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- 1. Pristine beaches: the top free thing to do in St. Augustine
- 2. Sip Free Wine at San Sebastian Winery
- 3. Explore St. Photios Greek-Orthodox National Shrine
- 4. Visit the Peña-Peck House Museum
- 5. Tour the Father Miguel O’Reilly House Museum
- 6. Learn About Fort Matanzas National Monument
- 7. Tour Cathedral Basilica St. Augustine
- 8. Enjoy the Art
- 9. See the Ancient City Nights of Lights
- 10. First Friday Art Walk
- 11. Tour the Memorial Presbyterian Church
- 12. Visit Mission Nombre de Dios
- 13. Lucky 13: Free Booze
- Beyond Free Things to Do in St. Augustine
From sunny beaches to cool historic sites, you’ll discover many free things to do in St. Augustine, Florida. The Ancient City – the oldest in the U.S. – was discovered by Spanish explorers in 1565, and boasts a mild climate year-round.
The first European Settlement in America was discovered in 1565 by the Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles. Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park details the history of the city, for an admission fee.
If you prefer your family vacation activities to be free, take a self-guided walking tour of the Historic District to see buildings that are more than 450 years old.
From there, you’ll be able to hear the daily weapons demonstrations at the nearby Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.
1. Pristine beaches: the top free thing to do in St. Augustine
When my family and I travel to Florida, our favorite activity is free. I mean, what is better than a day at the beach? Even the souvenir seashells are free! St. Augustine boasts 42 miles of well-preserved beaches, where Spanish explorers first set foot hundreds of years ago. The gentle surf, soft sand, and clean water could fill your entire vacation. But there are more free things to do in St. Augustine.
2. Sip Free Wine at San Sebastian Winery
The San Sebastian Winery began producing local wine in 1983 and opened its doors in 1996. The historic building in downtown St. Augustine was Henry Flagler’s 1923 East Coast Railway Building.
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You can taste any of San Sebastian Winery’s Florida-grown wines at a complimentary tour of the winery. Tours run Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Kids can join tours, but not taste the wine.
Wine tours last approximately 45 minutes and no reservations are required except for groups of 20 or more. Last tours leave at 5 p.m. daily.
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3. Explore St. Photios Greek-Orthodox National Shrine
Tour the first Greek Orthodox Church in the United States. Exhibits depict the life of early Greeks in America, who arrived in St. Augustine in 1768.
Called “The Jewel of St. George Street,” the shrine features Old World architecture and centuries-old Byzantine art. Take a self-guided tour of St. Photios on Sundays from noon- 6 p.m. or Mondays through Saturdays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
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4. Visit the Peña-Peck House Museum
Free things to do in St. Augustine include a visit to the Peña-Peck House Museum. Legend has it that pirates traveled to St. Augustine to loot this home, the former residence of the royal Spanish treasurer. (Note: if your kids are interested in pirates, you might want to visit the Pirate & Treasure Museum – but there’s an admission fee.)
Built in 1750 by order of the King of Spain, the Peña-Peck house 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.
The Woman’s Exchange, a community service organization, manages the historic home. Guided tours of the house museum are offered Sundays through Fridays 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturdays 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
5. Tour 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. Parts of the building date back to 1565.
Named after one of its first owners, Father Miguel O’Reilly, an Irish priest in service of the Spanish Crown, the museum is operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The Catholic order came to St. Augustine after the Civil War to teach former slaves to read and write.
This house is in the oldest continuously settled section of the city of St. Augustine, and is open for guided tours Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 am.- 3 pm.
6. Learn About 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. The historic fort is 12 miles south of St. Augustine, at the southern end of Anastasia Island.
Many of the fun things here are closed due to COVID-19: the National Park Rangers-led tours, the free ferry ride to Rattlesnake Island and the nature trail through the forest. But both ocean and river beaches and boardwalks remain open.
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.
7. Tour Cathedral Basilica St. Augustine
The Cathedral Basilica, the oldest Catholic Church in St. Augustine, is a National Historic Landmark. Guided tours show off the stained glass, murals and Spanish architecture.
8. Enjoy the Art
Even if you skip the Fountain of Youth you can enjoy being around young people. The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum at Flagler College exhibits contemporary art by regional, national and international artists. You have to make a reservation to visit.
9. See the Ancient City Nights of Lights
Nights of Lights fill the Old City with thousands of holiday lights each year. This year, the annual event runs from November 20, 2021 through January 31, 2022.
A free shuttle runs on some weekends or you can take the Old Town Trolley. Parking is limited and expensive; if you have to pay for parking, you might as well take one of the trolley tours.
10. First Friday Art Walk
On the monthly list of free things to do in St. Augustine is the first Friday of every month when art galleries offer free, self-guided walking tours. From 5 – 9 p.m., enjoy new exhibits, live music, and refreshments. Free Art Walk trains and trolleys are provided by Ripley’s Believe it or Not Red Trains and Old Town Trolley Tours.
11. Tour the Memorial Presbyterian Church
Developer Henry Flagler built this church in 1889 as a memorial to his daughter, Jennie Louise. Tours are paused due to COVID-19. When they resume, you can see the spectacular stained glass throughout. The church, Florida’s first Presbyterian congregation, established in 1824, is still an active congregation.
12. Visit Mission Nombre de Dios
Mission Nombre de Dios, aka The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, was founded in 1565 by Spanish settlers under Pedro Menendez de Aviles’ command. “America’s First Marian Shrine” attracts pilgrims who pray for fertility and the health of their unborn children.
13. Lucky 13: Free Booze
The St. Augustine Distillery offers free tours, along with free tastings of its vodka, rum, gin and whiskey. Children are welcome though they can’t sample the goods.
Beyond Free Things to Do in St. Augustine
After you’ve exhausted all the free things to do in St. Augustine, and just can’t face another day at the beach (is that really possible?), you’ll find lots of things to do in and around St. Augustine. For example, explore the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. In addition, swing by the Lightner Museum with its Tiffany stained glass, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, which offers ghost tours. The St. Augustine Wild Reserve offers a closer look at animals than most zoos provide.