From Disney World to St. Augustine An Easy Road Trip

From Disney World to St. Augustine An Easy Road Trip

Are you up for an easy Florida Road Trip from Walt Disney World to St. Augustine? Perhaps for a day trip or a weekend? Sine Florida stays sunny most of the year, you can usually count on beautiful weather. And if you’re at Disney World, you may be craving a break from the crowds and a chance to dip your toes in the sands of Saint Augustine, Florida.  We love cute towns with shops, cobblestone streets to stroll, and loads of new places and experiences. On a recent family vacation to Walt Disney World, we decided to pop on over to St. Augustine for the weekend to avoid the crazy Disney crowds and get some much-needed down time. If you’re ready for a little adventure, away from the parks, here’s everything you need to know about a Disney World to St. Augustine Road Trip.

Coronado Springs Resort Disney World

Adding a Beach Trip to your Disney World Vacation

Sometimes a vacation just isn’t a vacation if you’re not at the beach. While this isn’t always true for us, we love nothing more than just being at the ocean. And, since the ocean is only a couple hours from Disney World, we just couldn’t resist trying this out. If you’re thinking of adding a beach trip to your Disney World Vacation, there are a few things to consider. Mainly that Orlando’s central Florida location, gives you full access to both the East and West Coast beaches of Florida. So, it really depends on what you’re in the mood for. For us we were looking for good food, and cute shops and a little history, so we headed to St. Augustine. 

When to Visit and Where to Stay

While you can easily just add a Disney World to St. Augustine Road Trip onto either end of your vacation, we decided to plop ours down right in the middle. This allowed a chance to do some Disney resort hopping with a split stay. For our money, this meant a Disney Vacation with two resort experiences, instead of just one. For the early part of our trip we stayed pretty cheaply at a hotel near Disney Springs. This gave us easy access to the Disney Buses, and shopping, without paying the higher costs of a hotel on property. And since we had rented a car, it saved us having to drive to and from the parks. For the latter part of our trip we stayed at  Disney’s Coronado Springs which we just love. From the grandeur of the Grand Destino Tower to the coffees at Barcelona Cafe, it’s one of the calmest resorts at Disney World.  Both hotels we chose got us Disney perks but together cost less than just staying at one resort for both halves of our trip. You can, however, stay at any Disney Resort, and it won’t make much difference. 

How to Get There

Interestingly, you can get to St. Augustine from Disney World a few different ways. For this trip we rented a car at the airport, but you can also just grab one from the Disney Car Care Center, if you’re already at Disney World. You can also just bring your own car to Disney, which is most likely easiest and cheapest. Keep in mind that a rental car, though, comes with it’s own set of additional costs. Having a car means paying to park places, fuel costs, rental fees, hotel parking fees, etc. For ease, though, we recommend getting your hands on a car. 

Driving from Disney World to St. Augustine 

Half the fun of any trip is in the journey. And that’s just as true for a road trip from Disney World to St. Augustine. Because a trip from Disney World to St. Augustine is only about 2 hours, you won’t be in the car as long as you think. However, about an hour of trip is driving to the coast, and then the second hour is filled with a scenic route up i-95. On this leg of the journey you pass Daytona Beach, Flagler Beach, and the Palm Coast.  

How far is Disney from St. Augustine

The distance from Orlando to St. Augustine is about 2 hours and 15 minutes drive time. Keep in mind this is assuming you miss construction and rush hour. If you’re leaving early, plan on real early, like 6:30 a.m. The main route to the coast and to St. Augustine is also the main route for everyone going to work or the beach. So while the distance from Orlando to St. Augustine Beach isn’t far, travelling via I-4 and I-95 North, you can generally plan on a 2-1/2 hour trip depending on which Disney resort you are driving from. 

Visiting St. Augustine

St. Augustine is best known as an old fashioned small town next to the ocean. As the country’s oldest city, founded in 1565, St. Augustine brings a lot of history to the table. Covered in cobblestone roads, St. Augustine combines historical buildings and lighthouses with modern and indie dining experiences. A classic hop on hop off trolley is always available to make getting around easier. In truth getting around the city of St. Augustine was our biggest trouble! As such we were so grateful for this little trolley, and the fact that we were staying at a hotel, that had parking, within walking distance of the town. 

