Some of my most precious memories come from the time I spent in St. Augustine. My parents moved there when I was fifteen; it was 1972. My brothers and I grew up predominately in the mid-west so moving to St. Augustine was quite a change for us. We had no idea what it was like to live in a beach town. It was definitely a learning experience for all of us, one that I would not trade.
Dad had put in for a transfer to Florida; he was a district manager for a large corporation and he traveled all over. My parents picked St. Augustine because of my brother who is deaf. They have a wonderful school there, the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. We had moved a couple other times in the past to find my brother the right schools and this one was one of the best. He still loves to go back to his old alma mater and reunite with old friends.
My oldest brother already had his license so we went out for a drive the first week we were there. In those days you could still drive on the beach; so we did… in my dad’s Chrysler New Yorker. I’m not really a car person, I don’t remember the year but it was from the 60’s and it was a tank. Needless to say we got stuck in the sand and some good old boys happened by in their pick up to tow us out. We were way out of our element. My dad did realize what we were up against and it wasn’t very long after when he brought home a Volkswagen. He worked for a large automobile corporation and found great deals all the time. (It was a blessing and a curse; you should have seen the car he almost bought for me to use the year I got my license!)
We didn’t live on the beach, sort of out in the county, but nothing was really far in St. Augustine. I mean, if you can leave the high school and make it to the beach in ten or fifteen minutes that my friend is the life. I fell in love with St. Augustine beach (on Anastasia Island), the white sand, the sea shells, the blue skies, and the perfect breeze coming off the water. To get to this beach you had to cross over the beautiful Bridge of Lions, a drawbridge or lift bridge that went over the inlet between St. Augustine proper and Anastasia Island. If a large craft was coming through, it would take awhile to get across but it was just beautiful to watch. It was the only way to get over to the island so everyone had to wait. I understand they have an alternate route now but I would still travel via this beautiful bridge if I were there today.
I had a bit of a learning curve on how long to stay out (especially without sun screen) the first several times I went to the beach. There’s nothing like a good burn to teach you this valuable lesson. It was my favorite place to be when I was able to drive. If I wasn’t in school I was there. I could walk for miles just listening to the waves and walking through the surf. I didn’t know until I left Florida in my twenties that women got pedicures. I couldn’t understand why; I never had any problems. Oh the beauty of a walk in the sand!
I met a fella in school and we started dating. He was a surfer and he took me to VilanoBeach because the waves were better there. It was a totally different kind of beach than St. Augustine because of the sand. It is predominately made up of Coquina shells; it’s kind of tricky to walk on but it has an irresistible charm all of its own. I started enjoying my days there as well. It was a quieter beach; the waves were larger, and made a wonderful crashing sound as they came rolling in. The dunes were full of vegetation and you could kind of hide yourself away in a secluded part and get lost in a book. This was a necessity because, unless you’ve ever been around a surfer, they can surf literally for hours and you never even speak. It was all good and oh, so peaceful.
Early on I learned there was a street called St. George Street where the all awesome clothes shops were located in my day. In those days, the only other place to shop was one discount super store on the outskirts of town; we didn’t have a mall yet. St. George Street had the most wonderful little shops with the great personalized service that you don’t often get today. They offered unique styles that you couldn’t find if you traveled to the nearest big city, which was Jacksonville. The mall clothes were great but I loved the specialty items that you could only find on St. George Street. After going shopping my girlfriends (or boyfriend) and I would walk down the street to get delicious ice cream or candies. I remember Whetstone’s Candy had the best chocolates and there was the Spanish Bakery that you could smell all the way down the street. There’s nothing better than a street with ice cream, chocolate, and hot, fresh out-of-the-oven breads and pastries!
You could spend all day once you get started. Historic St. Augustine is just a short walk away. We would walk over there and check out the candle makers, the leather tannery, and all the old time shops. The Oldest School House in the country is a tiny little school house located in the midst of these shops; it’s a wonderful walk down cobblestone streets. It makes you feel as if you’ve stepped back in history for just a little while. There are so many interesting things to see. I’ve since taken my children back to St. Augustine and they loved to see the shops keep making their wares the old timey way. It’s really a neat experience.
Across the street on the bay front was the Old Fort, Castillo de San Marcos. My brothers and I loved to go there from time to time and check out the living quarters and the dungeons. It’s a beautiful old fort, very large, with a tremendous view from the top of the bay. The huge cannons that sit facing the bay’s entrance were there to stop the enemy from entering. They had done a good job from what I understand and were still poised and waiting. We loved imagining what it was like in those days and always commented that we were glad we didn’t live then! And that was the 70’s! Compared to what the kids have now, we had nothing!
There were so many sights to see in St. Augustine that you could never run out of things to do. My friends and I would frequent the Old Jail, The Fountain of Youth, The Alligator Farm, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and Marineland which is a little ways from town. I don’t know if it’s still true but when I was in high school, if you lived in St. Augustine, you could get in for free. This made it easy for all the townies to visit all these places on a regular basis.
St. Augustine Light House is a gorgeous and well kept up old light house. There were some tennis courts near there when I was a teen and we played there often. I always made a point to stop in and see the old light house when I was there. It sits on the shore where you can climb to the top and see all the beauty of the beaches below. They have a museum and allow you to tour the old keeper’s house. He was quite a colorful fellow from what I recall. The walk to the top of the light house will certainly keep you on your toes!
Being a teen in St. Augustine was quite a treat, especially when it came to dating. There was hardly a spot in town that wasn’t oozing with romance. A walk on the bay front at night with the lights dancing off the water, this was especially beautiful on the fourth of July when they set off the fireworks display every year. Taking a stroll on the St. Augustine Yacht Pier was always a lovely ending to a date back in my day. All the beautiful Yacht’s and the water…. Hmm, such nice memories! Every year they have the Holiday Regatta of Lights in December. All the boats, whether yacht, shrimp boat, or dingy would decorate and light up their vessels with beautiful colors. They would go up and down the bay front showing off their boats to win the prize for the best in show! What beauty, along with the smell of the ocean and the fun of the crowds, it was always a treat. The yacht pier is right next to one of my favorite sights, the Bridge of Lions (named for the guardians at each end of the bridge). It was such a treat spending my teen years in St. Augustine.
It’s a place I would recommend to anyone as a wonderful get away. If you are a family, a couple, or just want to comb the beach, it has something for everyone. St. Augustine has great restaurants, lovely beaches, beautiful sights, and multiple attractions. If you want somewhere to go that has it all, this is a place I would highly recommend.
About the Author
Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to www.nanny.net/ service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be contacted at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.