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Trip Report Half a Day in St. Augustine FL

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After attending a 4-day dance boot camp, in Plant City, FL (which is between Orlando and Tampa), we took 4-1/2 days to tour the Southeast U.S., visiting St. Augustine, FL; Savannah, GA; and Charleston, S.C. We had rented a car when we arrived in Orlando and dropped it off as soon as we arrived in Charleston, having it for a total of 7 days. Tracys2cents helped me on this site find a good deal a medium-size SUV with Avis. (See posting “Reducing cost of rental car from FL to S.C.?“.)

I will post separate reports for St. Augustine, Savannah, and Charleston. Thanks to all of the Fodorites who helped me plan this trip.

We had only one half day in St. Augustine (Feb. 15) since we left Plant City that morning and needed to be in Savannah at the end of the day. At the suggestion of Orlando_Vic on this site, we planned to take a trolley tour of the city, and decided to start at the Visitors Center, which was supposed to have a film about the city, but didn’t. We parked in the Visitors Center parking lot, which cost $10. It turns out that if we had parked at some of the other trolley stops, we could have parked for free. For information about that, look at the website for the trolley. There were two trolley companies that operated out of the visitors center. We selected Old Town Trolley. I suspect that they’re virtually identical. The trolley tour takes about an hour and ten minutes to complete its loop of 22 stops through the historic district. It goes by or near the major sites in the city (including the huge old live oak in the parking lot of the nearby Howard Johnsons Lodge), all of which are described by the driver, and you can hop off and on. The trolleys run every 15-20 minutes, starting at 9:00 a.m. until the last trolley leaves the Old Jail at 4:30 p.m. The trolley ride is bumpy and noisy. We were able to hear the narration much better when we moved close to the front.

We did the full loop, then had lunch (including ‘gator tail -- tastes like chicken) at a restaurant on St. George St., and then walked to Flagler College for the 2 pm tour of the Ponce de Leon Hotel.

To be honest, I had never heard of Henry Flagler before this trip, but we certainly learned a lot about this man who had an important impact on the development of Florida. The college buildings are beautiful, and the old hotel, which is now part of the campus, is exquisite. Probably no other college in the world has a dining hall that matches the one here, with its chandeliers and painted ceilings/walls, plus one of the largest collections in one place of Tiffany stained glass. The lobby centers on a rotunda loaded with painted figures and gold ornament.

Next we walked to Flagler church, which was some nice woodwork, some interesting displays, and contains the crypt where Henry Flagler, his first wife, and his daughter and her stillborn child are buried.

We then walked to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, enjoyed the talk by the ranger dressed in period costume, and did the self-guided tour of the fort. We learned all about coquina and tabby, which we had never heard of before our visit.

We were happy with the way we spent our time in St. Augustine and felt we saw quite a lot in the limited time we had there.