Known as The Ancient City, St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest city in the United States, recently celebrating its 450th birthday. Located between Northeastern and Central East Florida, the city boasts a mild climate year round. Its architecture and landmarks are heavily influenced by the early Spanish Empire of the New World, and its offerings to visitors – many of them free – will appeal to history buffs.
More than 40 miles of beaches
It is a simple and obvious suggestion when looking for free activities in Florida, but a day at the beach can be priceless.
St. Augustine consists of more than 40 miles of well-preserved beaches, where Spanish explorers first set foot hundreds of years ago. The beaches are free to enjoy and parking can often be found only a few feet from the sand.
Here, your family can picnic, swim, build sandcastles, and do whatever else can be done on the beach all day long.
Sip Free Wine at San Sebastian Winery
The San Sebastian Wine company began creating local wine in 1983, and opened its winery doors in 1996.
With more than 18,000 square feet and a bottling line that bottles up to 15,000 bottles per day, this winery remains the second-biggest winery in the state of Florida.
San Sebastian Winery is located at 157 King Street in downtown St. Augustine, in a building constructed in 1923. Making it a winery allows its more than 160,000 visitors per year to not only enjoy free wine tastings but also the history of St. Augustine.
You can taste any of San Sebastian Winery’s Florida-grown grape wines for free at a complimentary tour of the winery. These tours run Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to- 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to- 6 p.m.
Tours last approximately 45 minutes and no reservations are required except for groups of 20 and above. Last tours are offered at approximately 5 p.m. every day.
Explore St. Photios Greek-Orthodox National Shrine
Tour the first Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, located only steps from St. Augustine’s city gates on St. George Street.
Called “The Jewel of St. George Street,” this shrine features Old World architecture and centuries old Byzantine art. It also features various exhibits telling the history of the shrine and the Greek colonists who brought their faith to St. Augustine.
You can do a self guided tour of St. Photios on Sundays from noon- 6p.m. or Mondays through Saturdays 9a.m. to- 5p.m.
Visit the Peña-Peck House
Legend has it that pirates once traveled to St. Augustine to loot this home, the former home of the royal Spanish treasurer.
Built in 1750 by order of the king of Spain, it has passed through only a few different families. The last owners, the Peña family, owned the home for 94 years before donating it to the city of St. Augustine in 1931 to serve as a house museum.
Today it is managed by the Woman’s Exchange, a community service organization whose members guide visitors through the historic household. Guided tours of the house are available Sundays through Fridays 12:30p.m.-4p.m. and Saturdays 10:30a.m.-4p.m.
Learn about History at the Father Miguel O’Reilly House Museum
Built in 1691 during the First Spanish Period in St. Augustine, the O’Reilly museum is one of the oldest structures in St. Augustine, making it an architectural wonder. Only the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine is older.
Named after one of its first owners, Father Miguel O’Reilly, an Irish priest in service of the Spanish Crown, the museum is now operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, a Catholic order that came to St. Augustine after the Civil War to teach former slaves to read and write.
This house is located south of the Plaza at 32 Aviles Street, in the oldest continuously settled section of the city of St. Augustine, and is open for guided tours Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10a.m. to- 3p.m.
Feel Like a Conquistador at Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1742 to guard the southern mouth of the river that was used as an entrance to the city of St. Augustine.
Located 12 miles south of St. Augustine at the southern end of Anastasia Island, this historical fort can be accessed by taking a free ferry ride to Rattlesnake Island. Boarding passes are required to ride the ferry, they are issued for free in the visitor center.
Here you can truly feel like a Spanish conquistador, as actors can often be spotted acting as Spanish soldiers guarding the structure. This immersive experience is best for sunny days and is also a unique way to enjoy the nature of the area. Be sure to bring insect repellent and sunscreen.
Fort Matanzas National Monument is open from 9 a.m. to- 5:30 p.m. every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
This post was updated by Alexandra Olsen, a college student intern for TravelingMom.com, in April 2016. Her love of travel began at a very young age–traveling with her family to little beach towns growing up in Brazil. She has her own personal travel blog, Trail Mix, which she started while spending a summer studying abroad in Norway.
What was the best free experience your family has ever had? Tell us about it in the comments section below!