We stayed in St. Augustine Beach, which is a little tourist town immediately south of historic St. Augustine. The history of St. Augustine resides cheek-by-jowl with the tacky Florida I was picturing in my mind. Anchoring the downtown, historic Castillo de San Marco, an historic fort built by the Spanish in 1672 overlooks the waterfront. It's cool, it's old, it's worth seeing. North of there is, Flagler College, a liberal arts school with some of the most amazing architecture I have ever seen.
All this is matched by the Ripley's Believe It Not Museum and an Alligator farm. Some good photos of the trip are located here (and some bad ones as well).