Thank you to St. Francis Inn for partnering with us on this post.
If you're like my husband and I, you'd do anything for a brief respite from the kids! We're only 30 minutes north of the nation's oldest city so we can go any time we'd like for a day trip and just head back at the end of the day. It had never occurred to us to stay the night. However with St. Augustine being one of the nation's most romantic cities, we jumped at the chance for a relaxing getaway when the St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast approached us. Sightseeing all day and then enjoying a relaxing evening in St. Augustine, too? Why yes! That sounds like a great idea! Count us in!
In late May, amidst the hustle and bustle of end of school sports, performances, and celebrations, we visited St. Augustine for a night at the St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast. WE.COULD.NOT.WAIT! Built in 1791 and named # 1 best hotel by USA Today's 10 Best, it was easy to see why it stands out from all the hotels in downtown St. Augustine. It is right down the street from the Oldest House, in the older section of downtown, and is known as St. Augustine's oldest inn. It has peaceful gardens, plenty of rocking chairs and porch swings, yummy gourmet delicacies, and is on St. George Street, walking distance from St. George Street shopping and restaurants. With our welcoming room and plenty of amenities, the history of the building (including haunted rooms), and some amazing food, here are 3 reasons why you should treat yourselves to a relaxing getaway at St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine.
1. The Food Is Amazing, and There Is Plenty Of It
Having stayed at bed and breakfasts before, I knew they of course offered breakfasts for their guests. But the St. Francis Inn went above and beyond in terms of offering food! When we checked in they showed us the tea and coffee, water - flavored with fresh citrus or regular, home made chocolate chip cookies and granola bars. In our room we were welcomed to sherry with two fancy glasses. From 5:00pm - 6:00pm they have a social hour and snacks with local St. Sebastian Wine and Jacksonville based Bold City Brewery beer for guests. The snacks on our visit were hummus with feta cheese, olives, and other Greek toppings, a homemade curry yogurt dip with fresh veggies, and pita chips. Guests are welcome to enjoy snacks in the breakfast room or sit surrounded by plants and statues in the gardens. After going out for dinner at the Columbia Restaurant, we returned to the inn for dessert hour. I brought my husband a lemon bar and chocolate chip cupcake so we could each try one, but he ate both. I went back for the lemon bar!
For breakfast, we relished in the warm frittata with eggs, potatoes, cheese, tomatoes and spinach and tried not to mention too many times how nice it was to relax and dine for breakfast without having to get up to tend to our children (or do dishes, for that matter!). We enjoyed the apple cinnamon oatmeal then went to the next bar to enjoy home made apple butter, strawberry soup (we HAVE to find the recipe!), breads and muffins. Then there were the juices, yogurt parfaits, and the homemade granola. We ate and ate under the ancient wood ceiling and next to the hundreds of years old decorated wooden door and enjoyed a peaceful and rare breakfast together.
2. There Are Plenty of Amenities
St. Francis Inn has a campus like no other bed and breakfast I've seen. If you know St. Augustine, you know parking is rare. St. Francis has it's own lot across the street and it was bordered by a butterfly garden and guarded by two bronze lions. The rooms are like a European hotel, yet much larger, and it was neat to pretend we lived in a historic home. The beds have soft white sheets and huge fluffy pillows. Two large, fluffy robes were waiting for us to use in the closet. The inn has its own pool, and a heated one for that matter! The gardens offer tables and chairs, porch swings, and rocking chairs for lounging. Sitting among the strung lights enjoying some sweet tea (or a Bold City beer) made me feel like a southern Florida belle relaxing at an old St. Augustine residence. Our favorite amenity was the selection of bicycles they provide for guests to use. I went on three bike rides and leisurely explored the old residential section of downtown, went up to the more touristy area of St. George Street to enjoy people watching, and then later biked to new restaurants like Collage, The Preserve, The Floridian, before settling on our trusty favorite, the Columbia Restaurant. It was so relaxing to enjoy the bay front on the way to the Castillo de San Marcos and on to dinner.
Here are more amenities at the St. Francis Inn that help with parent relaxation in mind (we wish we had stayed for days to enjoy them all!):
- St. Augustine Beach access, complete with beach chairs, beach towels, off street parking, and a shower!
- Complimentary s'mores ingredients so you can enjoy the yummy treat on their outdoor fire
- Jacuzzi offered in many of the rooms. Once I enjoyed a warm Jacuzzi bath, I was fully mellow and peaceful for the duration!
3. There is History and There Are Ghosts
We loved learning about the St. Francis Inn's history...and the ghosts that are known there! Over its 226 year history, it has had many owners and many stories. The original owner was Gaspar Garcia, a sergeant in the Third Battalion of the infantry Regiment of Cuba. It was owned by many other military owners through 1845 when Anna Dummett changed the family home to a lodging establishment. Owners and occupants included literary figures and educators. Current owners celebrated their 30th anniversary of their bed and breakfast this spring. We loved how the information was provided to guests to learn about the building.
It is one thing to walk by the old homes, but it is another to stay in one! The old fire place is decorated, the building is made of ancient wood, and there is even still coquina rock along the side of the building. It has ancient doors and it was from St. Francis Inn that we started photographing the ornate and old doors of St. Augustine. The inn is located in the oldest neighborhood of St. Augustine, with the oldest houses, the oldest streets, an old cemetery with three pyramid tombstones. For a more recent history lesson, we biked along the historical route of Martin Luther King's visit to St. Augustine in the 60's. Plaques are found along the route and talk of the families he stayed with and the trials he faced while here. There is history everywhere you go from St. Francis Inn.
Ghosts are well known in St. Augustine and you can take ghost tours about pirates, through cemeteries, and through St. George St. But the inn plays host to its own ghastly legends. Lily, known as a servant girl who lost her lover when she was forbidden to see him, is known to make apparitions in, "Lily's Room." Lily has been reported by many guests, and even Paranormal Investigators! The inn is reported in many books, which you can find here. If you are attracted by paranormal activity, as many are, ask for Lily's room.
In the morning I enjoyed a jog along the battery and over the Bridge of Lions to watch the sun rise. It was quiet in the city as all the tourists were not yet up and about. I enjoyed the boats swaying on the Matanzas River, the Castillo with cabbage palmettos blowing in the breeze, and the birds foraging quietly in the low tide. We enjoyed biking after breakfast and were then reluctant to turn in our keys to head home. We loved making St. Francis Inn our home base for an evening of relaxation and exploration, and even a lesson in ghosts. We would recommend the inn to anyone looking for a relaxing getaway. You can find more info about St. Francis Inn here! Find more info on parent getaways at www.fun4firstcoastkids.com.