Image: St. Augustine lighthouse
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St. Augustine is a city brimming with intriguing history and has the looks to match, travel columnist Pauline Frommer writes.
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updated 2/20/2007 12:13:44 PM ET 2007-02-20T17:13:44

Move over, Miles Standish. The Pilgrims and the Jamestown settlers were mere arrivistes on the American colonial scene compared with the settlers who made St. Augustine, Florida their home in 1562—over 45 years before the Jamestown folks, and nearly 60 years before the Pilgrims smacked into Plymouth Rock. Passed like a football back and forth between nations, from the French Huguenots to the Spanish to the Brits back to the Spanish and finally to the Americans, St. Augustine is a city brimming with intriguing history. And it has the looks to match, many of its streets and aged buildings more like those you’d find in a European city than a Florida beach town. One day here will give you just enough time to walk its old-timey neighborhoods, hear a ghost story or two, and work on your tan.

8 a.m. - 9 a.m.: Head to the beach for breakfast. At the Beachcomber Restaurant , your oversized pancakes come with a side of surfing, as you watch the dudes Hang 10 from your picnic table on the open-air deck. Honest, simple food, great views.

9 a.m. - noon: Steep yourself in oddities and treasures at the Lightner Museum , a “Victoriana” collection set in a majestic, 1889 hotel (the former Alcazar, built by Henry Flagler).  Dragonfly Tiffany lamps, neo-classical rocking chairs (gilded in gold), cut glass, stuffed birds, an Egyptian mummy and more dazzling sights are placed side by side in this oversized cabinet of curiosities. Be sure to foot it to the automated musical instruments room at 11am for a clanging concert like none you’ve heard before. Consider also taking a tour of the opulent, former Ponce de Leon Hotel across the street, now a part of Flagler College . It boasts marvelous Tiffany stained glass windows, gold-leaf daubed murals, and eye-candy Spanish Renaissance architecture.

Morning Alternative
Catch some rays, and perhaps a fish. Deep-sea fishing excursions are available in half-day increments at the Sea Love Marina .

Noon - 2 p.m.: Ditch your diet for an orgy of fried foods at O’Steen’s Restaurant . Butterflied fried shrimp, so large they almost resemble chicken legs, are the specialty here, flanked  by pole beans and a secret pink sauce that adds just the right note of zest to these greaseless morsels. Get ready for a wait, though, as O’Steen’s is outrageously popular and doesn’t accept reservations.

2 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Stroll. Make your way to the lighthouse and up to the top for panoramic views of the city and sea. Duck into the Oldest House , built between 1702 and 1727, and its attached museum. Join the costumed “old timers” as they demonstrate a raft of colonial crafts at the Colonial Spanish Quarter and Spanish Quarter Museum .

Afternoon Alternative
Prefer putting to history? The World Golf Hall of Fame should be your pick. Along with a high tech museum celebrating professional golfers and the game itself, are a number of putting greens, several 18 hole golf courses, and even a challenge hole sitting on a small island in the middle of the village’s central lake that you can slam balls at. Imax movies (yikes, they make that tiny golf ball looks huge!) are screened in the village, which also boasts golf paraphernalia, equipment and clothing shops; restaurants; and even a hotel for those who can’t tear themselves away from the greens.

6 p.m. - 8 p.m.: Chow down at the Gypsy Cab Co., an unpretentious, art-filled place that serves the most creative cuisine in town. Mediterranean, Cajun, German, Italian, Asian, “Floribbean”—you’ll find all of these influences on the menu, which changes nightly. Some examples of what that might mean (the choices change nightly): a moist pork chop with mango and sundried cherry chutney; or a plate of mahi mahi with tamari and garlic ginger butter. Be sure to get a salad: the dressing’s so tasty, they bottle it and sell it up front.

8 p.m. - 10 p.m.: As all of us should know by now, regime change can be a bloody, bloody affair. And there are  no places in the US that have seen as much governmental change as St. Augustine, which ping-ponged back and forth between nations for centuries. On a Ghost Tour   of the city, you’ll learn all about the city’s gory, grizzly history, pacing the streets where entire families were executed. It’s a fascinating tour, even if you haven’t believed in ghosts since you stopped reading Caspar comics.

10 p.m. - on: If you’re not ready to go to bed, follow the sounds of foot-stomping music to the Milltop Tavern , which features live bands nightly in a former 19th century mill (check out the wheel out front). A locals’ fave, it boasts one of the liveliest nightlife scenes in town.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommerguides in bookstores now. Her book, Pauline Frommer's New York, was named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.

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Beachcomber Restaurant is at the end of A Street just of AIA Beach Boulevard (it can be a bit hard to find) at St. Augustine Beach. Phone number is 904/471-3744.

Lightner Museum, 75 King St At Granada St, phone 904/824-2874; Open daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (last tour 4 p.m.). Admission $8 adults, $2 students with ID and children 12-18.

Flagler College, formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel, offers tours twice daily. For full information call 904/823-3378 or visit

Sea Love Marina, 250 Vilano Rd. (Fla. A1A N.), at the eastern end of the Vilano Beach Bridge (tel. 904/824-3328; Half day tours cost about $50/person.

O’Steen’s Restaurant, 205 Anastasia Blvd, phone 904/829-6974. Closed Sundays, cash and travelers checks only.

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, 81 Lighthouse Ave off Fla. A1A east of the Bridge of Lions, phone 904/829-0745;  Daily 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Admission to museum and tower $6.95 adults, $5.95 seniors, $4.50 children 7-11, free for kids under 7 and all active-duty and retired military personnel 

Oldest House, 14 St. Francis St at Charlotte St, phone 904/824-2872; Open daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; tours depart every half-hour (last tour at 4:30pm). Admission $6 adults, $5.50 seniors 55 and over, $4 students, free for children under 6; $12 families

Colonial Spanish Quarter and Spanish Quarter Museum, 33 St. George St between Cuna and Orange sts, phone 904/825-6830;, Daily 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (last entry at 4:30 p.m.). Admission $7 adults, $6 seniors, $4 students 6-18, free for children 5 and under; $13 per family.

World Golf Hall of Fameis at 21 World Golf Place, at Exit 95A off I 95,  phone 904/940-4123; Museum admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and students, and $10 for children 5 to 12. IMAX tickets range from $9 to $14 for adults, $7.50 to $12 for seniors and students, and $5 to $9 for children. Combination tickets to both are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors and students, and $11 for children. A round on the putting green costs $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, and $5 for children. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Gypsy Cab Co., 828 Anastasia Blvd at Ingram Street; phone 904-824-8244;

Ghost Tours of St. Augustine, phone 904/829-1122,

Milltop Tavern, 19 1/2 St. George St., at the Fort, phone 904/829-2329. Music daily from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommerguides in bookstores now. Her book, Pauline Frommer's New York, was named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.

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