Built in 1791 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast is the "oldest inn" in St. Augustine, Florida. Reflecting the architecture of the city’s Spanish Colonial Period back in the day, the inn has a long and storied history.
Originally built as a private home, it changed hands numerous times over the years, its first iteration as a lodging establishment beginning in 1845. Its owners and guests have always encompassed a wide array of eclectic personalities including sea captains, famous authors, philanthropists, military leaders and others, each placing an indelible mark on the history of the structure and the city at-large.
The property was also recognized by several names over the decades since it was first built, some reflecting its location tucked away on a beautiful cobblestone, tree-canopied street, others in homage to its owners, and in 1948 it was officially renamed as the St. Francis Inn.
Upon entering the inviting archway past the private wall, a feature reminiscent of the turbulent times here in the late 1700s when home construction was also designed to include some sort of defense against possible attack, you are instantly enveloped mind, body and spirit into the relaxing ambiance here: a spectacular garden courtyard and lush gardens peppered with a cornucopia of tropical trees, verdant plants and flowers, and a stunning fountained pond offering a soft, melodic symphony that sets the mood for what you’ll find inside.
Everything about the St. Francis Inn speaks nostalgia, luxury and comfort, from the main veranda to the patio areas, balconies, pool, and rear cabana where guests can enjoy morning breakfast, afternoon tea, or a cocktail, or simply recline and enjoy a book or just the wonder of nature swirling all around them. There are also comfortable sitting and living rooms just past the welcoming front desk.
The main building features 13 amazing rooms and suites on three floors, the names reflecting some of the influential guests and other personalities of historical significance to St. Augustine and/or the region over the decades —Graham, Courtyard, Marie’s, Anna’s, Lily’s, Ballerina, Dummett, Margaret’s, Elizabeth’s, Overlook, Garcia, Saffron’s, and Balcony, just to name a few—each featuring its own distinctive design, décor and flair.
Depending on the room or suite, highlights include whirlpool tubs, sitting rooms, twin, queen and/or king beds, mini-frigs, private balconies, private bathrooms with clawfoot tubs or showers, central heat and air-conditioning, fireplaces and a wonderful collection of antiques. What makes all of the accommodation options so endearing is the seamless melding of the ambiance of yesteryear with today’s modern creature comforts.
A Family Affair
The Finnegan family—with Joe and Margaret Finnegan at the helm—has owned the property since 1985, lovingly maintaining its historic architecture, character, and charm while also meticulously upgrading its amenities and features to suit today’s discerning travelers.
Years ago, in the 1970s, the Inn proprietors also utilized part of the property for long-term rentals. When the Finnegan family purchased it, they changed their offerings to primarily nightly stays like a traditional accommodation property which represents the bulk of their guest accommodations and clientele.
Nevertheless, they also offer a handful of family style/longer-term rental options in keeping with their unfailing commitment to meet the needs of today's savvy traveler.
Among them is The Cottage (located just a few steps from the main Inn building and formerly the Cookhouse/Slave Quarters), ideal for a family or two couples with two bedrooms (queen and twin beds), two bathrooms and a whirlpool tub, in addition to a living room with a fireplace and a queen sleeper sofa, and a fully stocked kitchen.
Across the street, The 1894 House features two apartment-style suites of rooms, one on each floor. Both encompass two bedroom and bathrooms, a fully-stocked kitchen, living room and two private decks. On the lower level you’ll find Sailor’s Rest (which is also pet friendly) and above it Ambrose’s Retreat.
Beyond “Creature Comforts”
Besides the enveloping beauty and history, what really distinguishes the St. Francis Inn from other accommodations, and not just those found in St. Augustine, is the incredible wealth of free guest amenities.
Not only does your stay include a daily scrumptious, gourmet buffet breakfast and specialty coffee drinks (with a different flavor featured monthly), but there are other options offered all day long to whet your whistle and tempt your taste buds. These include assorted teas, iced tea, hot chocolate, and special house blend coffees, Mimosas and Bloody Mary's during breakfast on holiday-stay mornings. A special extended Brunch is also offered on Saturdays, Sundays, and on the mornings after a holiday night stay. And don’t forget the fresh flowers and sherry decanters and snifters in each room!
