Hands down, Augusta, Missouri, is one of our favorite day trips from Saint Louis. It’s easily accessible, yet feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the state’s largest city. This is a place where time truly slows down. There are charming shops and markets, several wineries, and terrific recreation opportunities, so you can be as active or as laid-back as you’d like.
Here are a few reasons why you might want to scout this small town out for yourself!
1. The History
Like many of the towns in the rolling countryside west of Saint Louis, Augusta was founded in 1836 by Leonard Harold, a Virginian who came to Missouri in search of both land and adventure. Harold plotted the town in the hills that overlook the Missouri River. A few years later, German immigrants settled there; they were drawn to the land because it reminded them of the Rhine River Valley back in their homeland. It also provided the new Americans terrific farmland, not to mention spectacular views. Augusta was known as a thriving agriculture and trading center with an excellent river landing.
Today, many of the town’s older homes still stand. Eight of them are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To get an up-close-and-personal feel for what life was like for early settlers here, head to the Historic Daniel Boone Home a few miles from Augusta. This limestone home is located near Defiance, Missouri, and offers a peek at the famous frontiersman’s life.
2. The Wineries
The Germans settlers who came to Augusta brought many of their traditions with them, including winemaking. They found the fertile land perfect for growing grapes, and before long, small family wineries were popping up in Augusta and the surrounding countryside. While Prohibition put a stop to the production for a few years (at least officially!), the industry boomed in the 1960s, with several wineries reopening in Augusta.
In fact, the area along Highway 94 stretching from Augusta to Hermann, Missouri, is known as the Weinstrasse, or Wine Trail, and as one might imagine, it’s a popular route for tourists. The Augusta region was the first spot in the country to be designated an American Viticultural Area -- even before California!
Mount Pleasant Estates and Augusta Winery are located right in town, with tasting rooms, terraces, and plenty of places to picnic and sip. There are a half dozen additional wineries within 10 miles of Augusta.
Keep in mind that traditional German wines tend to be on the sweeter side. While there are drier options -- don’t be afraid to ask for them during tastings -- it’s good to know ahead of time that there will be fewer of them.
3. The Recreation
One of Missouri’s recreational gems runs right through Augusta. The Katy Trail, a 240-mile former railroad track turned hiking-and-biking trail, stretches across much of the state and is a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts. Wander for as long as you’d like along this crushed limestone, flat-as-a-pancake path. There are trailheads and amenities along the way, and much of the trail runs right along or close to the Missouri River. Bring a bike, rent one in the nearby town of Defiance, or simply stroll to get those steps in. No matter how you explore the Katy Trail, it will be time well spent.
Nearby Klondike Park is a former silica sand quarry just outside of town, and it’s also worth a visit if you’re looking for a nature fix. It’s got 4 miles of paved hiking trails and a dramatic scenic overlook of the Missouri River Valley. If you’ve got the time, it’s also a great place to explore once you’ve wandered through town. The park has several rustic cabins available for rent if you’re looking to rough it during your overnight or weekend.
4. The Scenery
With its rolling hills, dramatic bluffs, and of course, its proximity to the Missouri River, Augusta is easily one of the prettiest, most picturesque places in the entire state. While the area surrounding it is rugged, the town itself is quite walkable. The Bottoms, just to the west of Augusta along the Katy Trail, and accessible from a two-lane road, is especially gorgeous, with its green fields and sweet farmhouses. If you’re driving, take it slow and be on the lookout for tractors that routinely use the Bottoms Road.
5. The Charm
Augusta’s quirky, laid-back charm is evident from the moment you arrive. The town is quaint, quiet, and the perfect place to skip out on the city to recharge. The town’s beautiful historic homes are well kept, and the wineries provide fun sips and gorgeous views. This is a place where you’ll feel compelled to slow down, kick back, and take it easy, even if just for a little bit.
While it can get crowded on summer weekends and during festivals and other special events (including concerts at the historic Augusta Harmonie Verein), life here is generally slow, simple, and sweet, and you’ll feel that during your visit.
Where To Eat In Augusta
In Augusta, you’ll find the best bites at the wineries in and around town; many have on-site cafes with food that will pair perfectly with what you’re drinking.
For a shift away from wine, however, the Augusta Brewing Company serves up craft brews and hosts special dinners on weekend evenings. Kate’s Coffee House has a revolving menu of small plates and sandwiches, and the Botanical Tea Room offers a full high-tea experience, complete with mini-sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream. And the nearby Sunflower Hill Farm, a historic farmstead-turned-event space, has a charming cafe that serves farm-to-table fare.
Where To Shop In Augusta
Augusta has several boutiques and stores that offer artisan-crafted treasures and antiques.
Stop into Stoneledge Antiques, the perfect place to browse decor, jewelry, and home goods dating from the 1800s to the midcentury. Gallery Augusta showcases high-quality and custom-crafted American-made art, furniture, and design items that are sure to catch your eye.
For incredible glasswork, call ahead for an appointment at the Augusta Glass Studio, housed in a former garage. The vases, vessels, and glasses are crafted on-site by artists trained in the Italian tradition.
And if you’re looking for fresh, seasonal produce to pack in your picnic basket, head to the historic Centennial Farms for a wide variety of homemade treats.
Where To Stay In Augusta
As you might imagine, there are no big chain hotels here. Augusta is known for its bed and breakfasts and inns, many housed in historic buildings and homes.
The H.S. Clay House was built in the 1880s for a physician. Located in the heart of town, it features five luxe bedrooms named for wine varietals. The Lindenhof is also located downtown and is filled with elegant antiques; its hot tub is the perfect place to unwind after a day spent exploring. And for an extra dose of pampering, the Halcyon B&B features an on-site salon, spa, and even yoga services.
Pro Tip: If you are going to imbibe while in Augusta, designate a driver, stay the night in one of the town’s darling inns, or -- if traveling with a larger group -- consider chartering a bus or other vehicle. The two-lane highway to and from Saint Louis is gorgeous, but winding and hilly. No one should be on it -- behind the wheel, anyway -- after a few glasses of wine. Plan ahead, play it safe, and enjoy your time without worrying how you'll get home.
For more to see and do in the Saint Louis area, see this page.