Nepal, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Prague, London, Milan and Tokyo. Sadly enough, in these trying economic times excursions to international destinations like these happen only in dreams for most of us.
But don’t let a thin wallet stop you from a getting away for a day or two and capturing some charm right here in North Florida.
St. Augustine does not have the mountains of Nepal, the style of Milan, the parties of Prague, nor the romance of Paris. Nonetheless, this North American city has an eclectic blend of southern charm, European style, and old Florida fun. And let us not forget the miles of surf and sunbathe friendly coastline. What’s more is that this city can be done on less than $60 a day.
For starters, when you stay in St. Augustine on the cheap you stay at the Pirate Huas. Located in the heart of Historic Downtown St. Augustine, this hostel offers more than adequate lodging with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast for less than $25 a night (tax inc).
You will surely want to burn off those pancakes by perusing the shops and sites along Saint George Street—located just about a block away from the Pirate Haus. Some of the best places for walking downtown can be found off one of the many side streets intersecting Saint George.
After you’ve had your fill of morning wander, the Castillo de San Marcos should be at the top of your list of things to do and it is only a few minutes walk from Saint George. The fort’s construction began in 1672 and it is now a National Monument. The tour of the fort tells the tales of the many battles, sieges, and widely believed ghost stories of this giant coquina fortress. The noise of mock cannon fire can be heard from the fort throughout the day and re-enactors dressed in full garb can be seen walking along the inside walls. This will surely keep you busy well into a late lunchtime for only $6.00 (Children under 16 are free of charge).
An empty stomach should always bring you to “The Taco Shop”. Located on the south end of Saint George Street across from Pizza Alley, The Taco Shop does Baja California style as good as the Golden State — and it will only cost you some silver. You can enjoy a huge taco or burrito and a Coke out of a glass bottle for about $6.00 or $7.00.
Just 2.5 miles drive or bike ride over the bridge to the Saint Augustine Beach Pier is the only way to spend the afternoon. There is ample parking and if you like volleyball there are a few well-kept beach volleyball pits where pick up games with locals are not hard to come by. When you’re on your way back, and if you happen to be here between April and September, you can stop by the authentic Hawaiian Shaved Ice stand located in the Surf Station Surf Shop parking lot and cool off for a few bucks.
As the sun in setting and your stomach is calling again, I recommend none other than Osteen’s Restaurant. It will be located on your way back from the beach. Arguably, Osteen’s has the best fried shrimp in the southeast (there will be a wait). Your plate of a dozen fried shrimp with homemade sides at this St. Augustine institution will set you back $12.00 plus tax and tip—a small price to pay for a meal where they wrote the book on frying those delicious crustaceans.
Presuming that some of you might not be worn out from the day’s events, I suggest you follow your ears for live music or ask one a friendly local where you might go for a cold pint or a tasty glass of sangria downtown. If your nightlife aspirations are paramount, this is where the budget could get thrown to the wayside. But let me assure you, a night in St. Augustine is not one that you will want to drink to forget. The nation’s oldest city looks forward to seeing you—on a budget.
Pat Higgins is a Floridian by trade. At 24, he holds a BA from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL and a MA from the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. He has traveled extensively having covered Costa Rica, Colombia, France, Belgium, Taiwan, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Indonesia, and spent a little bit of time in the Caribbean. Other than the stuff he learned in school, Pat specializes in affordable adventures. Visit Higgins column page at examiner.com