If that weren’t enough, the evening social hour is complete with complimentary beverages (as well as assorted bottled wines and other premium cocktails for purchase) and tasty Inn-made treats - and not just popcorn and crackers: think antipasto trays with homemade crostini or perhaps a zesty hummus with house-baked pita chips.
To cap off the evening the staff serves nightly decadent homemade desserts – no simple candies or cookies here! Savor the flavors of anything from tall layered cakes to chocolate fondue, fresh fruit pies and crisps, ice cream sundaes, rich chocolaty brownies and more. You can also playfully recapture the kid in you with make-your-own S'mores nightly on the courtyard gas fire pit!
Private guest parking including tesla/electric vehicle charging stations, high speed wireless internet throughout, plush white terry guest robes, bicycles, access to a state-of-the-art health and fitness center just a short drive away, and admission to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum are ALL COMPLIMENTARY, plus 50% off admission to the nearby Oldest House Museum Complex - one of St Augustine's finest treasures of Florida history.
This level of hospitality included in the price of your stay is phenomenal, for the most part unheard of for this type of accommodation, and exemplifies the ownership’s focus on complete guest relaxation, comfort, flavor and fostering a sense of connection.
The Finnegans have added a few other amazing properties to their portfolio within the past few years as well.
Casa de Sueños (“House of Dreams” or “Dream House” in Spanish), centrally located just five blocks away in the St. Augustine Historic District, is an intimate bed and breakfast inn built in the early 1900s. The guest rooms feature queen or king size beds, some are highlighted by jetted tubs and/or private outdoor balconies, and there is a central garden patio for relaxation.
Harbor 26 is a one-story condominium with a king bed and queen sleep sofa for one to four guests. Located at the Inn at Camachee Harbor just 10 minutes north of downtown on Camachee Island, the condo overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway, offering breathtaking views of the marina and beyond from the large deck and screened-in porch.
Perfect for a single traveler (or a couple), Our Beach Bungalow is a cozy one-bedroom queen studio with a full bathroom, compact kitchen, and a deck with spacious outdoor seating, while Our Beach Cottage is a bit larger and perfect for a family, couples, or small groups of friends with both queen and twin bedrooms, a sofa bed, full kitchen, whirlpool tub, deck, and outdoor seating in a single story living accommodation.
Around the corner you’ll find Our Beach House, a two-story building with two, separate, side-by-side accommodations. Here, you’ll enjoy—particularly for larger families or multiple couples or groups of friends—over 1,400 square feet of space, including two master bedrooms, a loft with bunk beds, a queen sofa bed, 2-1/2 bathrooms, a great room, fireplace, eat-in kitchen, full laundry facilities and a deck – on each side! There is also a half bathroom on the ground level and an outdoor shower for rinsing off after a day at the beach
Heaven On Eleven is also a two-story building with a ground-level and second floor apartment, each featuring two bedrooms, tiled bathrooms with walk-in showers, open living/dining areas, fully-stocked kitchens, and a fenced yard with shaded outdoor seating.
Another one of the major benefits of staying at the St. Francis Inn, or at any of these beach properties, is that all guests enjoy reciprocal amenities between them. Inn guests visiting St. Augustine Beach have access to free parking, private bathroom facilities, and a wide array of beach accoutrement (chairs, towels, inflatables, umbrellas and the like), while beach lodging guests can enjoy the Inn’s verandas and patio areas, pool, cocktail and snack times, and other amenities and activities held here.
Anytime of the year is a great time to come to St. Augustine. Like any winter, warm weather destination, they enjoy a steady stream of guests between Thanksgiving and January, with March being their busiest month of the year. If you are fine with the summer Florida heat, August and September offer more flexibility in room options and prices.
As far as a visit to the St. Francis Inn, it is a must and an experience that you will treasure for a lifetime.