You probably always heard the story of how Ponce de Leon went searching for the Fountain of Youth, and thought that he found it in St. Augustine. I expected this to be pretty hokey, but it was actually very interesting and informative. They even give you a drink form the fountain. But the "fountain" is actually nothing other than a hole in the ground, and not even very pretty.
There are peacocks walking around and a really good history exhibit and my favorite was a planetarium exhibit about navagating with the stars
"Honey do I look younger yet?"... that's what I asked my wife after I sipped the noxious tasting water samples from the Fountain of Youth. "no, you look like the same old so-and-so" she replied.
The sign on the entrance says "SEE, WALK, VIEW, DRINK". For me the VIEW part was the best.
We walked through the whole park, from the monument to the marsh and around the graveyard. That takes a good hour. We saw all the exhibits, dioramas, videos, and statues; we saw the fountain; we saw the Ponce De Leon statue where he claimed the land for Spain; we also saw marsh birds, an ostrich, peacocks and even a blue heron. The view across the water front was nice; the view of the graveyard was good. The gardens and birds were the best view. the view of the fountain of youth itself was a bit of a let down (I had a mind-picture of a real fountain spouting water into a pool).
The gift shop was expensive but almost mandatory (how could you go home from there and not show friends/relatives a trinket or two?).
In all, we spent at least three hours there (including a soft drink and ice cream from the little stand just outside the entrance).
The Fountain of Youth is just outside the Old Town off of San Marco Boulevard. Supposedly this is the same spring that was discovered by Ponce de Leon in the 16th Century when he landed in the area. Of course, the Native Americans had known about and used it for hundreds of years prior to this. The Native Americans believed the water from the spring to have magical properties and offered to share it with Ponce de Leon and his crew.
Today people come to the Fountain of Youth more as a curiosity. The spring itself is housed in a small building with a life-size diorama of Ponce and the Natives sipping water from it. The original cross that Ponce de Leon laid down next to it when he claimed it for Spain is still there. Everyone gets a cup of the water to try. It tastes pretty bad. I'm not sure if this is because of its high sulfur content or because they treat it with chemicals to make it safe to drink.
Several tours are offered of the Fountain's grounds, which are quite pretty and overlook the sea. For the most part, though, this attraction is kind of hokey, which is OK as long as you know that in advance.
Free parking; $7 admission charge.
"Y'all wanna try some water from the spring?" the middle-aged woman asks with a smile as we enter the Spring House. I take the small plastic cup and drink it, throwing my head back as though doing a bar shot. I'm parched from a crazy drunken bike ride the night before. "Ack! It tastes funny," I exclaim. "There's sulfur in this water," my companion cleverly infers. The Fountain itself is fairly unimpressive--I don't know what I expected, but it looks like any small stone well.
Saint Augustine is the site where Spanish conquistadors led by Ponce de Leon landed in 1513 and claimed this continent for Spain. Legend has it that Ponce, intrigued by rumours of a mystical island, was searching for a fabled spring where the waters brought eternal youth.
This park holds archaeological evidence of early Timucua Indian settlements, relics from the first Spanish expeditions, a "landmark cross" (27 stones believed to have been placed by Ponce de Leon), and the first Christian native burial ground.
We watch three presentations. The first is a history of the park, fountain, and landmark cross. The second is a history of expeditions to the new world displayed on a massive globe. A woman's cellphone rings somewhere in the theatre--she answers and carries on a loud conversation during the show. The third presentation is in a planetarium. The show goes into heavy mathematical detail about star movements. It's a highly complicated, long, and slightly boring display projected by possibly the oldest projector in the New World.
The park is a lush forest decorated with period cannons and anchors. Peacocks and chickens roam the grounds. We pause for a moment at "The Indian Village"--a display presented by a native senior citizen.
This was fun! A leisurely place to spend a sunny Sunday morning--in "North America's First Historical Site." ...But I don't feel like I'm getting any younger yet.
Do not miss: "The Spring House", "The Indian Burial Grounds", and the monument overlooking Matanzas Inlet which marks the Spanish landing site.
The Fountain of Youth park is located just off San Marco Ave. in St. Augustine. This archaelogical park marks the spot where Ponce de Leon came ashore in 1513 and discovered North America. The park contains an Indian village and the landmark cross consisting of of 27 coquina stones that Ponce de Leon himself placed. Especially worth a visit if you have learned about Ponce de Leon in school. A coupon (small discount) to the park can be found in visitor maps and guides in St. Augustine.