Along the lower Eastern coast from South Carolina down to Georgia much ado has been made about the vacation towns of Hilton Head and Jekyll Island. Yes, capitalism has flowered and flourished in these seaside hamlets and everyone who is anyone vacations there on a regular basis. Trendy shops and award winning golf courses are the major draw for the “IN” crowd; you get the picture…..sort of the Hamptons of the South, without the celebrities or Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod without the Kennedys.
All of that hoopla is fine if your vacation vocation is to see and be seen but if you really crave a unique, serene vacation full of history and magic, you must come to St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in America. Strolling along cobblestone streets and the grounds of one of the most important forts in Americas history after eating in one of the best pizzerias in the South (pizza so good it’ll make you wanna slap yo mama! That is if you can find a seat after you squeeze through the throngs of people inching through single file and finally breaking through to the outside deck area) yes!! trendy shops, upscale boutiques, celebrity watching not so much.
One of the biggest draws is the town square with one of the oldest and most ornately appointed Catholic churches in the nation replete with breathtaking stained glass windows and ceiling frescos to die for. The clippity clop of horse drawn carriages and Flagler College, one of the most prestigious private colleges in the South and one of the most beautiful are also here for your sightseeing pleasure. The famous Bridge of Lions connecting A1A to St. Augustine’s beaches, some of the most beautiful the Atlantic Coast has to offer as well as a centuries old lighthouse surrounded by massive live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and quaint Victorian bed and breakfasts by the score await you in this lovely historic city, even a five star hotel or two.
Just to the north of St. Augustine is Cumberland Island, a magical place where wild horses run free and an old Southern Mansion has been restored into a vacationer’s paradise. There are no automobiles allowed on this island only foot traffic and bicycles and no other way to get onto the island other than a ferry boat that runs on a sporadic schedule. But isn’t that what a vacation is all about, slowing down the pace of our everyday lives? Not trying to keep up with the Joneses, there’s enough time for that the other 51 weeks of the year.
If you want to forget about your troubles, lie lazily on a private beach and do nothing for a week without the expense of traveling to a tropical island then the St. Augustine area is just the ticket. Just remember to bring a sand pail and forget your autograph book because the odds of spotting celebrities picking up shells on these beaches or shopping for Prada or Fendi are slim to none here. Maybe, just maybe you could be lucky enough to spot a rare species of bird bound for extinction but there will be no Hollywood “IT” chics donning bikinis roaming these quiet streets. Bring a good book, good wine and your best friend, lover or even the kids, there is something for everyone or a lot of nothing for anyone to enjoy.