“The aspect of St. Augustine is quaint and strange, in harmony with its romantic history. It has no pretensions to architectural richness or beauty; and yet it is impressive from its unlikeness to any thing else in America

-Harriet Beecher Stowe

My sons and I recently went looking for things to do in St. Augustine and spent a hot day on Matanzas Bay exploring the history, pattern, construction methods, textures, and fixtures of Castillo de San Marcos. Built in 1672, it’s the oldest and largest masonry fort in the US.

The fort changed hands six times over its history, always peacefully and never by force. The National Park staff relays interesting stories of when, time and again, officers with the mandate to fight didn’t for various reasons over the years. It’s a fascinating history, spanning many conflicts, which you can read about here.

My morning was spent studying the design-related aspects as well as the color and texture created by the aging of construction materials and furnishings.

Castillo de San Marcos – Texture, Materials, & Construction

I have a passion for texture and natural materials, the site does not disappoint. The fort is built of coquina from nearby Anastasia Island (worthy of a spot on any “Things to Do in St. Augustine” list in its own right); a stone formed by sedimentation of ancient shells. You can clearly see the shells in the stone.

Castillo de San Marcos – Furnishings, Fixtures, & Cannons

I adore doors and shutters, and the colors on these are divine. These were the perfect grey and a shade of anything-but-basic black, as well as a rustic white door I’d buy on the spot if it weren’t priceless.

I now have visions (delusions?) of building my own doors next time we buy a house. I’m obsessed with these black arched doors on giant hinges and imagining them in a master bathroom, pool house, or studio. I also have ideas about recreating the soldiers’ quarters as a bunkhouse and playroom in the attic for grandchildren someday. (All this, of course, in the old house I haven’t found yet.)

The patina on the cannon is a shade of turquoise only nature can produce; the softness of the worn, smooth wood on the soldiers’ beds is difficult to describe and capture on camera. These are the work of years of use and wear; finishes impossible to replicate. They are, for me, the things that make antiques and old houses so irresistible.

Things to Do In St. Augustine – Lunch at “The Gem of Spanish Restaurants”

We spend a lot of time in Tampa, so we know Columbia is always a solid choice. The St. Augustine location is so pretty and the “buzz” of the music and lunch crowd is just enough to be casual without being too busy. The service is flawless, our waitress’ recommendations were spot on. We waited out the rainstorm over Cuban sandwiches, salads, and tapas, I could happily sit there all afternoon.

Things to Do in St. Augustine – Cathedral Basilica

Even visiting as a child, I felt the city held a certain mystique. Downtown is anchored by the fort on one end and Flagler College rises imposingly over the other. St. Augustine is different than other Florida cities I’ve wandered, the European influence is evident in the buildings and food. The detail in the architecture is exceptional. There’s a bit of a Key West vibe with the laid back ambiance of New Orleans, but everything about it is uniquely St. Augustine and you never escape the feeling there’s much history to be discovered here.

Cathedral Basilica is the oldest Christian congregation in the United States. I only had time to explore briefly before the rain started, unfortunately.

Things to Do In St. Augustine – Tacos & Haircuts

We ended our visit with a yummy taco Tuesday at Burrito Works and the boys stopped for haircuts at Price’s, one of the coolest barbershops we’ve been to (we happen to be barbershop aficionados).

We never even made it to the beach this trip, there was too much to see. Here’s to next time…

Let me know what you love about St. Augustine, we’ll definitely be back! If you’d like more stories and photos of our wanderings, you’ll find those here. Thanks for joining us on our journey!

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