St. George Street, from King Street north to the Old City Gate (at Orange St.), is the heart of the historic district. Lined with restaurants and boutiques selling everything from T-shirts to antiques, these 4 blocks get the lion’s share of the town’s tourists. You’ll have much less company if you poke around the narrow streets of the primarily residential neighborhood south of King Street. Most of the town’s attractions do not have guided tours, but many do have docents on hand to answer questions.
Be sure to drive through the parking lot of the Howard Johnson Express Inn, at 137 San Marco Ave., to see a gorgeous and stately live oak tree that is at least 600 years old; then continue east to Magnolia Avenue, a spectacularly beautiful street with a lovely canopy of old magnolia trees.
Historic sites top the list in this 16th-century town. The top attractions include the Castillo de San Marcos, the recently revamped Colonial Quarter where what’s old is truly new again, and the amazing Lightner Museum, a Victorian-era mansion packed with all kinds of curios and memorabilia.
In the Beginning . . .
In 1562, a group of French Huguenots settled near the mouth of the St. Johns River, in present-day Jacksonville. Three years later, a Spanish force under Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived, wiped out the Huguenot men (de Avilés spared their women and children), and established a settlement he named St. Augustín. The colony survived a succession of attacks by pirates, Indians, and the British over the next 2 centuries. The Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War, ceded the town to Britain in 1763, but the British gave it back to Spain 20 years later. The United States took control when it acquired Florida from Spain in 1821.
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