St. Augustine, known as The Ancient City, is located between Northeast and East Central Florida and is convenient to Jacksonville, Orlando, and Daytona airports. While the words “ancient” and “old” may lead you to think that St Augustine isn’t wheelchair friendly, nothing could be farther from the truth. Wheelchair users will find a very accessible and welcoming city in St Augustine! North Florida boasts a year-round mild climate perfect for strolling St. Augustine’s delightful historic district, with its cobblestone streets, quaint cafes, bars, unique shops, and bed and breakfast inns. Experience the beauty of an early morning that slowly comes alive with locals and tourists setting out on foot to explore significant landmarks. Here is a list of several wheelchair accessible things to do in The Old City.
1. Castillo de San Marcos. A monument not only of stone and mortar but of human determination and endurance, the Castillo de San Marcos symbolizes the clash between cultures which ultimately resulted in our uniquely unified nation. Still resonant with the struggles of an earlier time, these original walls provide tangible evidence of America’s grim but remarkable history. The Monument site consists of 20.5 acres and includes a reconstructed section of the walled defense line surrounding the city of St. Augustine incorporating the original city gate.
The Castillo de San Marcos’ architecture and detail are distinctive and unique. It is the oldest masonry and only extant 17th century fort in North America. As such it is an excellent example of the “bastion system” of fortification. The parking lot and the fort’s lower level, which includes the museum rooms, the theater, the bookstore and the restrooms, are wheelchair accessible.
Most of the Park’s pedestrian walkways are paved; however, those within the moat and covered way are sand and crushed shell stone. The Gun Deck Level can only be reached by stairs. The Park can provide a wheelchair for use while visiting the fort. Rental wheelchairs and other conveyances are available from a nearby concession.
2. Lightner Museum. The historic Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel built in 1888 by Henry Flagler. Today it is home to one of the best collections of fine and decorative 19th century art in the country. The hotel was often called “the castle of happy returns.” From typewriters to Tiffany, Otto Lightner’s collection of fine and decorative art from the 19th century is impressive and extensive.
The Museum’s eclectic collection ranges from a mummy, shrunken heads, human hair art, cigar labels, buttons, salt and pepper shakers, to Tiffany glass, cut glass, porcelain, fine art paintings, furniture and sculpture all housed throughout the four floors of the original Alcazar Hotel. The museum has a wheelchair accessible entrance on the west side, and floors can be accessed by elevator.
3. St Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park began in the late nineteenth century as a small exhibition of Florida reptiles and soon became a quintessential Florida attraction. Today it functions as a modern zoo serving the public and the scientific community with educational shows and exhibits, important research, and worldwide conservation efforts.
The Alligator Farm is the only place in the world where you can see every living species of crocodilian. It also hosts a wide range of other animals, as well as birds, reptiles, fossils, and more. Come face-to-face with impressive 15 foot 3 inch, 1,250-pound Maximo, the largest animal at the Park. The wooden walkway, which is very wheelchair friendly, allows for incredibly intimate views of Florida’s magnificent wading birds on their nests. The entire park is wheelchair accessible, and guests in wheelchairs receive a 50% discount off admission.
4. Pirate & Treasure Museum. Pirates such as Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles who frequented the nation’s oldest city and the Spanish fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, played a major role in the history of pirates and Colonial America. The Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an exciting and educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy. One of their most popular features is the Discovery Drawers marked with a skull and crossbones and hidden throughout the museum.
The Pirate Museum houses a unique collection of authentic artifacts along with interactive technology that takes guests on an historic adventure through the Golden Age of Piracy and the lives of the era’s most infamous pirates. With the “please touch” atmosphere and Disney caliber audio-animatronics, paired with the provenance of the Smithsonian Institution and rarely-seen artifacts from the state of Florida’s archeology vault, guests will undertake an awesome journey filled with compelling lore and surprising facts. In addition to the museum, the property boasts a scenic outdoor courtyard and a large deck that overlooks the historic Matanzas River and the magnificent Castillo de San Marcos, the 17th Spanish fort located directly across the street on the bayfront.
5. Old Town Trolley. For over 30 years, Old Town Trolley has provided tours highlighting the best of the city. Relive the story of the first settlement in North America as you visit Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish fort built in the 17th century. Visit the world famous spring that Ponce de Leon deemed the Fountain of Youth, where you can actually sample the water. Explore the site of the first Mass in America at the Mission of Nombre de Dios. Experience early St. Augustine as you tour old St. Augustine Village, featuring houses from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Old Town Trolley Tours makes exclusive stops at the Old Jail, St. Augustine History Museum, Potter’s Wax Museum, the Spanish Military Hospital, and the Ximenez-Fatio House. You’ll also see the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the oldest documented colonial house in Florida, lived in by British, Spanish and American colonists. Visit the San Sebastian Winery; Explore Flagler College, built by Henry Morrison Flagler, an industrialist, railroad pioneer and oil magnate, who originally used the building as a hotel then known as Ponce de Leon hotel.
