. It also contains a large amount of Coquina rock, just like Anastasia State Park. Biking, hiking, picnicking, and visiting the beach are all possible here.

All in all, St. Augustine is great for the nature lover in you! Come experience Florida’s wildlife with us at Beacher’s Lodge and make memories that will last a lifetime.

If you are visiting St. Augustine and love history, nature, wildlife, and water taxis – than we have the place for you. And best of all, it’s free!  Fort Matanzas is one of Florida’s National Monument jewels. This fort is not as widely known as its counterpart, the Castillo de San Marcos.  It is located about fifteen miles south of the Castillo de San Marcos, which resides in downtown St. Augustine. The National park itself spans three hundred acres and is a must see!  The Spanish created both forts that are within St. Augustine and both were constructed from coquina, but Fort Matanzas was placed just south of the Castillo to prevent an attack from the south inlet of the Matanzas River.

Fort Matanzas Visitors Center

The visitor’s center is where your trip will begin! When you first arrive at the visitor center you will be able to:

  • Watch a video – This lasts around eight minutes and helps to explain the history of this beautiful piece of history.
  • Enjoy Nature – Hike a trail that is around a half mile long. It travels within trees such as live oaks, red bays, cabbage palms, magnolias, and a lot of other vegetation and wildlife.  There is the possibility of seeing some of the resident great horned owls that have made this area their home. Within this park, there are many different ecosystems with a great variety of animal life such as birds, turtles, manatees, bottlenose dolphins, snakes, beach mice, deer and foxes, just to name a few.  Some of the species that you might see are listed on the National endangered list.
  • See Demonstrations and Reenactments – Often you will have the opportunity to see what it was like for those that lived during the time that this fort was in use, with reenactments and displays that will help bring history to life.

The Water Taxi

To reach fort mantanzas itself, you will have to board a water taxi to cross the river to the Island of Rattlesnake, which is just a rock skip away.  Just know that you will have to obtain a pass for your entire group in the visitors center before you can board. The taxi leaves every half hour starting from nine thirty in the morning to four thirty in the afternoon.  You will not be able to reserve a seat either, as it is based on a first come, first served system.

Fort Matanzas

Once you step off the water taxi and you’re out on Rattlesnake Island, you can then experience the fort, which is over 275 years-old.  You will be able to explore the following:

  • Entrance – To enter the fort you will have to climb up a staircase onto the gun deck, where you will see cannons, the sentry box, the cistern and the soldier’s quarters.
  • Officer’s Quarters -The next level up is the officer’s quarters, gunpowder room and food storage.
  • Observation level – This level is only accessible via ladder, where you have an incredible view of the surrounding area.

Once you have completed your trek into the fort, you and the water taxi group that you went with will once again board the ferry back to the visitors center. The Rangers and staff welcome any questions that you might have about the fort itself or the area in which it is located.  The time that it takes to view the fort and the surrounding area depends on how much you want to explore.

Once you are finished learning at the visitor’s center and immersing yourself in the history of the fort, you can cross the road to a quaint beach area where there are no vehicles allowed – this way you can enjoy all that nature has to offer and make a day of your visit! Guests at Beacher’s Lodge can experience this beautiful National Park, just four miles south on A1A.  Even though this park does not take up a whole day, it is well worth seeing. If you can first go through the Castillo de San Marcos Fort, you will honestly understand the remarkable vision that the Spanish had for creating this small, but crucial Fort for the safety and livelihood of the area.  So, what are you waiting for? Take some time out of your busy life and enjoy what there is to offer in and around St. Augustine!

It’s that time of year once again in St. Augustine; it’s Easy Season!  During the month of September, the oldest city in America enjoys and celebrates this time of year by making it easy for you to relax and enjoy all there is to offer.  If you haven’t had the chance to experience this particular season, we invite you to come and enjoy all that there is to do!

Moreover, if you have been fortunate enough in the past to participate in Easy Season, we welcome you back, as each year there is something new and unique to experience.  Whether you can only visit one day or you’re lucky enough to stay longer during this season, there is so much to appreciate that it is hard to take it all in with only one visit. The selections are just unbelievable!