St. Augustine Traffic and Parking

The main road in St. Augustine enters the town over a bridge, and Ponce de Leon Blvd is consistently crowded. So, if you’re sitting in traffic it’s because the bridge is going up, and down. Rinse and Repeat. All day long. Weekends are worse for this since the party pirate ship that requires the bridge to raise and lower is more active then. Additionally, the main road, San Marco is the main artery for all of the attractions so often backed up.

If you’ve read anything about St. Augustine travel you would have heard about the parking or lack thereof. In fact, we’d say mastering this one thing will make or break your vacation.

  1. Parking lots that actually have spaces are few and far between, especially on weekends and evenings.
  2. There is one parking garage. Pay the 10 dollars if there is a space, this is easier than worrying about meters, tickets, and lot closings.
  3. If you enter the town early enough and take the Old Town Trolley Tour on your first day in St. Augustine, you can park for free in the Old Town trolley lot.
  4. It’s best to find a centrally located Hotel in St. Augustine with a parking lot. We point out the parking lot, because many of the historical hotels only have street parking.  

It may seem like the most mundane thing, but the time you spend figuring this out will save you time driving around trying to find a spot and time yelling at your family members because this is the worst vacation for lack of parking. Visit the St. Augustine Parking site. Don’t let all the parking “P’s” fool you, some of them are just meters and others are pretty small lots. Have a plan B and a plan C. Apparently, this happens all the time. Or park in the St. Augustine Parking Garage to avoid the worry.

St. Augustine Atmosphere

In addition to the cute shops, quaint restaurants, forts, and history, St. Augustine is also home to a sometimes debilitating homelessness problem. We share this just like we do when we chat about Disneyland. The city does have homeless shelter, and a panhandling ban,  and they additionally have a no camping/sleeping on the street ordinance, so they know this is an issue. Just don’t be surprised when you see it. As a tourist city, the streets are sometimes homes for those people without them. On the weekends especially, it’s difficult to enter a quiet village street without seeing several unfortunate souls on your way into shops or lunch. While this is no worse than we see on Anaheim streets when visiting Disneyland, Disney World trips tend to offer you the “Disney bubble” you don’t get elsewhere. We only share this so you can prepare little ones, or members of your travel party if needed. 

Map st. augustine map florida trolley tours in st. augustine

St. Augustine Map

Here you’ll see the map for St. Augustine. It’ s important to note that the town may be bigger than you think, because it actually goes all the way out to Anastasia Island at the top of the map. If you are the driver on this trip, your goal is to review the map so you can find a place to park first. The town is pretty walkable, so once you park the car, the day is yours for exploring.

road trips from disney St. Augustine

St. Augustine Places to Stay

Choosing a good St. Augustine Hotel  close to town will save the headaches of driving and parking. It won’t however save you from the nightlife noise. So you’ll have to choose which is more important to you. As this was a pretty quick weekend trip for us, we chose a hotel a little outside the town- for quiet, which was much needed- and were pleasantly surprised with the perks! If you’ve read the blog for any amount of time you’ll know we love hotels.com and finding stuff on a good deal. We also tend to be addicted to free parking, free Wi-Fi, and free breakfast. Yes, we know that’s a lot to ask but we’re not going to change that expectation anytime soon.

Breakfast at Southern Oaks Inn

Southern Oaks Inn

Southern Oaks Inn was recently renovated and the rooms are super nice, a very pleasant surprise. We also loved the full-service breakfast in the mornings. This was such a treat and saved us the trouble of finding, or paying, for breakfast in town. Know that this hotel is not close to town. You will have to drive, but only like 10 minutes max. It is however the cheapest hotel we could find for this trip at about $80 a night! So cheap. And really was all that we needed. We were especially grateful to be near a shopping center with a grocery store, and away from the downtown noises. 

