Though they're certainly adept at standing still, buildings and monuments present their own set of challenges for people trying to take pictures of them. To surmount these complications, the professional photographers at ShutterGuide set out on two-hour walking tours, teaching groups how to best frame the landmarks on their route. For each site, they demonstrate a different camera technique that suits the landscape, such as adjusting the composition or keeping photo-bombing statues out of the frame. Guests can capture snapshots with nearly any type of lens—even the one on their smartphone.
The tours cover photography topics from lighting to metering and depth of field, but they're also a lesson in history. During the walk, guides dole out trivia on the city's past. They take a maximum of eight people in every group and accommodate aspiring shutterbugs of all skill levels.
GhoSt Augustine’s motto is carpe noctum—seize the night. You can do just that on one of the company’s nighttime haunted tours. Groups hear spooky tales about local hauntings from a guide as they visit spirit-laden pubs and foreboding cemeteries. Along the way, guides demonstrate the use of specter-detecting EMF meters as well as full-spectrum video cameras and loud pots and pans to scare away raccoon spirits. GhoSt Augustine can also arrange stays at the Kenwood Inn, a bed and breakfast said to be the home of a friendly ghost named Raymond.
Ancient City Tours offers edifying expeditions throughout the region for mavens of the historical and paranormal. In the A Ghostly Encounter tour, specter-specialists slink through the shadowy nighttime passageways of St. Augustine, leading wide-eyed fans of phantasmagoria through the Spanish Military Hospital Museum, then on to the fog-pitched panoramas of historical cemeteries. A Paranormal Investigation takes apparition activists through various bedeviled sites, ending at the Spanish Military Hospital Museum, certified by the Northeast Florida Paranormal Association as a place where ghosts are active, though sedentary and preoccupied with historical trivia contests. At the hospital, Ancient City's ghastly ghoul-guides direct patrons of the paranormal into haunted private rooms, accompanied by a digital recorder to document void-crossing encounters.
Ripley's Red Train Tours range from daily explorations of the city to nightly supernatural adventures. Guests can get on and off the open-air Red Train Trolley anytime from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. as it stops at spots including San Sebastian Winery, Mission Nombre de Dios, and the oldest house. Alternately, they can embark on a Ghost Train Adventure to explore the city at night armed with an EMF Ghost-Meter. Other tours include seasonal Sunset Tours that take advantage of the long days of summer, the bay front’s cooler temperatures, and a recent peace treaty signed by the mayor of St. Augustine and the local merfolk. There are also Black History Tours that showcase local spots that were important in the Civil Rights Movement, including Zora Neale Hurston’s former residence and the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 arrest.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse has been keeping its luminous eye on the Atlantic’s endless horizon since 1874. In the 130 years since, the tower of Alabama brick and Philadelphia iron has served as the home of light keepers, a beacon to sailors, and a target of arson, eventually benefiting from a 15-year restoration project that commenced in 1980. Today, a staff of historians and protectors is eager to share the rich history of the nation's oldest port, not only through education and preservation but also by letting guests explore.
Visitors can scale the 165-foot, black-and-white lighthouse's 219 steps to the bright-red observation deck to catch breathtaking views of St. Augustine and spot gangs of dolphins making trouble by the shore. Lens-room tours allow up-close access to the regularly off-limits Fresnel lens, built in 1873, which weighs 2,000 pounds and shepherds ships with a light that radiates for 25 miles on a clear night. The clink of champagne glasses adds an element of glamour to Sunset Moonrise events, whereas Dark of the Moon tours let guests in after-hours to hear the tales of paranormal activity that earned the lighthouse a feature on Ghost Hunters.
The tour guides at St. Augustine Bike Rentals reveal the secrets of the city where Ponce de Leon landed more than 500 years ago. As they travel by bike, segway, scooter, and pedicab, they expound local lore while unveiling the quaint and quiet streets that harken back to the city's early days. These eco-friendly transports also facilitate journeys to sites such as The Fort—formally known as the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument––the Colonial Spanish Quarter, and the Fountain of Youth Discovery Park. The Bridge of Lions leads voyagers to a beautiful beach where cruiser-style bikes can roam in their natural habitat. In addition to tours, the staff also rents out its vessels a la carte for self-guided trips.