In St. Augustine, the voices of the past have not gone silent. Today, you can still hear Spanish cannons and garrison commands echoing through cottage-lined streets. You can still hear waves breaking on sandy beaches almost as pristine as they were during the days of discovery. At night, you can faintly hear the whispers of ghosts filtering through old curtains and see the flickering lighted wicks of windowsill candles.
In age, the voices are almost ancient. But in spirit they are new.
This wondrous city, now set to celebrate its 450th birthday in 2015, has never really grown old. It’s only gotten wiser. New adventures and secrets spring up every day. The history is not dead, but very, very alive. And as a destination of learning, discovery and interaction with the past – it is unparalleled. It is St. Augustine on Florida’s Historic Coast.
Here, students can stroll up and down miles of unspoiled Atlantic beaches within the protected Guana River area. And groups can embark on a nearly endless journey through more than 60 living landmarks that have huge stories to tell – like Castillo de San Marcos, the Colonial Quarter, St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, and the Fountain of Youth. St. George Street and the historic downtown district bustle in the midst of all this history with a spirit usually only found in the villages of Europe. And wild adventures reside in the one-of-a-kind experiences of Marineland, the Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, the Old Jail, Pirate & Treasure Museum, and a whole lot more.
Groups are also encouraged to schedule downtime so everyone can idle through the intricate details of this historic city founded in 1565, filled with Old World architecture and monuments. And it’s also packed with modern amenities – a wealth of restaurants offering cuisines from around the globe, and at least a dozen art galleries and shops selling local arts and crafts.
By the end of the journey, all will be able to share detailed stories of a town that’s witnessed the discovery of America, the exchange of ship-to-fort cannon fire and a preservation of Old World culture unlike anywhere else in the Sunshine State – or perhaps even the United States.
While educators have all these options and more, there are two particular attractions which groups have enjoyed as an essential part of educational experiences here: the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum and the Spanish Military Hospital Museum.
St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum
From breathtaking views to artifacts recovered from ancestral vessels, this museum covers centuries of history from in and around St. Augustine.
The Keeper’s House preserves the tales of past light-keepers who hauled oil buckets up the tower every night, while the grounds and the sea store the secrets of sailors and fishing pioneers who made St. Augustine the shrimp boat capital of the world. And of course, be prepared to shrug off your fear of heights and ascend 219 steps for the 360º view of historic St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Additionally, brave students take their chances with the lighthouse spirits on the “All Ghosts, No Gimmicks” Dark of the Moon paranormal tour, or dive deeper into history and uncover shipwreck artifacts on the Behind the Scenes or Lost Ships archaeology tours.
The museum is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.staugustinelighthouse.org or by phone at (904) 829-0745.
Spanish Military Hospital Museum
Travel back in time to the Spanish Military Hospital Museum and find your group immersed in a fully guided tour through the Colonial Spanish days of medicine. This educational 45-minute tour provides a memorable and entertaining living-history experience that begins as the skilled surgeons perform virtual surgery on a lucky volunteer.
Then, students can watch firsthand as the Apothecary creates medicines with colonial herbs that in many instances are the origins of some of the most popular medicines today. Indeed, thanks to these secrets of Spanish physicians learned from Europe and Africa, Spanish colonialists enjoyed a very high survival rate compared to their colonial counterparts from other parts of the globe.
The Spanish Military Hospital Museum is St. Augustine’s only exclusive second Spanish period educational tour. Reservations are required for student groups. Call (904) 342-7730 for reservations. Open daily from 10am-6pm and located at 3 Aviles St, St Augustine, FL 32084. For more, visit Spanishmilitaryhospitalmuseum.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The region of Florida’s Historic Coast shares a total of 171 hotels, motels, resorts and campgrounds that offer more than 10,000 accommodation units. Also, other off-the-beaten path lodging options provide a variety of choices for visitors including condominium rentals, vacation home rentals, and bed & breakfast inns.
Customized Group Tour Planning Services
St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches offers group tour planners customized services and outstanding facilities accommodating 10 to 1,500 or more attendees. Their expert tour planners will work with you one on one to create the exact tour package you need for groups of 15 or more, whether you’re here for just one hour or one week. They can take care of all your accommodations, meals, transportation, tours and attraction needs. Plus, an exciting array of group activities and unique venues ensure that meetings will be not only successful but also memorable.