Entertainment in St. Augustine

Easy Season is all about the music! There’s an unbelievable amount of amazing artists that turn St. Augustine into the new music city.  Each venue that hosts these concerts has a charm that adds to the fun and creative atmosphere.  The month of September is when the Sing Out Loud Festival happens and it features resident, regional, and national singers and songwriters.  There will be over two hundred acts, with a wide variety of styles to choose from. All of these shows will be presented over the course of twenty-three days at seventeen different locations around the area. Best of all – all but one of the shows are completely free!

Venues

Performances and locations are as follows:

  • St. Augustine Amphitheatre – Ten Performances over Four Days
    • The only Performance that will have a charge is the September 22nd showcase, as there is a minimum donation that is required of $25.00 that benefits the Betty Griffin Center, whose mission it is to stop domestic violence and sexual abuse.
  • The Front Porch at The St. Augustine Amphitheatre – Eight Performances over Two Days
  • The Backyard at The St. Augustine Amphitheatre – Four Performances in One Day
  • Colonial Oak – Forty-Seven Performances over Eight Days
  • Sarbez – Forty-Eight Performances over Nine Days
  • Limelight Theatre – Comedy and Poetry Performances over Two Days
  • Dog Rose Brewing – Fifteen Performances over Eight Days
  • Growers Alliance – Three Performances over Two Days
  • Bokeh Bar – Twelve Performances over Six Days
  • Nobby’s – Twenty-Seven Performances over Six Days
  • Odd Birds – Four Performances over Four Days
  • Meehan’s Irish Pub – Thirteen Performances over Ten Days
  • Prohibition Kitchen – Nine Performances over Four Days
  • Plum Gallery – Forty-Two Performances over Six Days
  • Push Push Salon – Four Performances in One Day
  • Community First Credit Union St. Johns Branch – One Performance
  • Ocean Avenue Sports Bar – Six Performances over Four Days
  • The Corazon – Sing Out Loud Panel Discussion in One Day
  • Ponte Vedra Concert Hall – Three Performances in One Day

With over thirty-five headlining artists exhibiting, St. Augustine has posted a great YouTube web page where you can listen to many of these talented singers or groups ahead of time, which can be helpful if you want to familiarize yourself with the artists.  If you are interested in this, click on the above St. Augustine link.

There are plenty of places that have live entertainment every day, so you don’t have to miss out on listening to some great music if your schedule is tight.  Some of the larger venues, such as the St. Johns County Ocean Pier Park, hold a sequence of concerts on Wednesdays each week from May to September. St. Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitucion offers their shows every Thursday from May to August.

Along with all of the sites to see and actives to enjoy there are many eateries and restaurants to visit, and many of these places have live entertainment included for free for all to appreciate. In and around St. Augustine there are also two wineries and three breweries to help wet your whistle. Most of them provide daily entertainment as well.

There are many things to do around St. Augustine, so what are you waiting for?  This event only comes around once a year, and the crowds are much lighter during the end of the summer, and it starts to be just a tad cooler so that you can enjoy the sunshine a bit longer into the year!

So isn’t it time you treat yourself to some much-needed downtime with us during Easy Season?  Beacher’s Lodge is the perfect place to do just that: relax, unwind and enjoy all there is to do in and around St. Augustine!

Some of the perks of living in Florida are the tropical climate, ocean breezes in the evening, beautiful sunsets, and the magnificent beaches all around us. The ocean is one of the things we cherish the most, and protecting it should be something we all do. It’s our responsibility to think about it’s longevity, so the generations after us can enjoy it as well. One big aspect of preserving the ocean and it’s beaches, is caring for the marine life that is a part of its ecosystem. One beloved marine animal that is in danger is the sea turtle.

What Do You Know About Turtles?

For centuries turtles have roamed the ocean. Although now an endangered species, these majestic looking and gentle creatures are responsible for keeping the ocean healthy.  Turtles play an important part of ocean preservation by grazing on seagrass, controlling sponge distribution, feasting on jellyfishes, transporting nutrients, and supporting other marine life. During the summer months turtles come to Florida to breed and lay their eggs. Florida is one of the most important nesting areas in the United States, and one of the most frequented areas in Florida for turtles to nest is St. Augustine.  

