No, that's not a European town. It's St. Augustine, Florida.

St. Augustine, on the northeastern Atlantic coast of Florida, makes for a unique and interesting place to retire, especially if you’re fond of history and Spanish architecture. It’s the country’s oldest city, and rich in nature, culture, and art. You’ll have easy access to the beach and a lot to keep you busy.

When you know you want to spend your retirement in Florida for all the obvious reasons but you want a bit of an edge to the way you spend your later years, consider St. Augustine. There’s a growing community of active adults, plenty of recreational opportunities, and an eclectic and almost European vibe that runs through this remarkable city.

History in St. Augustine

Castillo de San Marcos is the most famous monument in the city.

Spanish explorers arrived in St. Augustine in 1565, making it the oldest community to be continuously inhabited by European settlers in the United States. After restoration efforts throughout the later part of the 20th century, the city is a modern but authentic version of its former colonial self.

The most famous monument is the Castillo de San Marcos, a fortified wall facing the sea that was built to protect the city against invaders. You’ll see the original city gate, watch the waves crash against the impressive masonry work of the fortress, and explore early America’s history of wars and invasions.

Other historical points of interest include the Nombre de Dios Mission and Shrine, where you can attend mass or visit the museum celebrating the first Christian church in America.

At Fort Mose Historic State Park, you can visit the first settlement of freed slaves. Musket-firing shows are also a weekly activity, and there’s a boardwalk to the water as well as nature trails perfect for wildlife viewing. In the Colonial Quarter, a living museum, it’s possible to experience what life was like centuries ago.

St. Augustine’s Art and Culture

The first Christian church in the U.S., the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.

Retiring in St. Augustine means having access to some of the best art, music, and theater in Florida. Dozens of art galleries can be found on Anastasia Street and King Street downtown. Nightlife includes breweries, walking tours, and wine clubs. Auggie’s Draft Room is popular with locals for its 24 self-serving beer taps, and The Cellar Upstairs at the San Sebastian Winery has a large wine list and lots of live jazz and blues music.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is part place of worship and part museum. The beauty and the art in the church are unlike what you’ll find in any other church in America, and along the basilica walls you’ll learn the story of St. Augustine and follow the history of Catholicism in Florida and the U.S.

The World Golf Hall of Fame is in St. Augustine, and includes a museum and an IMAX Theater. This Hall of Fame is unique among other professional sports in that both men and women are celebrated.

Exploring St. Augustine’s Nature

Anastasia State Park is great for camping, fishing, and bird spotting.

If you’re going to retire in St. Augustine, get your annual pass to the Florida State Park system because you’ll want to make frequent trips to Anastasia State Park. Here, you’ll find gorgeous white sand beaches, interesting tidal marshes, and protected sand dunes. Visitors can camp, swim, fish, or go for a hike along the Ancient Dunes Nature Trail. Expect to see some of Florida’s most famous birds, including spoonbills, osprey, and bald eagles.

The St. John’s Fishing Pier is one of the best places to catch black drum. The pier also hosts festivals, concerts, and performances. Stokes Landing Conservation Area is a popular and serene place for biking, hiking, fishing, and spotting wildlife.

Active Adult Communities in St. Augustine

If you’re sold on St. Augustine as an ideal retirement destination, where should you live?

The Villages of Seloy

The Villages of Seloy is one good option, where buyers can choose a new or resale townhome that includes a sunroom and an eat-in kitchen. The outdoor pool is a popular place for community parties, and there’s also a clubhouse with a fitness center, a library, and a computer room. It’s a cozy and intimate environment, with only 240 proposed homes, giving new residents a great opportunity to get to know their neighbors.

Cascades at World Golf Village

Golf is a part of many retirement plans, and if that includes your plans, take a look at Cascades at World Golf Village, a gated 55+ community with 450 single-family homes and exclusive golf club privileges. Other amenities include tennis, bocce ball, shuffleboard, a deluxe fitness center, and some of the most beautifully landscaped walking and biking trails in the area. Resale homes start at the mid $200s and go to the high $400s.

Bridge Bay Bannon Lakes

Bridge Bay at Bannon Lakes is also small, with fewer than 200 single-family and attached home plans. Pulte Homes is still developing this 55+ community, and when it’s done it will include pickleball courts, a kayak launch, and a dog park. The resort-style pool faces the lake. Buyers can choose a property that has between two and five bedrooms.

Freedom at San Salito 

Another new St. Augustine community is Freedom at San Salito, a desirable community for buyers 55+ with only 96 single-family homes. An amenity center is coming soon and will include a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and an outdoor fireplace. New homes can be purchased in four different models.