Now that we are solidly in the spooky season, I have decided to share a couple of my favorite spooky locations of travels past. We love to visit historic sites, and many times, there are a ton of legends and lore about the residents who have lived, loved, and died in those very locations. It wouldn’t be a proper Halloween season without some legends and lore would it?
This week I am going to share some of the highlights of the many trips I have spent in Saint Augustine, Florida. This city is absolutely steeped in history. This is the first city in the United States to be settled. The Spanish built a mission just north of the main port of the city more than 500 years ago. Like the good Catholic conquistadors that they were, they were determined to share their faith or die trying. In this instance, the indigenous people chose to die rather than convert, leaving the bay full of their massacred bodies. The bay is still named “Matanzas” after this massacre today.
The Castillo de San Marcos is a beautiful and formidable reminder of the stakes of settlement. The walls are massive – made from the tabby (oyster shell concrete mixture) so common to the area. What else are you going to do with all those shells? The insanely thick walls, built in a square with center court yard to facilitate social and professional tasks. The walls are topped by cannons and fortifications allowing those inside to see for miles in all directions – by sea and land. I highly suggest taking the time to see and climb to the higher level of the Castillo to catch the views of the down town area, the Bridge of Lions, and the sweeping sea views. There are many tours that list the Castillo or portions of the grounds. Over the years I have done a ton of these tours on various visits.
My favorite of these tours are the Ghosts and Gravestones tours, and the paranormal investigation tours. The first is a fun and historically accurate (as accurate as legend can be) tour of various points around town, including the old jail, pharmacy, wax museum (I was not amused with the costumed, very non waxy actor/guide that assisted (read that as scared the absolute $#*+ out of me when they began to speak. Nice touch, but holy cow! They tell and retell stories famous to the area, and some that are a little more obscure. I have taken the Ghosts and Gravestones tours in many cities over the years, and have had a consistently excellent experience on them all. If you have never done one, they are a campy, family friendly, night time tour that is designed to be spooky but not scary. I highly recommend their day tours as well – under the name Old Towne Trolley. The other tour is an independent company that hosts nightly walking tours that are not for children. These tours cover some of the more gruesome hauntings and legends with the addition of giving you investigation equipment for the night!
Spend some time exploring the old part of town, especially the area near the Old City Gate (there is a precious little coffee shop just inside the gates that is pet friendly), cemeteries, and shops. You get a feel for the closeness of the old town as you stroll along the pedestrian areas. There are a ton of bed and breakfasts in this area that are not budget friendly, but provide an excellent location and wonderful accommodations.
I love the ones on the main street that have views of the bay and let out onto both sides of the street for easier access. The Columbia House Restaurant is an amazing place to have a quite dinner. The paella is amazing, and their sangria is fresh and crisp. Both make for a tasty treat!
Finally, be sure to cross over the bridge and visit the Anastasia Island and the St. Augustine light house. If you have time, the carriage rides are also really well done. I love the night rides (haunted or not) best. The carriages line up along the bay front on the Castillo end of the street.
What is your favorite spooky location? One of mine is coming up next week when we explore the Bell Witch Cave and Farm!
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