Visit St. Augustine, Fla., one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip tips: America’s oldest city has 43 miles of beaches and numerous historic and archaeological sites. Unique are 144 blocks of historic houses along quaint narrow streets lined with Spanish architecture, specialty shops and restaurants. Just across the Bridge of Lions and Matanzas Bay is Anastasia Island, a barrier island with even more miles of beautiful beaches, and historical and natural attractions.
Getting there: St. Augustine is convenient to Jacksonville (52 miles) and Daytona Beach (59 miles) airports. One-way rates to JAX average $120 (nonstop, AirTran and Delta); $144 to DAB (nonstop, Delta).
Stay: The small family-owned Cozy Inn consists of two old homes, one a historic Southern home with Old Florida style motel rooms (from $87) and Townhouse Row with one-bedroom apartments (from $147). 202 San Marco Ave. 904-824-2449, www.thecozyinn.com.
Eat: Grab a gourmet lunch to go at Juniper Market in the antiques district. Sandwiches are $6.50-$8 — vegan and gluten-free items available. 56A San Marco Ave. 904-342-7617. After a moonlight stroll on the beach, return to the Old City for jazz at the Cellar Upstairs on the roof of the San Sebastian Winery. Small plates from $6-$14. 157 King St. 904-826-1594, www.sansebastianwinery.com.
Experience: Visit Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest surviving fort in North America (construction began in 1672). The monument site consists of 20.5 acres and includes a reconstructed section of the wall surrounding the city. Park rangers lead interpretive talks; $7. 1 S. Castillo Drive. 904-829-6506, www.nps.gov/casa. The “Lighthouse Dark of the Moon” tour gives participants an opportunity to climb the St. Augustine Lighthouse and tour the Keepers’ House at night. Guides share paranormal tales and experiences of people who have visited, lived or worked at the lighthouse; $25. Daytime admission $9.75. 100 Red Cox Road. 904-829-0745, www.StAugustineLighthouse.org.
Stay: 44 Spanish Street Bed & Breakfast Inn is in the historic walking district and three blocks from the scenic bay front. Guest rooms all have posh linens and white goose down comforters. Rates, including a full breakfast, from $109 midweek; from $159 Friday-Sunday. 44 Spanish St. 904-826-0650, www.44spanishstreet.com.
Eat: Aunt Kate’s on the River is situated in a grove of live oaks on the bank of the Tolomato River. The best local seafood has been served here for more than 100 years. Dine on the outside decks under the trees or inside in either the main dining room or the Victory bar. Entrees from $11; $25 for the Low Country Boil. 612 Euclid Ave. 904-829-1105, http://aunt-kates.com.
Experience: The narrated Old Town Trolley Tour is the best way to see the city, highlighting the best St. Augustine attractions, with 22 stops (hop on and off all day) and more than 100 points of interest. Tickets are valid for three consecutive days of unlimited use and include admission to the St. Augustine History Museum and use of the Beach Bus Shuttle with service to the Alligator Farm; Lighthouse and Museum and St. Augustine Beach; $21.32 purchased online (100 percent money back guarantee). 167 San Marco Ave. (at the Authentic Old Jail). 1-888-910-8687, www.trolleytours.com. By night, choose from GhoSt Augustine’s Haunted Pub Tour ($17), Haunted Hearse Tour ($23), Pub Hearse Ride ($55) or the Total Paranormal St. Augustine Tour ($67) where EMF meters and temperature gauges are used in some of the most haunted places in the city. 123 St. George St. 904-824-8840, www.ghostaugustine.com.
Stay: One of the oldest hotels in the United States, Casa Monica’s Moorish Revival-inspired lobby is ornate with frescoes, Spanish tapestries, fountains and chandeliers. On-site is a rooftop pool and the 95 Cordova Restaurant with lavish antiques, exotic silk fabric and hand-painted 24-karat gold ceilings. Try for a table in the Sultan’s Room with its palm trees and mosaic artwork. Guest rooms from $349. 95 Cordova St. 904-827-1888, www.casamonica.com.
Eat: Cellar 6 features a full tapas menu, weekly special dinner entrees, more than 100 bottles of wine, specialty martinis and cocktails, 35 beers from around the world and nightly live entertainment. Starters $5-$15; entrees $15-$33. 6 Aviles St. 904-827-9055, www.cellar6staugustine.com.
Experience: Join a crab tour and experience commercial fishing aboard the 25-foot Thomas John. Guest crew members can get down and dirty crabbing or sit back and watch. Snacks, soft drinks, work clothes and safety instruction provided; $30 (includes some crabs to take home). Operates Nov. 1-May 15, 2014; 904-325-5339. Follow up fishing with a two-hour luxury treatment at the 25,000-square-foot Sawgrass Spa, a Zen-inspired sanctuary. A 50-minute Swedish massage and a 50-minute Sawgrass Custom Facial is $230. Facilities include relaxation lounges, steam, sauna and whirlpool; fitness studios and an outdoor heated pool and whirlpool. 1000 PGA Tour Blvd., Ponte Vedra Beach. 904-674-4772, www.sawgrassmarriott.com/spa.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.