By Brianna Kurzynowski | email@example.com
St. Augustine is known for its history and tourist attractions such as the Castillo De San Marcos, The Fountain of Youth, The Old Jail, the Lighthouse and several other historical spots around town. However, locals and other regular visitors get bored going to the same places over and over again. So this weekend I adventured with some friends to find interesting places to visit that not everyone knows about. Here are seven off-the-beaten path places to visit when in the St. Augustine and Jacksonville areas:
1. With only a short 45 minute drive from downtown St. Augustine, the Riverside Arts Market is a must see experience. Riverside Arts Market is a weekly craft fair located under the Fuller Warren Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida. The market sets up every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. There are several different attractions found at the arts market, including entertainment, vendors who sell handmade products and a farmer’s market section where fruit, bread, cooking oils and sweets are sold. As soon as I stepped foot under the bridge, I could smell all the amazing food. Everything from carnival eats to authentic Filipino cuisine is found here. The first time I went I fell in love with the friendly atmosphere where I got to listen to great music and eat amazing food. Make it an all-day adventure or only stay long enough to shop.
2. The next stop on our adventure was Chamblin Bookmine. Also located in Jacksonville, Florida, Chamblin Bookmine is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day except Sunday. This bookstore is unlike all others. Books surrounded me from floor to ceiling as I got lost in the aisles upon aisles of new and used books. The genres range from classics to contemporary. The store’s policy is every book is ten percent off unless otherwise marked. Chamblin Bookmine is an all-day event. Prepare to get lost among Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Austen and Eyre.
3. We continued our adventure traveling along A1A North back into St. Augustine. The first stop there was Castle Otttis. I first discovered Castle Otttis about a year ago when driving home from Jacksonville. Driving along a highway in a beach town, not many would expect to stumble upon a castle. I have not had the chance to go inside the Irish inspired castle but according to their website, appointments can be made for group tours. Castle Otttis is mysterious and beautiful.
4. Next, we drove just a little while away on A1A, and went to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve). GTM is an incredible nature reserve where you can explore trails and animal watch. I felt instant relaxation when I visited. But beware, I did see a snake as soon as I stepped foot on the reserve. Anyone looking to get out of town but not too far away should take a hike over to the GTM Research Reserve.
5. The next stop we made was the Matanzas Inlet. I recommend this for locals and tourist who want to go to the beach but do not mind going a little out of the way to avoid the busyness of St. Augustine and Vilano Beaches. With a gorgeous view on Fort Matanzas, the inlet is relaxing and worth the half hour drive.
6. On the way back from the inlet we found Fort Matanzas National Monument. This state park offers a half mile walking trail and a free ferry ride over to the fort. This fort is smaller than Castillo De San Marcos; however, is out of the way of downtown craziness and a great place to learn about a part of St. Augustine’s history that you might not have ever heard about before.
7. The final stop on our adventure was the Mission of Nombre de Dios cemetery. Anyone who has taken a trolley around town will hear about these mission grounds. What many might not know about is the cemetery and shrine located on the grounds. In the middle of cemetery them is a chapel which has a shrine inside. Walking over the bridge and walking around near the cross is relaxing, but next time make sure to stroll through the cemetery and stop by the shrine, to discover this hidden gem.
St. Augustine and Jacksonville have a lot to offer, but for anyone who wants to experience something a little different, I recommend visiting these off-the-beaten-path places to explore a side of the area you may have never discovered before.