This stone archway (built to accommodate much smaller modes of transportation than we have today!) marks the land entrance to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park ( fountainofyouthflorida.com ). With guest books dating back to 1868, Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is the oldest tourist attraction in Florida!
The park is made up of 15 waterfront acres, dotted with numerous fascinating exhibits, throughout its manicured gardens, oaks, magnolias, and cedars.
The grounds are also home to dozens of free-roaming peacocks, that love to "strut their stuff" for you!
There is the reconstructed 1587 Mission Church, which is a reminder that this is the site of the FIRST Mission Church of Nombre de Dios. Since I am of the Christian faith, it was very significant to me that I was able to stand on the ground, where the very first Christian church was built in the continental United States!
The center of the park is the site of the Ponce de Leon Memorial, because it was Ponce de Leon that first explored the area in 1513.
Our very knowledgeable tour guide/historical re-enactor taught us that about 50 years after the area was explored by Ponce de Leon, it was settled by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, in 1565. As a reminder, that is 55 years BEFORE the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, and 42 years BEFORE Jamestown was colonized. Even the FIRST documented Thanksgiving feast between Europeans and Native Americans occurred here!
The park has a boathouse and shipbuilding exhibit, where the visitor can see a historically correct 16th century chalupa workboat.
Our guide also told our Road Scholar group about how the native American people that lived here would make the dugout canoes that used to navigate the waterways that surrounded them. It has been my experience, that the Road Scholar ( www.RoadScholar.org ) travel programs consistently provide the best tour guides an area has to offer. This trip to learn about St. Augustine was no different, because the familiarity of our tour guide's face and voice, were a result of his being a contributor to PBS network educational programs about South Florida!
The historical marker and statue of a Spanish Conquistador is located near the entrance of the park, and close to the Five Flags Cafe---a delightful outdoor site for picnics, as well as cafe meals.
I will have to admit that before this trip, I did not know much about the history of St. Augustine, other than it was the home of the Fountain of Youth, and a place I wanted very much to visit!
After our group had been thoroughly briefed on the history and archaeology of the park, we lined up inside a stone building to have our opportunity to actually see the spring, let it fill our empty cup, and then wait to be overwhelmed by a feeling of youthfulness! It must have worked, because just days after my friend Diane (shown in this photo) drank from the Fountain of Youth, she went on multi-day hiking trips out West in the National Parks, and rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon!
www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses that says, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." I believe that God answers my prayers for the youth-like strength I need to do his will on this earth, and getting to have some actual water from the legendary Fountain of Youth, was just an extra blessing God gave me as "icing on the cake"! Believing and living with this in mind, gives me "MILES OF SMILES"! Tricia