St. Augustine's Pirate and Treasure Museum was one of those unexpected finds that makes traveling fun. I was thrilled to find several wow moments while visiting there recently.

A new attraction in St. Augustine, Florida, the Pirate and Treasure Museum is across the street from Castillo de San Marcos, the city's famed fort. I almost didn't visit the museum, fearing pirates would be a little kitschy for a well-traveled adult. I was glad I visited, though, and recommend it for visitors who want a unique look at this interesting era in history.

The museum, opened in December 2010 by collector Pat Croce, is filled with actual pirate artifacts dating back to 1563. The creative displays are often interactive, encouraging visitors to get up close and personal with this misunderstood part of our maritime history. From hoisting the pirate flag to touching an actual pirate chest, walking into a pub or lifting a gold bar, visitors have a chance to really experience the collection.

Pirate Museum Tews Chest

Captain Tews Chest. Photo courtesy St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum

Some of the most memorable artifacts include a 17th century treasure chest from Captain Thomas Tew, now worth an estimated $1 million.

One of only two surviving Jolly Roger flags in the world is also on display in the museum, and a wanted poster from1696, issued by the King of England, demands the capture of pirate Henry Every.

I was fascinated with the ship's log and account of pirate Captain Kidd's final voyage from New York to his execution in England, as seen through the original 1699 journal of Lt. Thomas Longish, who provided transportation on his vessel. To see that curving handwriting and realize it is centuries old, recounting a piece of history that took place almost a century before the US Constitution was ever signed, was a wow moment.

In addition to these and an amazing bounty found on shipwrecks around the world on display for the public, the museum offers interactive cannon firing demos, computers with stories of notorious pirates, and a touch-screen map of key pirate strongholds during the Golden Age of Piracy.

A highlight of the visit is the “Below Deck” experience. This surround-sound audio experience, designed by Disney Imagineers, takes visitors below the deck of a ship to experience Blackbeard's last battle. In true Disney fashion, stepping into this simulated ship's hull provides an entertaining yet educational look at this intriguing part of our history.

The trip through the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum concludes in a room showcasing Hollywood pirate memorabilia. It took about two hours to go through the museum and read all the exhibits, enjoy the interactive features, and spend a little time in the gift shop for some modern-day pirate treasures. This is definitely worth the visit.

Admission is $12. Kids 5 and under are free. Museum is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, except Christmas Day.

Pirate Museum Jolly Roger

Jolly Roger on display. Photo courtesy St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum

St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
12 S. Castillo Drive
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Twitter: @ThePirateMuseum

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