Other hotels that are great in St. Augustine cost a bit more, but if you’re interested you can also try the Doubletree by Hilton St. Augustine at just over $100 a night, or the Homewood Suites by Hilton St. Augustine San Sebastian is another good choice to be away from the noise, but close to everything for about $135/ night. 

Disney World to St. Augustine Trip

St. Augustine Places to Eat

While winging breakfast at your hotel or a nearby cafe is fine, and aiming for lunch just somewhere on St. Georges Street is a good bet, leaving your dinner plans undecided is a problem. With the restrictive hours, sometimes restrictive menus, and limited parking situation you don’t want to just assume that you can “eat anywhere”. You can’t. Figure out your dinner restaurant ahead of time and make a reservation if you can.

We only stayed a weekend, so can’t comment on all the food so check out the OpenTable top ten for more options. Frankly, this wasn’t a premier foodie city for us. We weren’t blown away by any of the dining options, so if you have suggestions on absolute must-try places, add them in the comments.

St. Augustine Bars and Restaurants

St. Augustine is a college town. Let me repeat that. College. Town. That said you can expect tons of cute bars and places with American fare. St. Augustine is improving their restaurant offerings, but it’s not a major city and doesn’t operate like one.

  1. Hours: Don’t assume that restaurants will be open late just because you’re on vacation. Most of the good restaurants close at 9 p.m. Some of the coffee and lunch places close at 6 p.m. Trying to find coffee at 6:30 p.m. was a nightmare.
  2. Appearance: Don’t expect the restaurants to all be pretty. While you can bet on a few being phenomenal, some of the best ones we read about before vacation just looked scary when we arrived. What they look like from the outside may not be a huge issue, but when it’s dark and there’s nowhere to park we usually need the comfort of lights and a bathroom.
  3. Accessibility: Don’t figure that just because it looks like it’s easy to get to on the map, it actually is. This isn’t the suburbs, you will have to navigate one-way streets and park farther away throughout your entire trip. There will be tons of walking.

The Columbia Restaurant

The Columbia is Florida’s oldest Restaurant, and was built in 1905! This is a beautiful restaurant but we weren’t crazy impressed with the food. They have loads of appetizers and drinks but we waited for like 45 minutes before our food came, and we had reservations. Review the menu before you go to sure you’re up for the cuisine and make sure to have a reservation. Check out the St. Augustine Columbia Restaurant to make a reservation and for the latest menu. 

Columbia Restaurant St. Augustine Florida

Columbia Restaurant St. Augustine Florida

Columbia Restaurant St. Augustine Florida

The Taco Shop 

The Taco Shop is a mainstay in St. Augustine, has a cult following and some pretty great tacos! Their most popular is the UFO which involves a lot of fixins smashed between two tortillas. Very yummy, totally worth a lunch stop. Try the one on St. Georges Street if you’re in town. It’s a great lunch made fresh.

Fresh Berry Pops St. Augustine
c/o The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops

Hyppo Popsicles

Hyppo Popsicles is a St. Augustine Must-Do foodie experience. You can’t come to St. Augustine without making a stop here. These are handmade ice pops with oh so many flavors… and it’s Florida, so you’ll need a cool treat at some point during your vacay. You can grab everything from the Elvis pop, featuring peanut butter and banana, to Strawberry Basil and Pineapple Mojito. There are Dairy Free options, and you can also order online. These are so fantastic, we highly recommend grabbing some for your stroll through St. Augustine. 

Crucial Coffee St. Augustine

Crucial Coffee

Crucial Coffee  was a godsend. This tiny coffee shack serves amazing coffee and is totally worth the stop! It looks like a little shack, and get pretty crowded, but they are VERY GOOD at making coffee. Very friendly service and open till 7 p.m. on a Sunday. (Rare in this town since everything closes early on Sundays.) A must-stop place if you’re strolling around the historic district.

