St. Augustine, Florida, that “noble and loyal city” is the oldest inhabited European settlement in North America. Founded by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, it was a valuable outpost of the Spanish Empire, serving as a haven for the imperial treasure fleets sailing from the New World to Spain. For over a century and a half, beginning with Sir Francis Drake’s raid in 1586 and ending with General James Oglethorpe’s attack in 1743, English troops and buccaneers repeatedly tried to wrest this strategic port from the Spaniards.
In 1655, Oliver Cromwell’s “Western Design” resulted in the capture of Spanish Jamaica, thus providing English freebooters with a safe base from which to plunder the Spanish Main. The “Golden Age of Piracy” had begun!
In 1668, Captain Robert Searle and his privateers sailed from Jamaica to loot the silver ingots held in the royal coffers at St. Augustine. Under the cover of night, they slipped into the harbor and attacked the sleeping town, killing sixty people and pillaging government buildings, churches and homes. The devastation wrought by these bloodthirsty pirates prompted Spain’s Council of the Indies to issue money to build a massive stone fortress on Matanzas Bay to protect the city. The Castillo de San Marcos still stands as an enduring reminder of Florida’s exciting heritage!
Join us on the first Saturday in March in the reenactment of the “1668 Sack of St. Augustine.” During the day a 17 century-style military encampment will be open to the public at the Oldest House Museum (the Gonzalez-House Museum) located at 14 St. Francis St., St. Augustine. Our local historians, play host to drills, demonstrations and living history interpretation on Friday and Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The reenactment of the sacking and burning of the town will commence Saturday evening at 4:30 PM in the old city. This event is sponsored by Searle’s Buccaneers and the Men of Menendez (members of the Florida Historic Militia), with the assistance of the St. John’s County Tourist Development Council. Searle’s Sack of St. Augustine is made possible in part by a grant from the St. Johns County Tourism and Development Council.
The procession that commemorates the arrival of the raiding pirates and introduces this annual event will begin at the Cathedral Basilica at 4:30 p.m. on the first Friday of March , and will proceed north on St. George Street to the Santo Domingo Redoubt on Orange Street.
Visitors can see colonial St. Augustine in action at this living-history camp, where there will be period demonstrations with weapons, clothing, and equipment, as well as reenactments of camp life and social activities.
The reenactment of the battle between the freebooters and the city’s Spanish defenders will take place in St. Augustine’s historic district at 4:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of March, beginning at the Plaza de la Constitución and ending at the Old City Gate.
The English brigade will head up St. George Street from the Plaza toward the city gates, and the battle will commence when the English try to invade the Spanish defenders who will be stationed at the Santo Domingo Redoubt off Orange Street across from Potter’s Wax Museum.
Living history gets real when the period re-enactors demonstrate how the Spanish settlers had to fight off Searle and his pirates.
Events in the historic district are free.
Other Local History to Visit While You Are Here
- Colonial Quarter Museum- Journey back in time through the history of St. Augustine. From our distinctive 35-foot watch tower and colonial buildings to shops and dining.
- Fountain of Youth- We invite you to visit us for a fascinating, informative, entertaining tour of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the original site of the Nation’s oldest city. Located in the area first explored by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513.
- Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, St. Augustine, FL- 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.
- Ft. Matanzas National Monument, St. Augustine Beach, FL- Fort Matanzas guarded St. Augustine’s southern river approach. The colonial wars are over, but the monument is still protecting—not just the historic fort, but also the wild barrier island and wildlife.
- Ft. Mose State Historical Park, St. Augustine, FL- Historic site of a free-slave settlement, preserving history and natural beauty.
- St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum- The Museum today serves 225,000 visitors each year. The Interpretive Division provides docent-led guided tours that are free with the cost of admission. This includes a tour of artifact conservation areas featuring artifacts from historic shipwrecks. Ship modeling, Heritage Boat Building and interactive exhibitions use visual, audio, tactile, and kinesthetic learning to share information with everyone
Things to Do
- Old Town Trolley- Trolley Routes & Stops with a lot of helpful information on St. Augustine's Points of Interest, Shopping & Entertainment, Restaurants & Bars and much more!
- Florida's Historic Coast- A Comprehensive Community Calendar
- The Spanish Bakery- A local baker's blog and home of many tasty treats. Right off St. George Street.
- ST. JOHNS CO. CULTURAL COUNCIL- HistoricCoastCulture.com is a one-stop source for information about all the performances, venues, exhibitions, and community events that are happening year-round in the St. Augustine area.
- visitstaugustine.com- Visitors will find an array of attractions in the nation's oldest city. From living history museums like the Castillo de San Marcos to Gilded-Age hotels, swashbuckling adventures and specialized tours in the air, on the sea, and in the heart of the historic district, Saint Augustine has it all!
- Lightner Museum- Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel built in 1888 by Henry Flagler. Today it is home to one of the finest collections of fine and decorative 19th century art in the country. The Museum is open to the public seven days a week and features self-guided tours, tours by reservation for adults and children, and demonstrations of antique mechanical musical instruments.
- St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum- The 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.
- Classic Car Museum of St. Augustine- The Classic Car Museum of St Augustine was created to help bring memories back to life as only Classic Cars can do. Visitors are provided with the opportunity to experience cars from the 1800s to modern day sports cars.