Explore the Old World Charm of Historic St. Augustine
By Ronda M. Parag
As the oldest city in the U.S., St. Augustine offers more that 60 sites and attractions from the historic Castillo de San Marcos Fort to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum to the stunning design of local churches including the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, the oldest Roman Catholic parish in the U.S.
Between exploring the local sites, enjoying the beach or listening to live music while sipping on a cocktail, there is plenty of activity to be found. We recently escaped for a couple days in early March and found that shops, restaurants and attractions were open and welcoming visitors.
Step back in time with a stay at the luxury Casa Monica Resort & Spa, part of The Kessler Collection located in St. Augustine’s Historic District. The historic Spanish architecture has both Moorish and Spanish Baroque Revival influences with Moroccan frescos, stunning artwork and tapestries, and ornate chandeliers all evoke a mood to another era. Originally opened in 1888 as the Cordova Hotel, the hotel has an interesting history having been abandoned, reopened as the St. John’s County Courthouse, abandoned again until it was purchased and renovated to be apart of the Kessler collection. The rooms are classically furnished with plush velvet headboards and old-world charm. Guests also receive exclusive access to the nearby private Serenata Beach Club on Ponte Verda Beach to enjoy a relaxing day at beach or lounging poolside, plus access to the Palencia Golf Club.
For dining, the Ice Plant located in a 1920s industrial building is a scratch kitchen with cool atmosphere and a seasonal menu filled with a twist of familiar comfort foods and hand-crafted cocktails made with fresh squeezed juices and house-made syrups and artisanal spirits. The fried chicken with gravy and hoecakes and collard greens satisfied. In historic downtown, The Tini Martini Bar offers a grand selection of martinis, but get there early in the evening to avoid the line.
A must-try hotspot for dining and live music is the Prohibition Kitchen on St. George Street, offering up a selection of craft burgers and sandwiches and dinner selections of wahoo and grits, braised short ribs and St. Louis smoked ribs. Be sure to order one of the Hands-on Milkshakes. We liked the Hot Fudge Brownie with Bourbon, but also available with no alcohol. Great live music is playing most nights.
The sister restaurant next door, The Roosevelt Room, offers a delicious breakfast, lunch, brunch menu of savory dishes including Lobster Benedict, Corned Beef & Potatoes to the sweet Brûlée French Toast.
St. Augustine is less than a four hour drive from Tampa and offers an array of activities for the entire family or a romantic escape with 42 miles of pristine beaches, and golf and elegance in nearby Ponte Vedra. M
For information on things to do, places to stay or where to dine, visit www.floridashistoriccoast.com.
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