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Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, St Augustine, Florida, is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the USA. The brick-lined Old City contains centuries-old buildings, horse-drawn carriages and hidden courtyards. In addition to excellent restaurants, museums and beaches, St Augustine is home to many stellar hotels, resorts and B&Bs. Here are the best in the area.
In downtown St Augustine, this art-filled luxury retreat was once the Dow Museum of Historic Houses. Today, it offers 30 stylish rooms spread across nine buildings dating from the 18th century. Each combines period features with modern conveniences, such as iPads, rainfall showerheads and luxe bed linen. Each morning begins with a European continental breakfast and ends with two happy hours – one in the afternoon and one late at night. It also hosts live music in a restored amphitheater and guided tours of the property.
Built in 1920, this intimate inn dazzles with its vintage bricked courtyards and porch spaces. The eight guest rooms include antique armoires and a bed so soft you may never leave. If you do, the hotel sits in the Historic District, moments from the Castillo de San Marcos. The central location allows you to indulge in the many shops and restaurants nearby.
Named for Don Manuel Lorenzo Solana, one of the first Spaniards to land in St Augustine, this historic inn is dripping in local history. Its colorful exterior is the first hint there’s something special here, and that continues to the 10 individually designed rooms with their period furnishings. The accommodation is just a short drive from the public beach at Anastasia State Park, and you can enjoy the peaceful garden or request an in-room massage. Free bicycle rentals are available should you wish to explore further afield.
Owned by the Ponce family – one of the oldest families in the US – the Conch House was once a four-room hotel under the guise Ponces by the Sea. Today, it’s a tropical-themed resort with a selection of cheerful rooms and suites. Embrace island living and bask in the sun surrounded by greenery, or hide in the shade of a palapa-style parasol. Make sure to visit the Coach House Lounge, a Robinson Crusoe-esque bar sitting on stilts above the water.
Itching to explore St Augustine? The Loft at Menorcan Square is in the thick of the action. Sitting in the Historic District, it’s within proximity to Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, the Lightner Museum and Castillo de San Marcos. When it’s time to head back, rest in your hanging bed, supported by four chains in the ceiling. Downstairs is a cute courtyard with parasols and hanging plants.
Built in 1894 by socialites Conrad and Sophie Decher, this Victorian home was restored just over a century later by the current owners, Court Terrell and his mom. That old-world charm has stuck and can be seen in its tinkling garden fountain and fireplace. Each of its eight suites includes a whirlpool bath and luxury linen, while some feature an opulent four-poster bed. Your stay comes with a hearty breakfast accompanied by coffee, tea and juices.
Overlooking the San Sebastian River, the Ponce St Augustine Hotel is next to the Florida East Coast Railway designed by industrialist Henry Flagler. Each of its guest rooms comes in calming pastel hues, although you might prefer to spend your time in the kidney-shaped pool and the adjoining bubbling hot tub. The hotel is a 20-minute walk to the Castillo de San Marcos, while a slight detour will take you to the Potter’s Wax Museum.
Sitting on Matanzas Bay, this waterfront retreat is a collection of four separate lots brought together to create a 36-room hotel. The oldest of the quartet is the Rodrigues House, built in 1572 on royal decree from the King of Spain. Its buffet-style breakfast is a royal-worthy banquet and the afternoon freshly made chocolate chip cookies a fitting offering.
While Ernest never stayed here, the adults-only Hemingway House is named after the owners’ favorite writer. At night, the street comes alive with an assortment of music venues – of which the novelist would surely approve. Breakfasts are fresh and filling, whether it’s french toast topped with cinnamon-citrus syrup or strata filled with turkey ham and gooey cheese, while every evening starts with a casual social hour.
Opposite Matanzas Bay, this 15-room B&B offers a relaxed, sophisticated stay while still being close to the action. The rooms are individually styled with standout period furnishings – most have a double-jetted tub. Make sure to request water views upon booking; you might even spot the odd dolphin pod. A stay comes with a Southern-style breakfast cooked by chef Mary, and there’s a happy hour in the evenings.