Rare artifacts & interactive exhibits are draw to St. Augustine Pirate Museum
You’ll find pirate festivals in Tampa and pirate wannabes in Key West, but no Florida city has seen more actual pirates than St. Augustine.
Francis Drake sacked and burned the place in 1586; a century later it was pirate Robert Searles’ turn. Pirates were back in 1683 and 1686.
Finally, the Spanish built a fort – the magnificent Castillo de San Marcos, now a national historic site – partly to keep out the plundering pirates.
With all that pirate history, then, it makes sense to have a pirate museum in this popular tourist destination.
The St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum appeals to history lovers and kids, and if you fall into one of those categories, you might choose it from among the several dozen attractions vying for your tourist dollars.
Two things you should know about the Pirate Museum:
- It has authentic museum-quality artifacts well-documented and explained. You’ll see one of only two existing jolly roger pirate flags and see Captain Kidd’s treasure chest and family Bible, among many other items. If you love pirates, you’ll find plenty here of interest.
- To keep all that “real museum” stuff fun, the place injects a dose of Disney. An animatronic version of Blackbeard’s severed head talks to you in a darkened gallery. You enter a dark room and put on headphones for an audio pirate drama. There are many interactive activities; we saw kids happily exploring the museum in a treasure-hunt game, searching for skull-and-crossbones icons hidden throughout.
The last room (before you “exit through the gift shop”) is devoted to Hollywood pirates and at its center, displayed with as much reverence as if it belonged to Blackbeard himself, is the sword used by Johnny Depp in the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
The museum is the pet project of Pat Croce, a self-made millionaire entrepreneur who has collected pirate artifacts his whole life and funded the 2011 expedition that successfully found the wreck of a ship sailed by Sir Francis Drake.
The museum started in Key West 10 years ago and moved to St. Augustine, opening in 2010.
Planning tools for St. Augustine Pirate Museum:
12 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine
Admission $12.99 adults; $5.99 ages 5 to 12. You can buy a combo ticket with the adjacent sister attraction, the Colonial Quarter Living History Museum. Also: Check the brochure racks and free tourist guides for coupons good for $1 off on tickets.
Note to parents: Some of material covered might frighten younger and sensitive children.
More pirate action
- Pirate Festivals: Here’s a roundup of two dozen pirate festivals all around Florida.
- Want to play and sail like a pirate? The The Pirate Ship Black Raven sails from the St. Augustine City Marina.
Things to do near St. Augustine:
- St. Augustine Castillo de San Marcos: This national monument across the street from the Pirate Museum is the #1 thing to do in the area.
- The 120-year-old St. Augustine Alligator Farm has one of the best bird rookeries in the state for viewing and photographing birds in spring and early summer. Year-roun, the gators and crocs are fun to see too.
- Anastasia State Park is a coastal treasure for camping and its beaches.
- Fort Matanzas, 14 miles south, is a smaller Spanish fort built 50 years after the Castillo de San Marcos. It’s a great stop because you take a small boat to the fort past spectacular scenery. And it’s free.
- Princess Place Preserve, a nearby county park with an 1888 hunting lodge once owned by a princess. Good hiking and camping. Free.
- Washington Oaks Gardens State Park: Historic gardens plus unusual, beautiful coquina-rock beach.
- Flagler Beach, an Old Florida beach town.
- Faver-Dykes State Park for paddling and camping
Note: I visited the Pirate & Treasure Museum with a complementary pass with a group of travel writers, but these opinions are my own.