Half of the Old Town Trolley fleet is wheelchair accessible, and they are working on growing that number. Also, all of their shuttles are wheelchair accessible. You can call 1-888-910-8687 to find out times for the wheelchair trolley in advance.
6. Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park is the site of the first Spanish settlement in the new world. Founded by Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565, this is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America. Long before the Spanish came to La Florida, the Timucuan Indian village was established at this site for nearly 3,000 years. In 1513, Juan Ponce De Leon claimed Florida for the Spanish crown, though no colonies were successful here until Menéndez arrived in 1565.
With a working archaeological dig on site, as well as several re-created Spanish and Timucuan buildings and dwellings, the park is bursting with history. It’s also just a beautiful spot to relax, enjoy the views over the water from the 600-foot Founders Riverwalk or from the Observation Tower, sample the waters from the natural spring (Ponce de Leon’s legendary Fountain of Youth?), and let the kids feed the roaming peacocks.
The Fountain of Youth offers a variety of shows and living history reenactments designed to entertain and educate visitors — the Planetarium, the two-story Discovery Globe mapping the routes of the early explorers, the Timucuan Village, and the reconstructed First Mission of Nombre de Dios. The paths in the park are paved and very wide, and while the spring itself can only be reached by descending down several steps, one of the park rangers will be happy to fill a small cup with spring water for you.
7. St Augustine Distillery. St. Augustine Distillery is a locally owned and operated, artisanal spirits distillery in historic, downtown St. Augustine. Located within a beautifully restored ice plant from the turn-of-the-century, their mission is simple: Educate and inspire their guests about their handcrafted, award-winning rum, bourbon whiskey, gin, and vodka. All of their spirits are made from local and regional agricultural products. The result is undeniable; world-class spirits that create the best local cocktails imaginable.
Come taste for yourself! The distillery is located inside the renovated Historic FP&L Ice Plant. Built as part of St. Augustine’s ﬁrst power and ice complex in 1907. The owners have lovingly restored and brought her back into service so she can serve the community for the next century. The Ice Plant is a contributing building to the Lincolnville Neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places and was the ﬁrst of it’s kind to make commercial block ice in Florida over 100 years ago. St. Augustine Distillery offers free tours and tastings seven days a week. The first-come first-served tours of the plant are wheelchair accessible, and guides will take wheelchair users through an accessible entrance to reach the gift shop.
8. St Augustine Beaches. St. Augustine boasts 42 miles of beautiful beaches, from the pristine coast of Ponte Vedra Beach to St. Augustine Beach’s lively surf and south to the wide sands of Crescent Beach. Visitors can browse for the perfect spot for a picnic, a wedding, a family outing, or just a place to spend some time basking in the sun. Fishing, surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, sailing, and nature watching are some of the many beach activities available in the area.
Nine of these beaches offer beach wheelchairs and accessible restrooms, and roughly half of them also have wooden boardwalk access to the sand, concessions, and the surrounding areas. For more details on which St Augustine beaches are most accessible, click to see the list of accessible beaches in St John’s County.
9. St George Street. St. George Street in St. Augustine is the premier street in the nation’s oldest city, a thoroughfare where pedestrians can stroll unencumbered by vehicle or even bicycle traffic. On the narrow avenue, boutiques, bistros, galleries and gift shops are tucked into cubbyhole-sized storefronts. But the street is so popular – and often packed with visitors – that traversing it can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the pedestrian-only area is wide, most of the shops and restaurants have flat entry, there are no cobblestones, and there are no curbs. Be careful crossing the side streets though as cars can travel along those.
Other businesses can be found on the side streets such as Hypolita Street and Cuna Street. If you continue south along St. George, you’ll eventually hit Cathedral Place and King Street where other shops and restaurants are located particularly around the large Casa Monica Hotel. These small gallerias house old-fashioned candy stores, clothing boutiques and outdoor stands offering handmade trinkets and souvenirs. Some of the local foodie favorites along St. George Street include Columbia Restaurant where the “1905” salad is recommended, Florida Cracker Café which is very family-friendly and Bunnery Bakery & Café which serves excellent coffee and breakfast items.
For more information on wheelchair accessibility in St. Augustine, please check out Visit St. Augustine’s page on accessibility!