Where: St. Augustine, north-east Florida, USA
When: Founded in 1565
History: The oldest European settlement in America which was central in the wars between the Spanish, French, and British
Remember to bring: Your smelling salts to bring you round in after a face-to-face encounter with one of St. Augustine’s many resident ghosts
Where it’s at
St Augustine is a thriving multicultural city with a wealth of history that encompasses Spanish, English, Greek, Minorcan (Mediterranean settlers), Native American, and African American influences. Four centuries of history give the city a sense of romance that is embraced in its main attractions: the colonial Spanish quarter where history is re-enacted as a living museum, the marina with its views out to sea, and the Spanish Military Hospital where you may find yourself coming face-to-face with one of its ghostly former residents.
History of St. Augustine
St Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States. Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles first sighted the coast of Florida on August 28th, the Feast Day of Saint Augustine, 1565. It was here that the Spanish conquistadors built their settlement and continued to rage wars with the French and British including Sir Francis Drake.
In 1866, Lincolnville in St. Augustine became home to the first freed community of black slaves, and it historically remained a center for the eradication of racial segregation between white and black communities. The African American tradition is still alive and kicking in St. Augustine and if you are able to witness a traditional baptism it’s definitely worth it.
Visiting St. Augustine Today
Spanish colonial history
The era of 1740 in St Augustine is recreated in the Spanish Colonial Quarter where you can experience how the soldiers, their families, and the tradesmen who serviced them lived. A perfect example of the Spanish colonial architecture is typified in the Castillo de San Marcos. This stone fortress was built in 1672 and its defences are superb. The walls, twelve feet thick in places, protected the town’s people against the attack of the British. The walls were so strong that the British canon balls bounced off the walls.
The town is believed to be home to a sizeable community of ghosts. The Spanish Military Hospital is one of the sites thought to be most haunted. Tales are told of soldiers treated in the hospital who had their legs amputated with crude saws (now on display) without anaesthetic, who died howling in the night from raging infections. Their ghosts now roam the hospital. It’s worth a visit, if you dare…
Hit the beach
After a long day’s sightseeing, you’ll probably want to head to one of the many beaches on offer around the city; there are 43-miles of pristine beach to choose from. It’s easy to see why this spot was favoured by the Spanish for settlement.
St Augustine Visitors Convention Bureau
88 Ribeira Street, Suite 400
St Augustine FL 320843, USA
Telephone: 001 800 653 2489
Spanish Military Hospital
3 Aviles St
FL 32084, USA
On the site of the Hospital of our Lady of Guadalupe which was active during the Spanish Colonial Period from 1784 to 1821. Today, you can take an eerie candlelit tour and learn about some of the gory medical tools that were used on the suffering soldiers who are said to still haunt the premises.
By Faye Welborn