The centuries-old historic district of St. Augustine, Florida, spans 46 colorful and energetic city blocks bordering the Matanzas River. Horse-drawn carriages transport visitors over cobblestone streets to dozens of cafes, boutiques, galleries and historic landmarks. The Spanish Quarter here is a total re-creation of life in the 1740s, with working blacksmiths, carpenters and homemakers. Staying in one of the dozens of lodging choices in this area allows you to connect with the past in America's oldest continuously occupied city.
In a city that's steeped in history, it's no surprise that many of the lodging choices near the Spanish Quarter in the historic district reflect the style and architecture of centuries gone by. Whether genuine period structures or reproductions, the furnishings and features almost always remind guests of what life in earlier days was like. All are within walking distance of major landmarks, including the Castillo de San Marcos and the Bridge of Lions.
Luxury hotels near the Spanish Quarter are rare, but two properties overlooking Matanzas Bay are notable exceptions. Casa Monica Hotel, a Moorish Revival landmark built in 1888, was once a playground for the wealthiest American families before the Great Depression. Common areas are adorned with tapestries, chandeliers and gilded iron fixtures, while poster beds and mahogany furniture retain the original character of the guest rooms. The Hilton Historic Bayfront is spread over 19 separate buildings with a detailed Spanish colonial theme. Everything is new here, allowing for the most current modern amenities while reflecting the flavor and style of the past. Artifacts unearthed during an archaeological excavation of the land add authenticity to the hotel's decor.
By far the most prevalent lodgings near the Spanish Quarter are the historic homes that have been preserved and turned into bed-and-breakfast inns. Features that take you back in time include period furnishings and Victorian antiques, terraces, courtyards and porches with rocking chairs. The Casa de Solana, located a block from Matanzas Bay, was built in 1763 and is decorated in a British colonial theme, with fireplaces in most of the rooms and complimentary bicycles for use by guests. The Casablanca Inn is a luxury 1914 Mediterranean Revival home, with breakfast serving up views of clipper ships and sailboats on the bay, while the verandas look over the Castillo de San Marcos fort. The bed-and-breakfast inns of St. Augustine are generally not the best choice for family travel, since most do not allow young children.
The Pirate Haus Inn and Hostel shows a different side of the region's history, with a swashbuckling pirate theme. Aptly located on Treasury Street, in the middle of the old town action and a block from the bayfront, this property has five private rooms and two additional dormitory-style rooms with bunk beds. There are no televisions and no phones in the rooms, but wireless Internet is available with your own laptop. Share meals in the communal kitchen and enjoy the sunset on the rooftop terrace. Its trademark all-you-can-eat pancakes are served free to guests every morning.
- castillo de san marcos,st augustine,florida,fort,f image by Earl Robbins from Fotolia.com