Last year, I wrote about the importance of vacation without kids. Now that our kids are elementary school-age, we’ve been keeping our non-kid getaways limited to overnights and weekend trips because we’d rather take them on our big trips! So when my parents offered to watch the kids for a night while we were visiting Amelia Island a few months ago, Clay and I jumped at the chance to sneak away. We chose St. Augustine, Florida because it is a short drive from Amelia Island and it has a completely different vibe than the surrounding area.
Casa Monica Resort and Spa
We decided to stay in a hotel that we wouldn’t have chosen if the kids were with us. We’re big Marriott fans so we booked the Casa Monica Resort and Spa, which is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. It was built in 1888 and served as a hotel until the owner abandoned the property when the stock market fell – it officially closed in 1932. From 1968 until the 1970s, it served as a county courthouse. In the 1990s, it was sold again and officially re-opened as a boutique hotel in 1999. It’s in the heart of the St. Augustine historic district so it was the perfect location for our little getaway.
We arrived at the hotel mid-morning and we were able to check in early. We dropped our bags and set off in search of coffee and to explore the cobblestone streets. Founded in 1565, St. Augustine lays claim to the oldest city in the United States and boasts the nickname The Ancient City. The brick-lined streets have a distinct European flavor and there is no shortage of centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards, or vibrant fountains.
We popped into some shops and enjoyed strolling through the alleyways – the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Soon after, the pool was calling our name so we headed back to the hotel. We sat in a cabana, ordered drinks, and enjoyed reading our books without children demanding our attention.
While in the cabana, we researched places to eat dinner and made a reservation. After getting our fill of sun, we changed and set off to explore some more and grab drinks and appetizers since our dinner reservation wasn’t until much later that night.
The Casa Monica lobby is filled with Moorish-Spanish decor, frescoed fountains and ornate chandeliers. The hotel is beautiful and full of the charming quirks that often accompany historic hotels – a maze of hallways, tons of scones, and unique pieces of art scattered across the property.
Super close to the hotel is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, which is our country’s first parish and the oldest Catholic Church in St. Augustine. We visited the sanctuary and admired the exquisite murals and beautiful stained glass. We then set off to stroll the cobblestone streets yet again.
The live music at Mi Casa Cafe drew us in so we ordered draft beer and enjoyed the shaded patio and eclectic crowd.
We then had chips and guacamole and another round of drinks at Taberna del Caballo. Pictured is the caipirinha I ordered, which is one of my favorite drinks to order when at the beach. Made with cachaça, a rum-like spirit from Brazil, lime, and muddled sugar, the caipirinha is a simple and refreshing cocktail perfect for a sunny afternoon.
We explored for another hour or so before heading back to our hotel to change for dinner. It was amazing to leisurely walk around at our own pace (we’re fast walkers!) and not have to take into account the needs of our children.
The sun was setting as we set off for dinner so we decided to walk along the water. St. Augustine is located on the Mantanzas Bay, which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Augustine Inlet.
We also walked along the exterior of Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest and largest masonry fort in the continental United States. We watched dolphins frolic in the Mantanzas Bay and the sun set to the west.
We had dinner at Collage, which is up there as one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time. We were not disappointed and enjoyed the award-winning experience of dining there. We can’t recommend it enough!
If you do find yourself in St. Augustine and dining at Collage, do not hesitate to order the Bougainvillea dessert. It is a perfect combination of fresh strawberries, fresh vanilla ice cream, phyllo dough, cracked pepper, and mint.
The next morning was filled with more exploring and walks along the water. We decided to head back up to Amelia Island a little sooner than expected in order to squeeze in as much beach time as we could with the kids because the weather forecasted later that week wasn’t greatest. We had an absolute blast in St. Augustine and can’t wait to go back with the kids when we’re back in the area.