in St. Augustine
ADVENTURES IN AMERICA’S OLDEST CITY
Written by: DAVE KELLY
Some places are simply romantic. Sure, we
get married, we celebrate anniversaries
and we always make sure to pucker up on
But who says that we should only take specific
calendar days to celebrate love? Romance is always in
the air in St. Augustine.
Yes, Florida’s oldest city abounds in all things
romance every day of the year. And from cozy inns
and cottages to riverside restaurant hideaways to
bistro courtyards that are open to the stars, the city
bursts with historic beauty and allure.
So, we put all work aside and took a mid-week getaway
to the Ancient City for the quick special escape that we
longed for and deserved.
TRUE SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY
Together we researched the city’s dozens of bed-andbreakfast
accommodations and were delighted to find The
Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens. Situated right on the edge
The Collector Inn consists of nine historic homes and lush gardens. Rooms combine modern touches with local history including porches and verandas.
of Old Town, it is mere steps from some of St. Augustine’s most
spectacular attractions and landmarks, yet it is tucked away in quiet
verdant foliage. We discovered that it has been voted one of 2022’s
top five Best Resorts in Florida by Travel + Leisure and that it is an
adults-only inn — a definite plus for this trip.
We checked in at the combination office and café and were
greeted with true southern hospitality, then strolled past
graceful statues, gates and gardens as we headed to our veranda
suite at The Rose House.
Built in 1907 and home to a rose museum in the 1950s, The Rose
House features four luxurious rooms, including ours, which
boasted a full veranda-style back porch overlooking the shaded
pool. Our full living space and mini kitchen led to a king-sized
bedroom area that featured luxurious silk linens and a stylish
tiled bathroom. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we
could enjoy our privacy while still being close to everything that
we wanted to do.
The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens specializes in customized
experiences for its lodgers. From private mixology classes to
citywide guided tours to romantic getaway packages that include
wine and chocolate, guests have options to enhance their getaway in
ways constructed just for them.
For ours, we chose the private mixology class, which included
a lesson in the finer points of drink design, a custom cocktail
recipe, and a personal cocktail shaker set. Our lesson took place
on site at The Well, a cozy century-old gathering spot that was
once St. Augustine’s first two-car garage and is now a full liquor
bar. We finished our lesson, headed out to the patio and topped
off our night with some quality time at one of the inn’s firepits
before heading back to our room.
In addition to its inviting and relaxed feel, The Collector
Luxury Inn & Gardens features a fascinating history, which
we learned about on a leisurely morning tour with in-house
historian Melissa. Kenneth Dow, a passionate collector of
artwork, furniture and other oddities, acquired the nine homes
on the site at various times in the early 20th century. The lush
one-acre retreat features homes dating back as far as the 1700s,
with many of the restored buildings playing important roles in
the city’s history.
In fact, the Murat House, built in 1790, is one of the oldest
surviving colonial buildings in St. Augustine and it bears the
name of its most famous occupant, Prince Achille Murat, a
nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte himself. The Dow Museum
of Historic Houses, consisting of these nine separate historic
buildings, opened in 2000 to showcase Dow’s extensive
collection of unique artifacts. Current property owner David
Corneal opened The Collector as an inn in 2017, and many of
Dow’s treasures populate the rooms and grounds to this day.
With 30 individually appointed rooms and suites now occupying
these nine buildings, The Collector Luxury Inn & Suites is part
contemporary hotel and part historic inn, having taken its place
as a do-not-miss destination.
Top to bottom: Ancient City coffee, love at first sip, one of San Sebastian Winery's many awards and a yummy fried seafood combo at St. Augustine Fish Camp.
The following morning we took the romantic approach of waking at a leisurely hour and heading out to a late-morning brunch at the Ancient City Brunch Bar. Located right around the corner on historic St. George Street, owner Melissa Schroeder has created an intimate yet friendly environment that specializes in breakfast, brunch, lunch and gourmet coffees and treats.
Melissa and her twin teenage daughters came up with the idea of offering up a “brunchcuterie” — basically a twist on the classic charcuterie board but featuring brunch specialty treats combined with gourmet coffees and teas.
