St. Augustine, Florida is one of the most underrated “haunted” destinations in the world.
A perfect getaway for self-proclaimed paranormal investigators, ghost hunters, and the “ghost-curious” among us, it’s also a lush, tropical small town with a kitschy-colorful art scene, bohemian vibes, and great food!
Let us show you why you definitely need to add this one to your witchy bucket list.
PLEASE NOTE: This trip was entirely self-funded. Moody Moons received no compensation from any vendor noted in this article.
Why is St. Augustine haunted?
In 1565, Spanish explorers laid the foundation for what is now the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement within the contiguous United States—St. Augustine, Florida.
(If you thought the oldest settlement was Jamestown, Virginia, so did I. So yeah, we’ll both just pretend we totally knew that.)
Having survived British rule, the Civil War, and countless invasions by pirates, St. Augustine is a place of legends, turmoil, and dramatic death lore.
For all these reasons, St. Augustine, Florida enjoys (or is plagued by, depending on whom you ask) its reputation as one of the most haunted cities in America.
Ghost Tours in St. Augustine
The best way to find a paranormal guide in the older, smaller towns of haunted America is to go on a ghost tour.
St. Augustine has way more than usual, but here’s a round-up of the most highly recommended.
Ghost City Tours
Ghost City Tours is the most highly rated of the (many, many) ghost tour operators in town.
This tour company even offers kids-free, adults-only tours if that’s your jam.
GhoSt Augustine prides itself on “authentic, non-theatrical” ghost tours. But my favorite part is that they will drive you around in a legit hearse.
(We did a similar hearse tour in Savannah, Georgia, and honestly, it was just dope to ride around in a hearse).
A Ghostly Encounter
If you want to hear some tales-from-the-creepy and get your 10,000 steps in at the same time, A Ghostly Encounter offers premium, highly-rated walking tours in the downtown area.
Ghosts & Gravestones
Quaint and just a little bit kitschy, Ghosts & Gravestones provides a variety of trolley tours, including one that features a live paranormal investigation at the old jailhouse. Fun.
Where to go ghost hunting in St. Augustine, Florida
Numerous locations are reputed to be haunted in this tiny, medieval-era town.
But the following are among the most well-researched and have the most vibrant histories of strange phenomena.
“I mean, I saw the glow stick shoot to the other side of the room. According to the stories, it was probably one of the little girls,” 40-year-old Thomas told me when he recounted an incident with a friend while visiting the lighthouse.
The “little girls” Thomas refers to are a centerpiece in the paranormal lore of the lighthouse.
What happened at the haunted lighthouss?
In 1824, St. Augustine became home to Florida’s inaugural lighthouse under the jurisdiction of the newly formed American Government.
Historical records and maps suggest that this “official” American lighthouse was constructed in the same location as a previous Spanish watchtower dating back to the late 16th century.
Although grand and beautiful, the lighthouse also bears a dark past.
According to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum on July 10, 1873, the Pittee sisters — Mary (15), Eliza (13), and little Carrie (4) — were accompanied by another unidentified girl (10), possibly related to a laborer at the site, during their usual ride in a cart.
Sadly, the cart lacked the wooden barrier that typically prevented it from veering into the water. The cart toppled into the water, trapping the girls beneath it.
Witnessing this dreadful incident, Mr. Dan Sessions, a young worker, rushed to the scene. Summoning every ounce of his strength, he managed to lift the cart off the girls. Regrettably, by that time, three of the four girls had already perished. The sole survivor was the youngest, Carrie.
In the aftermath of this heart-wrenching accident, both the construction site and the town itself came to a standstill as they mourned the loss of the young lives.
Following their funeral, the Pittee family returned to Maine, their place of origin, to lay their beloved daughters to rest. The exact resting place of the young unidentified girl remains a mystery to this day, as diligent staff researchers have not yet been able to locate it.
Since that time, many claim to have experienced strange or unexplained events in the lighthouse.
The Ghosts of the Castillo de San Marcos
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the Castillo de San Marcos is an amazing place to visit.
Although we don’t often associate North America with the European Medieval Period, the Castillo in St. Augustine is a rare reminder that the Medieval world arrived in North America just in time to make its mark.
The Castillo has been the site of a number of high-profile paranormal investigations.
A popular place to take a stroll on a nice day, Huguenot Cemetery is a 200-year-old historic burial ground.
Nearly all the ghost tours stop here, and it’s well worth it to ask the locals if they remember any legends about it!
Where to Stay
Although I very much enjoy staying in hostels myself, I’m generally hesitant to stay in them with my family. Or recommend them to people with small children. Because hostels.
However, I found the Pirate House on Treasury Street to be extremely safe, welcoming, and family-friendly. It was centrally located, well-managed and they served fresh pancakes for breakfast. 🙂
What to Do
When you’re not searching for spooks, St. Augustine has a lot to offer. I could spend a week or more there exploring, but if you only have a few days, here’s what you can’t miss.
Take a walk on St. George Street
The lively, spirited atmosphere of St. George Street is a great place to take an afternoon stroll. Sample some fudge at one of the chocolate shops, pick up a one-of-a-kind artisan craft, or just enjoy a little people-watching.
The Fountain of Youth
You know that famous Fountain of Youth in Florida? It resides in none other than St. Augustine.
I love, love all the lore about healing water and the universal hope of eternal life that surrounds this little town. You can drink from it yourself at the Ponce De Leon Fountain of Youth Archeological Park.
(Be warned, the high sulfur content makes it kind of stinky!)
The grounds are also lovely. My little girl really enjoyed the little flock of peacocks they have.
Visit the Pirate Museum
The admission price at The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is a little steep.
So if you are traveling with a large family, I’d say skip it. But if you’ve just got one or two kiddos, it’s a fun place to learn about the local history.
See the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
The glittering majesty of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is a stunning example of Floridian architecture. The most striking feature—the shrine just in front of the main entryway—is not pictured because photographs are not allowed.
But it is gorgeous and well worth the walk.
What to Eat
You really can’t go wrong with the food in St. Augustine. But these gourmet hot spots really stand out.
The Cuban Cafe & Bakery
Although Cuban restaurants get better and more abundant the further south you go in Florida, it’s still a great option in the upper half of the state. I never leave Florida without at least one Cuban meal.
In Saint Augustine, I highly recommend the pastries and sandwiches at The Cuban Cafe & Bakery on St. George for a casual lunch spot.
Casa de Vino 57
Head over to Casa de Vino 57 on Treasury Street for great wine and small plates.
If you’re feeling European food, the spinach pie at Athena Restaurant on Cathedral Place is excellent.
It’s also affordable and family-friendly, with slide-in booths and an attentive staff.