Rich in heritage and nature, St. Augustine holds the perfect balance of education & entertainment. My homeschooling family revitalized our love of learning with visits to well-preserved historical monuments, pristine natural environments & off-beat attractions.

Historical Powerhouses

Castillo De San Marcos National Monument

History comes alive at Castillo De San Marcos, the last remaining 17th century fort in North America. The unique architecture and original coquina walls provide an intense backdrop for re-enactors who give presentations in period dress. As an added bonus, explore the archaeological site of the rock quarry used in construction of Castillo De San Marcos, located nearby, at Anastasia State Park. Curriculum Materials Available
Impressions: My son, 12, has visited quite a few forts in the southeastern region. He was impressed by the stark differences in design & construction. Of course, he enjoyed walking the gundeck to view the historical weapons.

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum

The pinnacle of our visit to this classic lighthouse was climbing to the top to experience what the keepers went through to provide an invaluable service. Although we began our self-guided tour with the climb, I suggest first visiting the museum. The museum provides a wealth of information about the history of the lighthouse and its keepers that will instill a greater appreciation for the climb to the top!
Impressions: My sons, 10 & 12, both paid much of their attention to the architecture of the lighthouse. They also enjoyed the exhibits that allowed visitors to experience the weight keeper’s usually hauled to the top.

Pirate & Treasure Museum

The interactive treasure hunt through this museum took us on a journey discovering the truth behind the myths of pirate lore. Who were these infamous bearded sailors who still capture our imagination to this day and what were their lives really like? Try your hand at sailing skills as you find clues scattered among a curious atmosphere that connects you to the days of flying the skull & crossbones. Curriculum Materials Available
Impressions: A well-blended mix of entertainment and history, the museum’s interactive exhibits & treasure hunt fueled the boys’ curiosity throughout our visit.

Other Historical Sites worth visiting: 

Fort Matanzas National MonumentCurriculum materials available 
Fountain of Youth Park Archaeological Park – Curriculum materials available soon

Exploring Nature

Anastasia State Park

With over 4 miles of beautiful beach to explore and a full service campground, we found this clean park to be the perfect location to set up Homeschool Headquarters. The campground even offers a bedtime book-lending program for young campers.  Before beginning your expeditions, view the sunrise from the beach or boardwalk and return to enjoy a swim and a bite to eat from the cafe. Explore the park by foot, on the nature trails or by renting fun watersports equipment from the on-site outfitter. Educational Events
Impressions: A pleasant camping experience with well-respected cleanliness and quiet time observations. Water & electric, picnic table & fire ring available at all sites. Restrooms include locking shower stalls.

Ripple Effect Eco Tours 

Guided kayaking tours of the one-of-a-kind GTM National Estuarine Research Reserve. We were fortunate to witness dolphins in the wild, after our up-close-and-personal visit to Marineland Dolphin Adventure. Kayaking, with our guide, strengthened our spirit of conservation with hands-on learning experiences. Find more educational experiences and resources for teaching about GTMNERR here:
Impressions: My son, 12, described this as, “becoming one with nature.” He felt a close connection with planet earth, gliding along the water as the guide rattled off information that my son soaked up like a sponge.

Alligator Farm Zoological Park

A unique look at some of earth’s most misrepresented creatures, this zoo helps us better appreciate the lives of alligators, crocodiles, snakes and other reptiles. Fascinating wildlife demonstrations, feedings and exhibits shine a new light on these eerie animals. The park showcases the relationship between alligators and a variety of bird species along a boardwalk path. Visitors can experience the birds-eye view by opting to complete the Crocodile Crossing aerial obstacle course. The thrilling course zips and zooms through the treetops above the animal enclosures. Read more about the educational and teacher resources available here:
Impressions: My sons were completely enthralled by this zoo. The alligator feeding, boardwalk path and fossil hunting tent really captured their attention. Have some coins available to purchase some tidbits for feeding the birds & alligators. Educational Resources

Getting Around with Ripley’s Red Train

Located at Ripley’s Odditorium, the Red Train offers sightseeing tours with over 20 stops throughout St. Augustine. Parking our car at Ripley’s and taking the Red Train saved us the time and aggravation of navigating an unfamiliar town. We also toured Ripley’s Odditorium, while we were there. It’s a great place to wander and wonder at the bizarre nature of own species!
Disclosure: Thanks to St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau for the complimentary experience for my family and me.  While I appreciate their generosity, the opinions here are my own.
About the Author
Candy Cook is a devoted homeschooling mom & life-long learner packing a camera, an internet connection, & 855 open browser tabs. An engine of fascination, she can generate projects on a staggering scale, unleashing indiscriminate passion. As a disciple of chaos, she draws inspiration from the natural world releasing it through written word and award-winning photography. You can find her on Facebook andTwitter.

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