On Tuesday Paul asked me if the boys and I would like to go to Jacksonville FL with him the next day. I said yes! So much fun has come into our lives by embracing our crazy (aka:: the army) and just going with the flow. St Augustine is about an hour away from Jacksonville and is one of my favorite places to visit, so I knew we would head over there when we had free time.
Early Wednesday morning we got up, made the drive to Jacksonville, and the boys and I explored some parks while Paul got some work done. We hit up Sweet Pete’s – a couple minutes off of 1-95 in Jacksonville (buy the salted caramel!), got dinner, and then hung out at the hotel pool and went to bed. Thursday was the real day for adventuring and when we would head to St Augustine! When the boys and I got up at 7 Paul had long been gone – it was just the three of us for the entire day and we were going to have some FUN – and do it as cheaply as possible.
A good day starts with a good breakfast, and I just want to say that the Holiday Inn Express does a stellar job with their breakfast buffet. They had Chobani Greek yogurt! That, fresh fruit, eggs, sausage, oatmeal and milk rounded out our morning meal. (We were very pleased with our entire hotel experience – which included an airport shuttle that allowed us to sleep while Paul left at 4am.)
We hit the road shortly before 9 and headed south. There were SO many options to choose from in Jacksonville and within an hour or so radius, but St Augustine is our favorite area. I had asked the boys for feedback on what they thought would be fun and they asked if we could return to Fort Matanzas. (first trip in 2013 here) It is just over an hour from Jacksonville and about twenty minutes from the more touristy St Augustine.
Fort Matanzas, which is south of St Augustine, is a free tour of an old fort that is located on an island. The park rangers run a boat over to the island and give you the history of the fort and sometimes do demonstrations (our first trip did not have demonstrations, this trip had a musket demo).
The boat left on the half hour (9:30, 10:30, etc) We arrived at 10:15 and were back at our car at 11:15. I had not realized that they have a booklet for children to do to earn a certificate, but it is also available to print online and I will be doing that for the boys this summer.
Our next stop was another repeat. Washington Oaks State park – it is a few minutes up the road from Ft Matanzas and is spectacular. It is $5 to park and on one side of the road it is the ocean and on the other it is their gardens. The beach was uncommercialized, uncrowded and had a porta potty in the parking lot! hurray!! (whoever said “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” clearly did not have children. We had an emergency … and the porta potty saved the day.)
We enjoyed some time playing in the waves and climbing on the rocks, and then drove across the road to the stunning gardens where we watched a great blue heron, tried to see dolphins (we saw their tails!), spied koi, and just enjoyed the beauty of the gardens. (when we visited last year they had oranges freshly picked from their trees for sale!)
I had packed the cooler with light finger foods – fruit, veggies, summer sausage, cheese, corn chips – and we had munched on those, but it was time for a real meal. I had done a bit of research trying to find a good place to eat and had stumbled upon The Present Moment Cafe. After scouring the reviews and the menu (they sell kombucha! though not their own brew due to health regulations. they sell GT bottled kombucha) I decided it would be a perfect fit. They are an organic raw vegetarian cafe that is also gluten, dairy and (mostly) soy free. The prices are a bit high for us, but somethings are worth spending more on and this is one of those things. The food was delicious and flavorful and left us feeling good and energized for the rest of our adventuring. You can see the menu here – we ordered the Creamy White Truffle Pesto Pasta (zucchini pasta!) and the Pad Thai to split between the three of us. (Both were good, the Pad Thai exceptional.) For dessert we shared the Chocolate Marble Torte with Drunken Banana – so delicious! It was a true culinary treat to eat at this cafe and an experience I would highly recommend this restaurant in St Augustine. We are not vegan, but that doesn’t matter – the food is spectacular and inspiring.
Our final stop was The Pirate and Treasure Museum in St Augustine. It was a little pricey considering how little time it took to walk through, but it was a great value considering what we saw, experienced, and learned in that short time. They have authentic pirate treasure that is fascinating to see. There are a lot of plaques to read and that was very hard to do with two boys to supervise so I did miss a lot of details that they weren’t interested in – but despite not getting all of the information we did learn a lot and it has fueled an interest and hours of imaginary play with factual information and I am happy with that.
We spent a little more time just walking around the down town area of St Augustine before our 4 hour drive home, getting us in a little after 1am. It was a jam packed full day of adventure, learning and fun!