Ponce de Leon discovered Florida when he landed in what is now known as St. Augustine in 1513, which makes Florida 500 years old this year. The city of St. Augustine was founded and established in 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles and is the oldest “permanently occupied European settlement”.
We stayed on St. Augustine Beach, which is across a bridge from the city. The campground had various boardwalks which gave us easy access to the beach. And, since Hector was still wearing a boot on his foot and Angel was still a little shaky in her walking, that was a very good thing. In fact, Angel really enjoyed going to the beach and spent some time “convalescing” there.
We’d been planning to purchase kayaks, and after lots of research found an outdoor store and kayak specialist that carried the kayaks we wanted and the car rack components we would need to add in Jacksonville, an hour away. The forecast called for rain so we set out for Jacksonville. We tested our kayaks in a lake behind the store (between rain showers). And Hector got the salesperson to purchase our roof box in the transaction, as we’d no longer have room for it.
Luckily, (most) of the rain held off while we emptied the contents of our roof box into the back seat, the staff reconfigured our rack system and added a new rack to the back, But we drove back to St. Augustine in a driving rain storm.
We spent the next day figuring out where to put all of the stuff that had previously lived in our roof box and was now filling the back seat of our car. And the answer, as it has been before was: part goes in the motor home, part goes in the car, part goes to Goodwill and part gets shipped back home. This meant laying everything out on our campsite and hoping it didn’t rain that day (it didn’t). That afternoon we still had a little time to walk to the beach for a bit.
The original watchtower was built in the late 1500’s which makes this the site of the oldest aid to navigation in North America. The watchtower became a lighthouse in 1824, but a new tower was completed in 1874 in a less vulnerable location, just before the old tower fell during a storm in 1880. That new tower is now St. Augustine’s oldest surviving brick structure.
The Junior Service League of St. Augustine restored the tower and the Keepers’ House, which had been destroyed by fire in 1970. The Keepers’ house is now a museum of the history of the lighthouse and its Keepers. These were very hearty and resilient people.
On a short trolley tour of St. Augustine we saw the city’s oldest cemetery, the old city gates, the fort, whose construction began in 1672 and was completed in 1696 and Flagler College, which was previously a luxury hotel. Henry Flagler, a self-made millionaire, who founded the Standard Oil Company in partnership with John D. Rockefeller wanted to make St. Augustine the South’s playground for the rich and famous. He built the Flagler Hotel, a luxury hotel, and hired an inventor named Thomas Edison to bring electricity to his hotel.
Walking around the city’s cobblestone streets revealed other “oldest” structures including the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. The first structure was built in the 1560’s, but this, along with multiple subsequent structures were destroyed by fires (from attacks on the Spanish by the English) and weather. The current structure was completed in 1797.
And, before leaving St. Augustine, we launched our new kayaks (still nameless) and paddled over to the outside of the fort. It was pretty windy and choppy when we got out to the open water around the fort. We were the only boats just on the outside of the fort so the tourists were waving to us as we paddled around. It was definitely a different perspective seeing the fort from the water.