I felt very fortunate to be able to visit St. Augustine, Florida. This is a city rich in history and culture. The locals here are proud of their status as the Oldest Established City in United States and are welcoming of tourist. Before we made the trip to St. Augustine, we searched the internet for things to do and “Pet Friendly”. We read on several sites that St. Augustine was an extremely dog friendly city, so we took our beloved dog along for the trip. However, we found that this was not necessarily true!
We drove into the heart of downtown St. Augustine and parked in a public parking garage for the day. We walked through many streets of the downtown area on a self guided tour of our own making. There are many historic signs along the way and even more photo opportunities. The most notable historic part of our travels was Juan Ponce De Leon. His statue is in the heart of St. Augustine. It is a copy of the original statue located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Legend says it was originally cast in bronze from English cannons seized after the English reigned down on San Juan in 1792.
The architecture of the buildings are magnificent and the building materials I found fascinating. Much of the original town was built from Coquina. We saw many of these huge rocks along side the beaches in Central Florida but didn’t understand their significance. We discovered that this coquina is highly sought after in modern-day as landscaping displays. But back in 1565 when the Spanish landed and began their occupation, this building materials was plentiful. Coquina (Coe-Queen-a) made great material for forts, especially for heavy cannon use. Due to Coquina’s softness, cannonballs were said to sink into it instead of shatter it or make holes in the walls. The walls of the Castillo de San Marcos are made of Coquina and the first Saint Augustine Lighthouse was also built of it. It’s truly a cool looking rock composed of millions of pieces of shell and invertebrates from the sea; all compresses together to create a type of concrete.
St. Augustine received it’s name after a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church. It is said that the land was first sighted on August 28th and also played a part in naming. The Timucuan Indians where inhabiting this land when the Spanish arrived. They were a people of many chiefs and several tribes spanning across central Florida and stretching upward into Georgia. The Timucuan Indians were politically savvy in that they got along with the Spaniards in many ways and were peaceful. But within a few short years of meeting, their population was reduced from roughly 200,000 to 50,000. The Spaniards brought with them a multitude of European diseases to which the Timucuan Indians had no immunity or resistance. By the 1700’s the tribe had been reduced to less than 1000 and within the first of the 19th century, they were gone all together.
St. Augustine is hailed as the oldest permanently occupied European City in the Americas and this city is so worth a visit. There is a plethora of history here and the landscapes are breathe-taking. We went to spend the day and take in as much as could – but due to having our precious pooch with us, we were only able to stay for about 4-5 hours before we left.
Not Truly Pet Friendly
I believe this city could be family friendly, but I wouldn’t recommend it as pet friendly. We couldn’t take our fur baby into the stores or other establishments on our visit. She wasn’t welcome at public restrooms, visitor centers, shows or museums we may have been interested in. We did find 1 pet friendly public park that she was welcomed to, but there were so many dogs there, it was not the best environment. We had a good time with her, but we could have explored so much more had we left her with a sitter.
We ate lunch at a quaint cafe downtown that actually brought our dog a bowl of water and was welcoming. (See photos above)
The people passing by on the sidewalk were not as nice though. Rude is a better word…they were not pet friendly. We were asked to “Hold your dog so I can pass” and asked several times if she would bite. All I could assume was that there have been some seriously aggressive dogs brought into this town at some point. As in other historic downtown areas, there was much of the downtown area turned residential and the rudeness we encountered was from these residents.
I would give St Augustine a 2 out of 5 for pet friendly, but I would rate it 4 out of 5 for family friendly and accessibility. Most of the streets are easily walkable and there are ramps at every corner for strollers, wheel chairs and motorized scooters. (Had the residents we encountered been a bit more amicable, I would be inclined to rate 5 out of 5 for family friendly. Having raised 5 kiddos myself, I can tell you that these folks won’t be as nice to your toddlers or pre-teens either.)
Until next time, hang tight…