Tips on getting around town on two — or four — wheels.
Now that you're here, you're probably wondering how to get around and where to park your car when you're not at home, at work, or at the grocery store. If you moved here from a big city like I did you probably assume it will be easy to drive around St. Augustine and that parking won't be an issue. You may want to rethink this. Although you won't have to circle your neighborhood looking for a parking spot for 20-plus minutes like I used to do in South Philly, eventually you'll encounter parking — and traffic — woes. Consider this: More than six million visitors come to St. Augustine every year and many of them bring their cars! Be prepared, so you don't spend $20.00 on parking while also sitting in traffic for up to an hour during your first Night of Lights celebration.
Finding a Parking Spot
The City of St. Augustine provides a parking spot finder on their website. This active link shows whether the parking garage and city lots are full, where to find handicapped parking spaces, and where to look for free spots. As a local, I can tell you that not all free parking spots are shown on the map. Also, some private lots, particularly those owned by schools and churches, are not always open to the public and may not be on the website. This spot finder gets you started and let's you know which spots you'll miss because you're still getting the kids out of the pool prior to heading downtown.
Parking with the ParkNow Card
St. Augustine pay stations (and parking with the app) costs $2.50 per hour. But residents need only pay $.50 per hour with a ParkNow Card or if they sign up with the ParkStAug App as a resident. There's a three-hour parking limit on city streets and a four-hour limit in city lots. Pay stations are located throughout the city — some are city-owned while others are privately owned. The city-owned pay stations are marked with the city crest. Additionally, the Historic Downtown Parking Facility can accommodate up to 1,200 vehicles and costs $20.00 — or $3.00 for residents with a ParkNow Card. Treat yourself to a housewarming gift and get the ParkNow Card - I insist!
ParkNow Cards will eventually be phased out and replaced with the ParkStAug App. For more information about the ParkNow Card, visit ParkStAug.com or call the city's Parking Division at (904) 825-1090, Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
You can use cash, a credit card, or, the ParkNow card - that's just for locals - at pay stations downtown.
Parking with the ParkStAug App
The app, available throughout the city limits (except for at the Historic Downtown Parking Facility), makes parking downtown a little bit easier. You can download the app on IOS and Android and set up your resident account by adding your payment method (credit or debit card), your license plate number, your driver's license, and your vehicle registration. You can also set up your account online at ParkStAug.com.
For first-timers using the app, here's a tutorial:
Once you find a parking spot, open the app and select your zone. Zones can be easily identified on area signage such as on the side of a pay station. Next, enter the amount of time you'll be parked there. The best part of the app is that you don't have to run back to feed the meter. If you want to stay longer, you can just open the app and add the extra time. So go ahead and have dessert when you're lunching downtown.
One of the largest lots in St. Augustine is the Castillo de San Marcos Lot. It's an odd duck of a lot as it's run by the park service and enforced by the city. You must pay for parking in this lot from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week. (Yes, that includes Sundays.) The good news is that it's free after 9:00 p.m.
As of November 6, 2023, parking in the garage costs $20.00 per vehicle, per entry, during peak parking times. During off-peak parking times, 5:00 - 9:00 p.m., on most days, entry is $5.00. Off-peak parking rate will not be applied during several festivals, Nights of Lights, and on days when the free satellite parking lots are open with free shuttle service.
* On national holidays, meters and pay stations marked by the city crest are free.
* Mondays through Saturdays, city-marked meters and pay stations are free before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. On Sundays, they are free before 1:00 p.m. and after 9:00 p.m.
* You must have the proper car tag to park in an area marked as residential. Before 7:00 a.m. and after 7:00 p.m. you may park here free of charge without a tag.
There are just shy of a dozen handicapped parking locations in historic downtown St. Augustine. To see a map of those locations, click here so you can plan accordingly.
Drifters Beach & Bike Rentals offers a fun and healthy way for travelers to get around. With beach cruisers, town cruisers, e-bikes, and kids' bikes, Drifters makes it easy to find a set of wheels as they have pickup locations as well as free delivery and pickup service. Visitors rent bikes (lights, locks, and helmets included) by the day or week to explore St. Augustine's beaches, parks, and attractions. Drifters also offers child-seat attachments and trailer tents for cruising the nation's oldest city with little ones.
Visitors will need a free MOVATIC app to rent bikes from one of Drifters' seven locations. The app makes it easy to find Drifters locations or rent bikes, and it uses BlueTooth technology to unlock and lock the bike to racks.
E-bikes are only available for one to four-hour or full-day rentals (eight hours) from the St. Augustine Beach location. They will ride comfortably on the sandy beaches; however, saltwater will damage the bikes, so bikers should avoid riding through water or wet sand.
Parking Your Bicycle in St. Augustine
Parking a bicycle is way easier than parking a car, of course. Even so, it's good to know where the bike racks are, so you don't lock your bike to a tree.
The City of St. Augustine provides free bus service in downtown St. Augustine. This service known as the St. Augustine Rider or STAR Circulator is funded by the Florida Department of Transportation and operated by Old Town Trolley. It offers circular transportation around the city's core with stops at key locations such as Avenida Menendez and Cathedral Place. The STAR Circulator aims to improve connectivity, reduce traffic, and provide convenient transportation for residents, visitors, and workers. The service runs daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. Riders are welcome to ride the STAR Circulator's complete route but must disembark after one circulation.
During the busiest times of the year, the City of St. Augustine and/or St. Johns County provides a free shuttle service to mitigate congestion during events like the 4th of July and Nights of Lights. This shuttle is separate from the STAR Circulator and runs continuously with stops at various parking lots downtown. Not just for tourists, the shuttle alleviates traffic jams by helping residence travel through downtown. For more information see:
* If you're going to see a show at The Amp, use the free satellite parking lots. The Amp provides free parking at RB Hunt Elementary School Soccer Field and at Anastasia State Park. Shuttle service from the satellite lots begins 60 minutes prior to gate time and runs up to 60 minutes after the event ends.
* If you want to park and/or drive on or at one of the beaches, bookmark this link as it tells you everything you need to know. Also, get to know and like non-peak hours. For example, I love going to the beach in the late afternoon when everyone is leaving, and the light is really pretty.
* Sometimes when traveling between Anastasia Island and "the mainland" it's easier (and faster) to use the 312 Bridge. The Bridge of Lions that connects Davis Shores with historic downtown St. Augustine is gorgeous, and, sometimes very, very slow. The bridge opens for boat traffic — at the request of a large powerboat or most sailboats — only on the hour and half-hour between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. On weekdays no openings are allowed at 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., but openings are allowed during those times on weekends and federal holidays. Again, openings only occur at the request of a boater, so there are many hours and half-hours with no openings at all. Overnight, when there is less traffic of all kinds, the bridge will open at any time, upon the request of a boater.
The Bridge of Lions, in historic downtown St. Augustine, can slow down traffic when it opens to let a boat through.
When not writing, you can find Amy teaching and performing improv as well as facilitating team building sessions. She's also a certified laughter yoga leader, a travel hacker, and cat lady.