Before departing on a sponsored press trip to northern Florida, I researched my anticipated St. Augustine accommodations. With an original structure built in 1791, the St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast had hosted its share of friendly and mischievous spirits through several centuries, so I wasn’t surprised when I could not turn off my guestroom light one night, no matter how many times I tried.
Everything else about our stay at the St. Francis Inn was terrific, including an easy walk to the edge of St. Augustine’s charming commercial district. A low stone wall and short wrought iron fence flanked the Inn’s exterior coquina walls, made of cement and ground shells. A deep brown wood balcony, and bright red rockers near the front door, overlooked the lush courtyard garden and patio. Red and yellow flags hung along the fence, in honor of the city’s upcoming 450th birthday.
The front ‘lobby’ at the St. Francis resembled a narrow vintage sitting room, with a high ceiling, and an overstuffed antique couch full of pillows across from the fireplace which had a carved wood mantle. A ceiling fan whirled quietly above us.
The Inn has hospitality down to a fine art. There’s free parking available—something of a rarity in St. Augustine—plus complimentary bottled water and bicycles. One afternoon, I took a quick dip in the secluded, temperature-controlled outdoor pool; I later learned that guests can even check out aqua fitness equipment. Additional exercise equipment and fitness DVDs, for use in the privacy of individual guestrooms, are also available.
Green Lodging at St. Francis Inn
The St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast participates with Green Lodging Florida, an initiative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The National Wildlife Federation has provided Wildlife Habitat certification for the Inn’s gorgeous tropical gardens, which include a fish pond with water springing from a nearby artesian well.
The Inn distributes partially used glycerine soaps and shampoos to children in need across the globe through a partnership with Clean the World. In addition, St. Francis Inn features a recharging station for electric cars.
Old School Luxury & More at St. Francis Inn
Antiques filled my expansive room where a wood-slat ceiling and double-decker louvered window shutters complemented white walls and a retro gas fireplace.
A free-standing soaker tub with shower head and pull-around curtain occupied one side of the guest room, while the bathroom had just enough space for a miniature sink and a toilet. A crystal decanter of sherry, on the table beside my small couch, added a touch of genteel hospitality. On the tiny balcony, wrought iron chairs flanked a café table with an integrated chess board.
A newer building, across the street, extends lodging options.
Fabulous Food & Drink at St. Francis Inn
Just beyond the lobby cold and hot beverage stations stood near cozy, sun-drenched seating and a selection of reading materials. You can even get an individually crafted specialty coffee drink, daily, between 7:30 a.m. and noon.
Breakfasts at St. Francis Inn were true feasts served in cozy surroundings, with a plethora of delicious homemade breads, crunchy granola and a ‘salad’ of fresh-cut strawberries, melon and pineapple. Miniature buttermilk pancakes and fluffy, vegetable-rich quiche were two of my favorite entrees. Weekend guests can also enjoy a complimentary champagne mimosa or a make-your-own Bloody Mary, during brunch.
Each evening, our small group sipped complimentary wine and cocktails made with St. Augustine Distillery gin or vodka, alongside delicious appetizers that included chunky guacamole and fresh antipasto.
Have a sweet tooth? The Inn is known for decadent homemade desserts offered between 8 and 9:30 p.m., such as ice cream sundaes or fresh fruit pies. S’mores prepared at the property’s gas fire pit are another evening treat that guests love.
Inn Partnerships in St. Augustine
When you stay at the Inn, benefits extend beyond lodging walls. You’ll have free admittance and gift shop discounts at the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, plus a 50 percent discount on admission at the nearby Oldest House Museum.
Fitness buffs can extend their workouts as well, via complimentary access to Anastasia Fitness Club, which is a short drive from the Inn.
Beyond the Four Walls of St. Francis Inn
On the final morning of our visit in this historic destination I walked to St. Augustine Sea Wall, arriving near sunrise. Hazy sunshine silhouetted tall palms near the clear calm water, and a boat-filled marina. A handful of resting sailboats bobbed lazily on the multi-hued horizon. As the sun traveled higher it illuminated a carved lion near the foot of the bridge, and vintage Florida architecture that characterized individual homes and commercial buildings along the broad avenue.
All too soon, it was time to pack my bags and depart this lovely city and one-of-a-kind accommodations. The St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast operates at 279 St. George, St., St. Augustine, FL. Call 800.824.6062 (International: 904.824.6068) or visit online at http://www.stfrancisinn.com.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations (meals and other compensation) for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.