What To Do in St. Augustine, Florida – Learn the History of Pirates

Pirates and kids have a weird love affair. They only see the romance of pirates brought to them by Pirates of the Caribbean and Halloween. At times I wonder if showing them the real deal will steal their fantasy of them and take away their fun games.

But history is history and when you arrive to St. Augustine, Florida visiting the Pirate Museum is a truly rare treat.

history of pirates

Experiencing the Pirate Museum in St. Augustine, Florida

  • When you arrive the staff at the entrance give you a treasure map and you must find all the treasure marked in X which allows you, mainly the kids, to get down and dirty in the museum and search for them.

The Pirates Museum in St. Augustine, Florida

  • The Museum is dedicated to pirates artifacts and their history. It has 48 exhibits, all of them with authentic items that belonged to pirates.

history of pirates

  • The museum was started by entrepreneur Pat Croce in 1995. At first it was meant to show the world his collection of objects related to pirates.

what to do in st. augustine - pirate museum

  • The real pirates. There isn’t a shortage of torture exhibits which shed new lights on how these people truly operated.

torture exhibits of pirates

  • The first location of the museum was 524 Front Street, Key West, Florida, United States. It was moved to St. Augustine in 2010

Pirates museum

  • Hands on and interactive attractions for all ages.

interactive games at the pirate musuem

  •  Canon time – your kids can blow a canon at the enemies

canon time at pirate museum

  • The rooms are designed like Pirate ships

pirate history at st. augustine

  • Recommendation – Pirates weren’t the friendliest of humans and the darkness and torture exhibits throughout the rooms can truly frighten very young kids. My nine year old LOVED every bit of it.  But my three year old after the first scary exhibit was so freaked out that we needed to leave immediately. Gratefully the shop had lots of fun things to see and touch.

pirate museum gift shop

Time For Fun – History of Pirates

History in the New World and Florida

  • After Christopher Colombus claimed the New World for Spain a new wave of piracy began. It was stronger than ever and lasted for about 100 years.

  • It all started with Privateers, a kind of government-sanctioned robbers. They were the first pirates of the Caribbean.

  • It got worse in the late 1560’s after St. Augustine was founded. Bandits, slaves on the run, disgruntled merchantmen and disinherited youth flocked to the Tortugas, Point Royal and other known recruiting centers for piracy and privateering in the search for plunder.

  • The Golden Age of Piracy (1690-1730) was made famous by the bloodthirsty legends of rogues such as Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, and Black Bart Roberts.

  • But the Golden Age of Piracy would have never emerged if the pirates had nowhere to sell their stolen goods and North America provided the greatest market. American governors gave them protection and a place where they could sell the stolen product.

  • America became a nation of pirate brokers in large part because of the Navigation Acts passed by the English government beginning in 1651. These Acts stipulated that virtually no goods could be imported into England or her colonies except on British ships and all colonial exports had to go directly to England at British predetermined prices. This included excessive taxes and artificial prices.

  • In 1689, after England’s King James I made peace with Spain, the ranks of piracy suddenly went crazy with ex-privateers.

  • The most notorious and successful pirate was Jose Gaspar, better known as Gasparilla. His methods were black and bloody, and he stands out among all the pirates who used Florida to bury their wealth.

  • Eventually, British pressure in the American colonies along with Royal Naval pressure on the seas put a slow end to the Golden Age of Piracy.

  • During the Golden Age of Piracy a number of British officials were sent to what is now Nassau, a place filled with pirates, to try to tame them. But it wasn’t until 1718 that they finally succeeded.

  • However when it comes to piracy in the Caribbean area and Florida, it was until 1823 that The US Government dispatched Commodore David Porter to the Keys to rid the coastline of pirates like Black Caesar and Jean LaFitte.

Treasure

  • Often, pirates brought their loot back to Florida, and buried it on some lonely shore. When they finally died, the location of their hidden wealth died with them.

  • The majority of all buried treasure in Florida is the work of pirates.

  • From the year 1500 to 1960, hurricanes have sunk their quota of treasure-laden ships close to its shores. These shipwrecks are also a good source of gold and valuable things.

  • A chest containing $25,000 in Mexican gold was found on Grassy Key and dozens of pirate caches have been found on the West Coast of Florida.

  • In 1894 a merchant named Richard Crowe died in St. Augustine leaving a will stating he buried $60,000 in gold coins on his property. Searchers were unable to locate the treasure.

  • DeLeon Springs is the location of a treasure chest lost by unknown persons. In the 1890’s, a chest was seen on the bottom of Ponce deLeon Springs. It soon fell into one of the submerged caves and could not be recovered. The chest has eluded divers ever since.

Global History

  • Pirates have been around long before British privateers started to prey upon Spanish galleons.

  • Some of the earliest accounts are of the Lukkan Sea Raiders in the 14th century B.C.

  • During the first centuries of Roman rule, pirates were such a strong force that they were able to capture and hold for ransom high-profile elder statesmen including Julius Caesar himself.

  • With the fall of the Roman Empire pirates were once more free to do what they wanted. And did so for the next 800 years.

  • After the downfall of the Han dynasty in 220 A.D., China experienced nearly four centuries of brutal rule by regional warlords. This period of lawlessness allowed an institution of piracy to develop and remained un-defeatable for over 1600 years.

  • Fight against Asian pirates started when the British became interested in the opium trade. They didn’t want their shipments stolen.

  • A British captain named Barymple Hay discovered a pirate fleet and didn’t stop until he had dismantled it, killing around 1800 pirates.

Other facts

  • “A merry life and a short one shall be my motto.”– Bartholomew Black Bart Roberts

  • The most successful buccaneer was Sir Henry Morgan.

  • Florida was frequented by notorious pirates like: Blackbeard, Lafitte, Gasparilla, Kidd, Rackham, Bowlegs, Bonnett, and possibly even Morgan himself.

Video Fun

Information for Visiting the Pirate Museum

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

Address: 12 S Castillo Drive – St. Augustine, FL 32084

Phone: (877) Go-Plunder (877.467.5863)

Price:

Adults $12.99

Children $ 6.99

 

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About Marina Kuperman Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of TravelExperta.com, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 10+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

7 Responses to What To Do in St. Augustine, Florida – Learn the History of Pirates

  1. I love St. Augustine! It is a great place to travel and is very rich in history. Thanks for sharing.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..20 Stories from SnowedOutAtlanta That Will Restore Faith in HumanityMy Profile

  2. My son, who is now 18, would have loved this pirate museum. By the way, you take your kids to so many wonderful places!!
    Nancy D. Brown recently posted..Puppy Love and HorsesMy Profile

  3. The Funster says:

    Marina
    First off the pictures are great, you really captured the moment! Secondly, how exiting, the Pirate museum looks great. I haven’t made it to St. Augustine, but hope to be traveling in Florida either during spring break or over the summer. At any rate, the adventure and legend about pirates has been the source of so many movies and novels. I would love to go to the Pirate museum just to learn more about what was really fact and what was fantasy. Your post has really spiked my interest. Thanks for the entertaining and very interesting write up.
    The Funster recently posted..The LEGO© SIMPSON’S HOUSE REVIEW!My Profile

  4. Lori says:

    The Pirate Museum looks like so much fun!!! Thanks for sharing this!
    Lori recently posted..Magical Milan CathedralMy Profile

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