Girls’ weekend took a touristy turn this year. Despite the fact that we were only steps from Vilano Beach, we only stepped foot on the sand the evening of our last night. Instead of soaking up sun, we challenged ourselves to see all the highlights of St. Augustine. Below are my top seven moments.
7. Beach Sunsets
The picture below just says it all.
6. Old Jail
While this is totally a tourist trap, it was made less cheesy by our awesome inmate turned tour guide. She held the group in rapt with her sassy demeanor as she showed us the workings of the jail that served St. Augustine until 1953. Something called the birdcage punished inmates in the sweltering heat as they swung in the sun. If that wasn’t enough, gallows sat on the backside of the property as a constant reminder that despite cozy looking outside of this building, it was in fact a brutal jail. The one part that is seared into my mind is the cramped quarters of the third floor where I was not able to stand between the iron bunk beds comfortably.
5. Datil Pepper Challenge
Until I arrived in St. Augustine I had never heard of a datil pepper. Apparently they are uniquely grown in St. Augustine and not in very many other places in the world. Upon closer inspection of St. Augustine shops and restaurants, the peppers are truly found all over. From popsicles to chocolate to sauces and jellies. The datil pepper is a must try. I recommend it dipped in chocolate or ground up in a popsicle.
4. Whetstone Chocolate Tour
Who doesn’t want to stop and taste chocolate straight from the production line? For a mere $8 we were able to try about 12 different samples, from white and milk chocolate, to fudge, and specialty items. Each bite was more delicious than the next; then again, I’ve never met a piece of chocolate that I didn’t like. Right from the beginning, I knew that this was going to be a fun stop. Our guide reminded me of Josh Gad both in looks and personality. We each had to don a hairnet before entering the processing plant. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of chocolate in the production phase, but they produce as demand is called for, and as we were touring later in the day, the only live production we saw was fudge. They did show us how the chocolate seashells are wrapped and sent down the line. After a hot day of walking, this air conditioned tour allowed us to take a moment to cool off, and as a bonus, we left with a satisfied sweet tooth.
3. St. Augustine Distillery
I walked into this ice plant turned distillery and was in love. The updated rustic look of the building looked just like Chip and Joanna Gaines had designed the space. From the museum space waiting area to the tasting room, everything pulled from that original ice house feel but with an updated look. One of the things I loved about this place’s story was how they had to petition Tallahassee to even bring this distillery to life. Unlike beer and wine regulations regarding tours and sales to the public, spirits follow much stricter laws. Only after lobbying were the owners able to get the laws changed so that I could actually go on the tour of this distillery and purchase from them directly. One concession to this is that they have to scan your driver’s license as legally you can only purchase two bottles of each label per year.
2. Paddle Boarding the Salt Run
On our last day, before the two hour drive home, we spent the morning at Anastasia State Park paddle boarding the Salt Run. Just inside the park there is a rental place with SUP and kayaks. We purchased a two hour block of time and made our way north along the Salt Run towards the lighthouse. It was hot, but thankfully there was a small breeze that made the heat bearable. Along the way I spotted a stingray, but the highlight was when I came within five feet of a Roseate Spoonbill. I have never seen one of these birds in the wild, only in zoos. I watched it feed in the oyster beds careful not to get too close to the bird or the beds. The Salt Run provides two miles of sheltered water to paddle upon. It’s the perfect place to try out SUP since the water is so calm and shallow. I can’t wait to return with Geoff and our kayaks.
1. Hyppo Popcicles
Skip the ice cream, skip the fudge. Instead, run do not walk to The Hyppo. My mouth is watering as I am writing this remembering these awesome gourmet ice pops. They are made by hand with local and organic produce. Their three shops have flavors that change frequently. Cori and I sampled six in the three days we spent in St. Augustine. My first and favorite was the strawberry datil pepper, a nice blend of sweet and spicy. My second encounter with The Hyppo was a watermelon mint which was extremely refreshing after the super hot day of sightseeing. Last was the peach cheesecake and this one I had dipped in chocolate. It too was yummy, but the chocolate took away from the popsicle. I also tasted the cantaloupe pepper and pineapple cilantro that Cori chose. I enjoyed these as well. From now on each time I visit St. Augustine, The Hyppo will be a must stop, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they bring a location to the Orlando area.