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History of St. Augustine - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Places to Visit

If you wish to spend the day away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando and it’s fantastic Theme Parks, what better way than to take a drive to St. Augustine. As the oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the United States, St. Augustine has played varied and prominent historic roles.

Juan Ponce de Leon, in search of the legendary Fountain of Youth, landed in this area around 1513, and took possession of the region for Spain. In 1565 King Phillip II sent Pedro Mendenez de Aviles to colonize the new territory. Mendenez de Aviles arrived in Florida on the Feast Day of St. Augustine and named the landing site after the saint.

Its location made the town both strategic and vulnerable. Pirates sacked St. Augustine in both the 16th and 17th centuries. Military importance soon came to the forefront as England extended its holdings southward down the coast. Spain responded by starting to build Castillo de San Marcos in 1672.

By the time St. Augustine was ceded to England in 1763, it had served as the seat of Government for 30 missions as well as for all Spanish possessions in the regions of Florida and coastal Georgia. During the Revolutionary War, British loyalists from adjacent states sought refuge in St. Augustine.

In 1873 in recognition of Spain’s assistance to the United States in its war against Britain, Florida was returned to Spain. Encouraged by Spanish land grants, many Americans moved onto property vacated by the English. Florida became a US possession in 1821, and during the Second Seminole War in the 1830s, St. Augustine resumed a military role.

The quiet coastal town came to life in the 1880s when Henry Flagler began to develop the area as a winter resort and playground. With a railway link provided from New York, plush hotels were built and leisure activities such as golf and yachting awaited the city’s guests.

Still preserving strong evidence of its Spanish origin, the Old City is being restored to a likeness of its colonial days: much of the historic area north of the Plaza de la Constitucion is complete. Typical Spanish houses, will walled patios, enclosing Old World gardens, line many narrow streets.

Tours of area attractions by horse drawn carriage depart from the bay front area next to Castillo de San Marcos.

Please note, if you visit, parking regulations are strictly enforced throughout the city. Yellow curbs are no-parking zones. There are several parking lots available.

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