Climb the lighthouse, see wildlife, stay at historic hotel in St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — hits the road to discover ruthless pirates, amazing eats, fascinating wildlife, world championship golf and some of America's earliest history on a trip to St. Augustine, Fla.

Earlier this week, stopped by the Fountain of Youth and the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum to explore some of the city's earliest history. Today, we step forward a few years.

In 1845, Florida became a state, and Henry Flagler visits and becomes one of the most influential people in the city's history moving forward. Visitors to St. Augustine will immediately see his  impact on the area. In the 1800s, he built the Ponce de Leon hotel. Today, it's Flagler College. Flagler built the Alcazar Hotel, too. Today, it's City Hall and Lightner Museum. Both are worthy of a carriage ride around town to view the architecture.

Right next to both is the Casa Monica Hotel. It was built in 1888, was owned at one point by Flagler, served as the county courthouse during the 1980s and now offers visitors a four-star boutique hotel experience in the heart of historic St. Augustine.

"When you think about St. Augustine, you think about history," Casa Monica Hotel manager Anthony Lazzara said. "It's a large part of what this city is all about, being the oldest city in America and Casa Monica, being part of that history, was part of the late 1800s and being part of this hotel and being part of the community and part of history makes it a very neat place to be."

For a maritime history of the area  and an adventorous outing, climb the 219 steps and enjoy the view from atop the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

"It's the ninth tallest along the Eastern seaboard, third tallest in Florida," Brenda Swann from the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum said. "It's 140 feet to the observation deck. We do have eight landings. This is one of the few lighthouses that was built with the idea of having tourists come and climb it."

The current lighthouse was completed in 1874. There was one before it, but shoreline erosion threatened it and it was decided a new one should be built. A sea storm took out the old one in 1880. Today, visitors can climb the tower, explore the museum or tour the Keeper's House.

The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve offers visitors an educational experience while exploring North Florida's natural history.

"Depending on the season that you are here in the area, you can see North Atlantic right whales off our coast if you are lucky," Janet Zimmerman from the GTM Reserve said. "We have a bald eagles nest directly across from the center. From the time of December through early spring, (visitors) can watch a mating pair raise their young. And then, we have a plethora of wildlife that are out on the trails as well."

There are 10 miles of hiking trails, beach access, fishing areas and plenty of other spots to enjoy all the wildlife and the environment this region offers.

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