St. Augustine was founded 42 years before the English colony at Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock—making it the oldest permanent European settlement on the continent. In the Colonial Quarter, wander through re-creations of 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-century settings, including the homes of soldiers, a blacksmith shop, and a print shop that published the colony’s newspaper.
The imposing 17th-century Castillo de San Marcos was constructed entirely of local coquina, a sedimentary rock composed of fragments of mollusk shells. This fortification and the original city gates are reminders of the Spanish Empire that once ruled these 500-year-old cobblestone streets. Balance your exploration with an escape to the beach to catch some rays and search for sharks’ teeth.