St. Augustine Tops List of Best Small Towns in the South

It’s official. St. Augustine is not only the oldest city in the country, it’s the best small town in the South.

That’s according to Southern Living magazine’s 50 Best Small Towns in the South list. The Ancient City shares the list with several other well-known destinations, including Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Beaufort, South Carolina and Sanibel, Florida.

The magazine cites St. Augustine’s “Spanish colonial heritage, melting-pot population and wealth of Gilded Age relics” among its many attributes. But alongside the history, the ranking reflects the city’s eclectic mix of new and old.

“In this town founded in 1565, you’ll encounter the past and present around every corner. Step back into the 1600s at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, and then enjoy the area’s up-and-coming dining scene and its many craft breweries and distilleries,” according to the list. 

The ranking was welcome news at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce.

“St. Augustine being named Southern Living’s Best Small Town in the South is an honor and shows that our destination continues to be a favorite among visitors, Southern Living readers, and also newcomers – as many of our visitors decide to move back to stay,” said Chamber President and CEO Isabelle Renault.

The rankings were determined through a survey developed by Southern Living editors, with help from the research firm M&RR, according to the magazine. The online survey was open from mid-August to mid-September 2022 and information about the survey was disseminated through the print magazine, newsletters and social media.

Respondents were drawn from 14 mostly southern states, including Florida.

The magazine included a tourist itinerary for a visit to St. Augustine, highlighted by the downtown district, Bridge of Lions, the city’s waterfront and Flagler College. The mini guide also mentioned the former industrial stretch along the San Sebastian River, now home to several businesses, including the St. Augustine Distillery and The Ice Plant.