We also wanted to try The Floridian, The Raintree Restaurant,  and a few other places that all closed too early for us to add them to our schedule. In our hunt for great coffee, we were slightly disappointed with the taste and service at Kookaburra. We’re blaming it on the fact they may not know how to deal with busy weekends,  but then we’re sort of making excuses on that one. I ended up pitching the coffee after a few sips and chased it with the  macrons from the Le Macaron French Pastries instead.

St. Augustine Things to Do

If you’re fitting St. Augustine into 2 days, there is a lot to do. As such, we recommend planning an in-town day and a beachy lighthouse day. Separating your trip like this will give you your best chance of seeing what you want to see, without feeling rushed. It will also keep you out of traffic during the day, which is much needed. Check out all the things to do in St. Augustine. 

Do the Old Town Trolley Tour

If you’re into history, then you are probably in the right place. St. Augustine has a plethora of history, flavored with some over-the-top tourist attractions. Your best bet to get the full history tour experience is to work in a day on the Old Town Trolley Tour. While the hop-on hop-off service on the trolley is a little limiting since they run on a 9 am -4:30 pm schedule, the perk of parking at the trolley station may be worth it. One full route around the town runs for 90 minutes and makes 23 stops. Take one day and do the Old Town Trolley Tour. This is by far the best remedy for parking we found, even if it did mean walking two miles back to our car at 9 p.m.  You can decide to stay on the trolley the entire tour time of 90 minutes to get a full history of the town or hop on and hop off all day until 430 p.m. when they stop running. Taking the tour is a great solution for parking, IF you plan to catch the last trolley back at 430 p.m. If you’re staying late in town, plan to walk or Uber back to your car. The main lot is about 35 minutes from town- walking.

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum  was a highlight of the early part of our trip, this lighthouse hosts the Wrecked exhibit, highlighting shipwrecks from the area and how scientists harvest old ships from the sea. As a visitor, you are able to climb the lighthouse for panoramic views of St. Augustine at the top.  Definitely a perfect sunset opportunity if you time this right. At 13 dollars for an adult and 11 dollars for a child, this experience is worth it if you decide to climb the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse.

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

Castillo de San Marcos Fort St. Augustine

Castillo de San Marcos Fort

Located right off San Marco Ave. this fort can be seen if you’re driving to St. Augustine from Disney as you come over the bridge on A1A. Check out details on the National Park Service website. Adults pay $15 dollars per person to get in and children under age 15 are free. You can view a real live canon blast from this fort as part of the events each day, and meander through the rooms below. Lots of interesting history is shared here but we really didn’t need more than 45 minutes at this stop.

St. Augustine to disney

Flagler College

People visit Flagler College mostly because it is gorgeous. There’s a lack of organized tourist activities here simply because it is an active college. You can however inquire in the main office for a student-guided tour, otherwise just plan on picture taking. Check out if they any community events during your trip.

Lightner Museum

This Gilded Age Lightner museum is very pretty but also very self-serve. You pretty much grab a ticket and mosey around. Tickets to Lightner Museum are $19 per adult, $12 age 12-17, and 11 and under are free. If you want a richer experience you can also book an upstairs-downstairs tour, which frankly if you’re going to make the effort to fit this museum into your trip you might as well!

Road Trip From Disney World to St. Augustine

All in all, it was great to get away from the busy weekend at Walt Disney World and head to the coast. As a destination, St. Augustine can easily be covered in 1 or 2 days if you have a plan and know what you really want to see. While we didn’t do the touristy activities like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the Fountain of Youth or the Wax Museum we would have had time for either simply because the rest of the trip is just bee bopping around town checkout out shops, the fort, and food. As a family trip, it wasn’t the most family-friendly simply because the “kid” stuff isn’t plentiful. As a college town, it would be great for adults to get away from Disney.

There were definitely things, like the homeless situation, traffic, and parking, that made us think twice before returning to St. Augustine. But as the “oldest city in the US,” it was definitely worth a look. We didn’t cover too much of our beach time here, but there are enough beaches nearby, including the St. Augustine Beach, to give you the break you most likely need. Hopefully this post has helped you get your head around what adding St. Augustine to your Disney World could look like! 

disney to st. augustine florida road trips

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.


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