advertisement

Many Floridians lament the loss of the days of the plastic pink flamingos, early-bird specials, cracker-style homes (as opposed to Cracker Barrel restaurants), and small, quaint towns. The thing is, they still exist! Old Florida begins in St. Augustine and doesn't end there at all. Here's a sample that promises to take you back to a Florida that would seem ancient even to your grandparents.

Day 1: St. Augustine 

The easiest way to hit America's oldest city is to fly into Daytona International Airport. But because this is a tour of Old Florida, we'll have you skip the Daytona Spring Break and NASCAR scene, and head an hour north into the 17th century. Everything in St. Augustine claims to be the oldest whatever -- and, in most cases, it's true: the Oldest Store, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, the Oldest House, and more. Pop a multivitamin and skip the overrated Fountain of Youth. Instead, hit Anastasia State Park and see what a beach would look like if it were unfettered by modernization. To really keep with the old theme, we suggest a room at the Casablanca Inn on the Bay, a 1914 house listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or at the circa-1888-meets-21st-century Casa Monica.

Days 2 & 3: North & South of the St. Johns River 

Despite its modern skyline, Jacksonville actually has some serious history. South of the St. Johns River, you will find the Fort Caroline National Memorial, a former 16th-century French Huguenot settlement that was wiped out by the Spanish but preserved in the form of archaeological relics. North of the river is the Zephaniah Kingsley Plantation, or at least the remains of what was once a 19th-century plantation complete with clapboard homes and slave cabins. Check into either the historic House on Cherry Street or, also on the St. Johns, the Inn at Oak Street.

Days 4 & 5: Amelia Island 

With 13 miles of beachfront and restored Victorian homes, Amelia Island is worth the 45-minute drive northeast of downtown Jacksonville. It's another world and, for many, out of this world. Also steeped in history, Amelia Island attracted Oprah Winfrey, who has promised to help restore American Beach, the only beach in the 1930s reserved for African Americans. Nearby is Fernandina Beach, which dates back to the post-Civil War period. Many of the Victorian, Queen Anne, and Italianate homes are listed on the National Register. Nearby, the Palace Saloon claims to be Florida's oldest watering hole, challenging St. Augustine to an ongoing drinking contest! Check into the Amelia Island Plantation for a posh stay, or consider the Florida House Inn, once again, the oldest operating hotel in the entire state.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.