St. Augustine and the Legendary Fountain of Youth

As the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the United States, St. Augustine attracts plenty of visitors. But this isn’t new. In fact, the area has attracted travelers and explorers for quite some time. Nowadays people come for the historical architecture, spectacular nature, and proximity to some of the best beaches around. But the first visitors to reach this fabled destination may have been searching for something much harder to find.

Led by conquistador Juan Ponce de León, the Spanish first arrived in present-day United States on April 2, 1513. They landed on the Floridian Peninsula and named the land La Florida. The name comes from Pascua Florida (the Easter Festival of Flowers in Spain) because it was near Easter-time and the newfound landscape was lush and full of plants. Ponce de León and his crew were no doubt looking for all sorts of treasures in the New World, but legend has it that their real goal was the mythical Fountain of Youth.

Before reaching Florida, Spanish explorers discovered the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. The native people they encountered told them of a mythical land of wealth and prosperity, and the Spanish hoped this could be the location of the Fountain of Youth, a common subject in European folklore. While Ponce de León may have just been looking for fame and riches, the Fountain of Youth captured the imaginations of generations that followed and became forever intertwined with his story.

Today St. Augustine is home to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. The park is located at the site where Ponce de León and his crew are believed to have landed, and remains of the first Spanish settlement and its fortifications have been uncovered there. It’s also home to a well that some claim to be the spring of life the conquistador was searching for. Whether or not its waters will actually give you eternal youth, the park is an important and fascinating piece of Florida history.

While Ponce de León never found the mythical Fountain of Youth, a charming, carefree stay in St. Augustine will certainly revitalize you. Take a look at our special offers to start planning your getaway, and learn all about how present-day Florida came to be.