ST. AUGUSTINE ALLIGATOR FARM
What comes to mind when you hear the word “alligator?” I visualize a dark form crashing toward me, its tail flailing like a battle ax, its gaping maw edged with ominous jagged teeth ready to rip into raw flesh. So, is it wrong that I found myself at St. Augustine Alligator Farm, looking forward to feeding time with both excitement and apprehension at witnessing such ferocity?
The next scheduled alligator feeding was at noon, so we took a leisurely stroll through the expansive park with an eye on the time to make it back to the feeding area for the show. What we saw was anything but a horrific feeding frenzy, but rather a gaggle of gators mulling about with one large scary looking, but well-trained adult alligator swimming close to the trainer, its jaw wide open revealing rows of razor-sharp teeth for effect, waiting patiently for the treat he knew was coming.
Where else can you see 24 species of crocodilians, a Komodo Dragon, King cobra, and cassowaries? Nowhere, except the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. This wildlife sanctuary is small enough not requiring an entire day to see, yet diverse enough to keep inquiring minds busy for hours and asking questions for days. There’s a zip line, too! Click through to the Alligator Farm website for more information and to purchase tickets.
ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is keeping history alive every day since opening in 1994. Each year, 53,000 school-age students are introduced to the wonders of marine sciences and maritime history through camp programs, specialty tours, interactive exhibits, historic boat building, online exhibitions, outreach programs, family visits, school tours, and programming scholarships.
While only supervised children can play in the Shipyard play area, there is much to see and do for visitors of all ages, including:
- Climb the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse to see a breathtaking view of St. Augustine and the waters of the oldest continually occupied European port city in the continental United States. (St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum)
- See volunteers building boats as it was done in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Watch archaeologists at work cleaning, preserving, and categorizing artifacts recovered from the hundreds of documented shipwrecks that lie beneath the surface of the Nation’s Oldest Port℠.
- Examine artifacts in the “Wrecked!” exhibit. Wrecked! tells the story of a British shipwreck, which sank in St. Augustine’s treacherous sand bar on New Year’s Eve 1782, at the end of the American Revolution.
- Explore the Maritime Hammock nature trails. For added fun, grab the scavenger hunt card at the entrance and search for animals that live in this coastal habitat and learn about medicinal and historical uses of plants.
To buy tickets and see all that there is to do, visit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s website.
CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS NATIONAL MONUMENT
One of the most extraordinary places in the United States proudly stands over the harbor in St. Augustine — the imposing fortress, Castillo de San Marcos. It has guarded St. Augustine against invaders since its completion in 1756. Visitors can explore 340 years of history at the oldest masonry and only 17th-century fort in North America.
Construction of Castillo de San Marcos began in 1672, making it one of the oldest standing structures in North America. It was initially built by the Spanish to protect their vast empire in the Americas. After crossing the drawbridge, your tour begins in the Sally Port, the only way in or out of the Castillo. Don’t miss the rooms immediately to the right; the Spanish guard rooms and a locked room that served as the town jail. The flags in the first room represent the different nations the Castillo has served; Hapsburg and Bourbon Spain, Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. (Castillo de San Marcos Self-Guided Walking Tour)
The Castillo is constructed of coquina, a porous sedimentary stone that compresses under cannon fire rather than shattering, which made it particularly indestructible. Also, its star-like design eliminated blind spots for the guards in the sentry boxes and increased the fort’s firepower by allowing multiple cannons to fire on the same target, creating a crossfire effect. The Castillo is a prime example of the “bastion system” of fortification. For more information, visit the National Park Services website.
Planning your family travel for this summer? Here are two other destinations with an abundance of outdoor activities for energetic nature lovers: