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Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMom

It is weird to see how much kids love pirates. Most only know of pirates from what they see in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbea’n movies and during Halloween. I have wondered a few times if showing them what they are really about will steal the fantasy away from them and ruin their fun games.

But history is history and in St. Augustine, Florida you are going the get the real deal, especially if you visit the Pirate Museum. It is a truly rare treat!

Experiencing the Pirate Museum in St. Augustine, Florida

When you walk into the museum the museum staff gives you a treasure map and you are expected to find the treasure hidden in the spot marked with an X. This allows visitors to get down and dirty in the museum as they search for them.

DisclosureTMOMThe museum is dedicated to teach about history of pirates and to show their artifacts. There are 48 exhibits and each has authentic items that once belonged to pirates.

Entrepreneur Pat Croce was who started the museum in 1995. At first it only showed his collection of objects related to pirates. The first location of the museum was 524 Front Street, Key West, Florida, United States. It was moved to St. Augustine in 2010.

There isn’t a shortage of torture exhibits in this place. These shed new lights on how real pirates operated. A few of them are:

  • Hands on and interactive attractions for all ages.
  • Canon time – Your kids can create their own attack! They are allowed to blow a canon at the enemies

Recommendation – Pirates weren’t very friendly or nice people. So keep in mind that darkness and torture exhibits throughout the museum can truly frighten some kids. This is exactly what happened with my boys, my nine year old loved the whole place but my 3 year old got really freaked out and we had to leave immediately after visiting the first scary exhibit.

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Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMom

Time For Fun – History of Pirates

History in the New World and Florida

  • After Christopher Colombus claimed the New World for Spain a different wave of piracy began. It was stronger than ever, they operated differently that the previous ones. This period lasted for about 100 years.
  • It all started with Privateers, a kind of government-sanctioned robbers. They were the first pirates of the Caribbean.
  • It all got worse in the late 1560′s when bandits, slaves on the run, disgruntled merchantmen and disinherited youth flocked to the Tortugas, Point Royal and other known recruiting centers for piracy.
  • The Golden Age of Piracy went from 1690 to 1730. It was made famous by the bloodthirsty legends of rogues such as Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, and Black Bart Roberts.
  • North America was actually one of the greatest contributors to the Golden Age. It would have never happened if the pirates had nowhere to sell their stolen goods.
  • America became a nation of pirate brokers in large part because of the Navigation Acts passed by the English government. These Acts stipulated that virtually no goods could be imported into England or her colonies except on British ships and exports had to go at British predetermined prices. This included excessive taxes and artificial prices.
  • In 1689, after England’s King James I made peace with Spain. This meant that the ranks of piracy suddenly went crazy because ex-privateers were out of a job.
  • The most notorious and successful pirate was Jose Gaspar, better known as Gasparilla. His methods were black and bloody, and he stands out among all the pirates who used Florida to bury their wealth.
  • Eventually, British pressure in the American colonies put a slow end to the Golden Age of Piracy.
  • During the Golden Age of Piracy a number of British officials were sent to what is now Nassau, a place filled with pirates, to try to tame them. They succeeded in 1718.
  • However when it comes to piracy in the Caribbean area and Florida, it was until 1823 that The US Government dispatched Commodore David Porter to the Keys to rid the coastline of pirates like Black Caesar and Jean LaFitte.

Treasure

  • Many pirates brought their loot back to Florida to bury it on some lonely shore. When they finally died, the location of their hidden wealth died with them.
  • The majority of all buried treasure in Florida is the work of pirates.
  • A lot of shipwrecks were caused by hurricanes between 1500 and 1960. These shipwrecks are also a good source of gold and valuable things.
  • A chest containing $25,000 in Mexican gold was found on Grassy Key and dozens of pirate caches have been found on the West Coast of Florida.
  • In 1894 a merchant named Richard Crowe died in St. Augustine. He said in his will that he buried $60,000 in gold coins on his property. No one found it yet.
  • In the 1890’s, a chest was seen on the bottom of Ponce deLeon Springs. It soon fell into one of the submerged caves. The chest has eluded divers ever since.
Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMom

Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMom

Global History

  • Pirates had been terrifying merchants of the known world long before British privateers started to prey upon Spanish galleons for their gold.
  • Some of the earliest accounts are of the Lukkan Sea Raiders in the 14th century B.C.
  • During the Roman rule, pirates were such a strong force that they were able to capture and hold for ransom high-profile people including Julius Caesar himself. But Romans managed to contain them.
  • With the fall of the Roman Empire, pirates that had been contained, were once more free to do whatever they wanted at sea. This lasted around 800 years.
  • After the downfall of the Han dynasty in 220 A.D., China experienced nearly four centuries of brutal rule by regional warlords. During this time piracy developed and remained un-defeatable for over 1600 years.
  • The real problem with Asian pirates started when the British became interested in the opium trade. They didn’t want their shipments stolen.
  • A British captain named Barymple Hay discovered a pirate fleet and didn’t stop until he had dismantled it, killing around 1800 pirates.

Other facts

  • “A merry life and a short one shall be my motto.”– Bartholomew Black Bart Roberts
  • The most successful buccaneer was Sir Henry Morgan.
  • Florida was frequented by notorious pirates like: Blackbeard, Lafitte, Gasparilla, Kidd, Rackham, Bowlegs, Bonnett, and possibly even Morgan himself.

Information for Visiting the Pirate Museum

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Address: 12 S Castillo Drive – St. Augustine, FL 32084
Phone: (877) Go-Plunder (877.467.5863)
Price:

  • Adults $12.99
  • Children $ 6.99