Castillo de San Marcos: Historic St Augustine Fortress

Gray stone Castillo de San Marcos with red and white flag in center doorway, green lawn in foreground

National Park Service Photo

Be sure to put historic Castillo de San Marcos on your sightseeing agenda during your Florida vacation in Saint Augustine. The only existing 17th century military fortress in the United States is just a ten minute walk along the bayfront from Casa de Solana Bed and Breakfast on Aviles Street. Today’s visitors to the National Monument can enjoy exhibits on a self-guided tour, learn about life at the garrison from staff in period dress, and be treated to wonderful views of Matanzas Bay from the gun deck. The website offers a number of downloadable information brochures about the Castillo and its history.

The Castillo protected the residents of St. Augustine for centuries. It defended the Spaniards against British attacks in 1702 and 1740. The most important parts of the Castillo were its gun deck for cannons and the surrounding city wall. The plan for Castillo de San Marcos was a central hollow square, the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by diamond-shaped bastions at each corner and a moat. Military engineers in the 15th century developed this kind architectural design, which incorporated projecting angles, to better place cannons.

The Castillo de San Marcos is one of only two fortifications in the world built out of coquina, the only native stone available in the region. The other fortification is nearby Fort Matanzas, built to defend the southern river access to St. Augustine. Coquina’s porosity made it more compressible than other stone, allowing wall to absorb or deflect cannon balls rather than being shattered by them.

Today’s visitors can see a Historic Weapons Demonstration on the Castillo’s gun deck on most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Rangers and volunteers in period costume tell about the lives of the fort’s Spanish soldiers during the 18th century, and demonstrate their weapons (a calendar of events gives specific dates and times). Castillo de San Marcos also hosts additional events and special programs throughout the year. Some are included in the regular admission fee; others have a separate cost.

Castillo de San Marcos is one of St. Augustine’s most popular tourist attractions with an average of 3,500 visitors daily. Since its number of visitors is lowest from the middle of September through late November, it’s a great time to plan your trip to St. Augustine. Our autumn climate is more temperate than during the warmer summer months, and you’ll find plenty of things to do – just check out the Attractions and Things To Do section of the B&B’s website. Many of them are free!

Gray stone battlement at Castillo de San Marcos with crowd looking up at white smoke of cannons firing

National Park Service Photo

Castillo de San Marcos
Location: 1 South Castillo Drive, Saint Augustine, FL
Admission is valid for 7 consecutive days: Adults (ages 16+) $15.00, Children (under 16) free but must be accompanied by an adult. Golden Access and Age Passports; Interagency Access, Annual, Military, and Senior Passes are honored for free admission according to terms specified on the pass.
Days and Hours: Open except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. First admission 8:45 am, last 5:00 pm. The Castillo closes at 5:15 pm. The park grounds are open from 5:30 am until midnight.