We talk so much about St. Augustine’s history that we forget all the wonderful wildlife that it has to offer! Who would’ve thought this old city would be a favorite area for some of the main nesting sea turtles?  During the day St. Augustine beach goers enjoy the water and sun, but at night the sea turtles come to shore to find a place to make their nest and lay their eggs.

Many Florida beaches welcome more than 100,000 female sea turtles! The most common species of turtles that build their nests in Florida are Loggerhead turtles, Green turtles, and Leatherback turtles. Let’s start with the Loggerhead, as its the most commonly seen on our shores.

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle

LoggerHead Sea Turtle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Loggerhead is the most common turtle found on Florida shores. The loggerhead gets its name from its large, wide head and powerful jaws. It is classified as a threatened species. Its estimated that as many as 68,000 Loggerhead nests are found in Florida each year!

The Leatherback Sea Turtle

Leatherback Sea Turtle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leatherback females undertake the longest breeding migration of any other turtle species.

Fun fact: this turtle has survived the test of evolution. This turtle is part of the family of dermochelyidae, which has 7 extinct groups of turtles and only one

surviving branch. This group boasts the largest living sea turtle ever recorded!

The Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Sea Turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among the different species. Green Turtles are in fact named for the greenish color of their cartilage and fat, not their shells.

Nesting

Sea turtle nesting season occurs in Florida from March 1st through October 31st.

Sea turtles lay their eggs on the sand at night. They lay their eggs in the sand because it is warm, and acts as an incubator.  It’s not an easy task though. Female turtles come to the shores to make their nesting burrows and cover them up with sand, dirt, and mud. They use lower dunes to nest their eggs. They deposit an average of 100 eggs in each nest and make between 3 to 7 nests during the nesting season. From there the incubation time varies, but the average time is around two months before hatching occurs. After laying their eggs, the female turtle’s job is done and they go back to sea. So, baby turtles will have to fight to survive on their own.

Baby Sea Turtles

Baby turtles, called hatchlings, will hatch between 40 to 70 days of being laid.  When they are still in the shell, a group of hatchlings is called clutch. Watching hatchlings struggle out of their nest and make it into the water is a dramatic and emotional experience. Hatchlings will wait until the sand cools at night before going into the water to float in beds of seaweeds for several years.  This is not an easy task, as they face many obstacles to get there. The challenges begin as soon as they leave their nests. From crabs, driftwood, to tourists, the odds are against them. This gauntlet is important for their survival, interestingly enough. It is estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood. The odds are 1000:1 against a baby sea turtle living long enough to reproduce!

To help baby turtles beat the odds there are some things that you can do:

  • Turn off the lights: If you are in a nesting area, turn off any lights! The hatchlings use whitecaps and the moonlight reflecting on the water to guide them to sea. Other light sources including flashlights, flash cameras, fireworks, campfires and light from beach houses disorient them.
  • Smooth the sand: When you’re the size of a baby sea turtle, sand castles and moats can be life-threatening obstacles. Knock them down or fill them in, along with any other obstacles that could stand between the babies and the sea.
  • Clear the beach: Pack up your trash, furniture and belongings before leaving the beach for the day. These are more challenges for the turtles to overcome.

What Do You Do If You See A Sea Turtle Nest?

Follow the rules. If you decide on a solo turtle-viewing, PLEASE keep these official do’s and don’ts in mind:

All Florida’s sea turtles, nests and hatchlings are threatened or endangered species protected under Federal and state law. Do not disturb them. If you find an injured or dead turtle, call Florida Fish and Wildlife at 888-404-3922 or just dial *FWC and provide the animal’s location, closest access point and approximate size. If you see spray paint, it’s a documented turtle.

To be on the safe side, you should consider joining the many places having events that show you the right and safest way to enjoy watching this wonderful act of nature without fear of harming the turtles or hatchlings.

Anastasia State Park hosts a presentation about the sea turtles that can be found at the park on Saturday, October 20, 2018, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.

