Set a few miles inland from the Atlantic on the west bank of the Matanzas River, the town of St. Augustine was founded four centuries ago by adventurous Spaniards, America's oldest settlement continuously inhabited by Europeans. Though the Spaniards are gone, as is Ponce de Leon, who sought the Fountain of Youth locally (and unsuccessfully) and the resident population of about 12,000 is today largely comprised of U.S. Citizens (some of European descent of course), this small city has managed to preserve many of its historic buildings and quaint cobbled streets lending this East Coast destination an Old World charm that's hard to match anywhere else in the Sunshine State.
In addition to a thriving assortment of artists, St. Augustine is also home to more than 60 historically focused attractions, including living history museums and nationally noted sights like the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, which stands guard at the north end of town. Though St. Augustine's streets are imminently explorable independently, there are on offer through local operators a selection of guided tours to choose from should the need arise, from ghost tours and scenic river cruises to a trolley tour of area highlights. Other attractions include the magnificent Lightner Museum, the Museum of Weapons and the Old Florida Museum.
St. Augustine's history may be everywhere evident but don't let that lead you to believe the social scene is similarly dated. In addition to a number of atmospheric bars and restaurants find on hand a range of outdoor activities, most of them family-friendly. Anglers cast their lines right off the water-side piers, and rarely leave disappointed (fly-fishing is also popular), and there are plenty of area outfitters who run charter cruises out to the Atlantic. Parasailing and kite-boarding are increasingly popular off the Atlantic Ocean beaches a few miles east, though barring this much excitement nearby drive-on beaches are also suited for sun-bathing and body-boarding. Along the Intracoastal Waterway, motorboats, kayaks, sailboats (and the occasional noisy jet ski) are a relatively common sight; short your own water craft consider signing up for a kayak-based ecology tour with local operators.
St. Augustine is located approximately 40 miles south of Jacksonville on I-95.