Together they trademarked the idea and opened the Ancient City Brunch Bar during the heart of Covid with a menu that consisted of pastries and bagels, tea, coffee and lattes, breakfast sandwiches and more, all served on a board. Their successful business grew locally as they doubled down on their commitment to 100% locally sourced food and drink, adding to-go and catering options.
As we savored our unhurried brunch of breakfast sandwiches, eggs and croissants served on a build-your-own brunchcuterie board, we enjoyed the family like companionship and chat of patrons and staff alike.
It was a warm and comfortable atmosphere, the perfect start to our day.
ROMANCE AND NIGHTCAPS
There is romance in wine. And St. Augustine is home to the second largest winery in Florida, so we decided to make an afternoon of touring and sampling wine varietals at the San Sebastian Winery downtown. Opened in 1996, San Sebastian Winery is a family run operation that can process up to 15,000 bottles of wine per day. Complimentary tours and tastings are seven days a week, hosted by knowledgeable wine aficionados.
Many of their native varieties of grapes are grown at the 127-acre Lakeridge Winery Estate in Clermont, and we had a chance to try them all in the cool darkness of the aging room upstairs.
After our sampling, we journeyed to The Cellar Upstairs Bar and Restaurant, where we listened to soft jazz while we sipped our wine and took in the fabulous skyline views from this rooftop venue. Our final stop was at the Wine Shop on the way out, where we grabbed a bottle of San Sebastian Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for the room that night.
After a leisurely breakfast the next day, we wandered through the city, touring such breathtaking locales as Flagler College, Villa Zorayda Museum and the old Alcazar Hotel. In a city with over 450 years of history, the passions
THE COLLECTOR LUXURY
INN & GARDENS
149 Cordova St., St. Augustine,
ANCIENT CITY BRUNCH BAR
210 St George St. c3, St. Augustine, ancientcitybrunchbar.com, 904-342-0890
SAN SEBASTIAN WINERY
157 King St., St. Augustine,
40 Charlotte St., St. Augustine,
ST. AUGUSTINE FISH CAMP
142 Riberia St., St. Augustine,
After a leisurely breakfast the next day, the writer and his companion wandered through the city, touring such breathtaking locales as Flagler College, Villa Zorayda Museum and the old Alcazar Hotel. In a city with over 450 years of history,
the passions involved in designing and creating these impressive masterpieces are apparent in every brick and stone.
involved in designing and creating these impressive masterpieces are apparent in every brick and stone.
The weather was beautiful, so we decided to look for an eatery with outside seating. Locals rave about Catch 27, a restaurant dedicated to preparing and serving fresh seafood caught in Florida waters, so we meandered back to historic downtown and took our seats at a table in the open-air courtyard. Our server told us that their seafood is delivered fresh every day and often features snapper, flounder and black drum. They cook everything from scratch, using seasonal ingredients, locally sourced produce and edible garnishes to catch the eye.
We enjoyed unique appetizers and entrees, such as deviled eggs topped with southern fried oysters, white cheddar and bacon grit cakes with grilled shrimp, and braised short ribs over pasta. As the sun set and the gentle breezes blew softly through the patio, we treasured the joy of the day.
During our nightcap at The Well before heading to our room, we decided to lunch the next day at St. Augustine Fish Camp before ending our journey to this romantic city. While the area is well known for its history and ocean beaches, we did not want to miss this quaint restaurant’s location on the San Sebastian River so we could experience the tranquil serenity of the Fish Camp’s outside deck.
Locals rave about the restaurant’s fresh oysters on the half shell and true southern seafood, so we dug into the fried gator tail, blue crab cakes with caper dill aioli, and the fresh blackened mahi sandwich special. It was a relaxed, tasty way to end our time in the Ancient City.
Romance should not be limited to a day or a time. It is an experience with your loved one that is meant to be savored and enjoyed any time that you can.
If you are looking for happy moments and memories with the one you love, make plans to visit St. Augustine today. FCM