This talk will include all the fascinating facts about sea turtles — how to identify them, how they nest and hatch, and how we can help them survive the many dangers they encounter on our beaches. This free program is family friendly and will take place at the Sea Turtle Pavilion near the Island Beach Grill. For more information, call (904) 461-2033 or visit here.
Admission: The Sea Turtle Talk is free with regular park admission: $8 per vehicle with up to 8 people, $4 per vehicle with one occupant, and $2 for pedestrians/bicyclists.

Come be a part of this wonderful turtle experience. Enjoy the sites and be a part of the effort to preserve some of our most beautiful and oldest sea friends.

St. Augustine is America’s first city. As such, it has a rich history with plenty of monuments located throughout town. As a guest of Beacher’s Lodge, you can enjoy these historic locations and learn about how St. Augustine became the thriving city that it is today. Here are some of our favorite places to check out.

The Lighthouse

The lighthouse is one of St. Augustine’s most popular attractions. During the day, the lighthouse is open from 9 AM to 6 PM with behind the scenes tours happening from 11-3. In the evenings, a special ghost tour takes place, featuring some of the area’s most shocking history. While the museum and views of the lighthouse are truly spectacular, be prepared to climb the 219 steps to the top if you want to see the Bay!

The Oldest House, Store, and Jail

Aside from the lighthouse, you may be surprised to find that the city has also done a remarkable job of protecting St. Augustine’s original architecture as well. You can tour the very first house, general store, and jail. You will learn about how these buildings were constructed, and some of the families who made a name for themselves in the area at that time.

The Fountain of Youth

The Fountain of Youth is an extravagant park built to commemorate Ponce de Leon and his arrival in St. Augustine. This landmark will take you all the way back to the year 1513 as you take a wild journey through the legend of the Fountain of Youth. This is a perfect attraction for people of all ages to enjoy living history and an incredible story all at once.

The Prohibition Kitchen

Residing in a true to form speakeasy of historical fame, the Prohibition Kitchen is the perfect way to punctuate your day with a delicious meal. You will be surrounded by the imagery and legacy of what it meant to live on the edge during the Prohibition era. While the food is that of a modern gastropub, the environment will truly take you back to that most contentious period of American history. St. Augustine is a city alive with many trails back to its earliest history. The city features some of the most well-preserved architecture and landmarks in the United States. When you book your stay at Beacher’s Lodge, you have access to all of these incredible attractions and a chance to explore what makes St. Augustine, America’s first city, so legendary!

When it comes to keeping the whole family busy for a day in St. Augustine, the Alligator Farm is the place to be. This gigantic zoological park is full of fascinating critters, including some of the largest alligators, you will ever see up close and personal. Here are a few of the things you’ll find at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

Getting to Know the Gators

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm is one of the only places in the world that you can see every known living member of the crocodilian family. With exhibits spread throughout the park, you can meet a wide range of different gators and crocodiles, including some of our longest living celebrity gators. Many of these alligators will put on a show for our guests during the day, so you can appreciate their power and strength.

Other Animals

While the Alligator Farm is best known for their crocodilians, they actually provide homes for dozens of other unique animals as well. You can explore a variety of saltwater reptiles and amphibians, check out some tropical birds, and explore a whole exhibit dedicated to Florida’s natural wildlife. If you’re really brave, you can enter the Python cave and discover some of the world’s most dangerous reptiles.

The Zipline

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try out one of the Alligator Farm’s two zip line courses. They have an easy and a hard level, with the harder level lasting up to 90 minutes as you fly over the park. These courses are challenging, but they will give you a birds-eye view of the entire park like you’ve never seen before.

Daily Shows

In addition to all of the great exhibits at the Alligator Farm, the expert staff also put on a handful of incredible wildlife shows throughout the day. Enjoy the intensity of the Alligator Feeding show as the gators jump out of the water to catch their lunch, or sit back and watch the Rainforest Review full of brightly colored birds and other interesting animals. There are even child-friendly shows where the kids can pet some of the animals after they perform.

The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine is truly a marvel of science and exploration. If you want to learn everything there is to know about these magnificent creatures, the Alligator Farm is the place to go. You and the kids can explore, learn, and even pet the animals in some demonstrations. The best part is, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm is located just 8 miles away from Beacher’s Lodge so you can make the most of your stay!