Fort Matanzas & Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine

People climbing ladder set against battlement to reach upper level of gray stone Fort Matanzas National Monument

National Park Service Photo

During your St. Augustine vacation, be sure to visit Fort Matanzas National Monument in addition to exploring historic Castillo de San Marcos. The Fort is about 15 miles south of Casa de Solana Bed and Breakfast in St. Augustine’s historic district. Fort Matanzas guarded the city’s approach from the south via the Matanzas River, while Castillo de San Marcos guarded the main approach to St. Augustine from the sea. These two fortifications are the only ones in the world built out of a unique form of limestone called coquina. The coquina quarries on Anastasia Island supplied the Spanish with building materials for over two centuries.

The Fort Matanzas National Monument includes both the Headquarters and Visitor Center is located at the southern end of Anastasia Island, and the Fort itself on Rattlesnake Island. At the Visitor Center you can explore exhibits and view a short video about the history of the fort and the natural history of its barrier island ecosystems. From the Visitor’s Center, a five minute ferry ride across the river takes you to Rattlesnake Island. An interpretive ranger or the boat captain will tell you about the Fort during your ride.

The history of military conflicts at the mouth of the Matanzas River dates back to 1565, when the Spanish massacred French Huguenot forces. However, Fort Matanzas was not completed until 1742 as a defense again the British. British ships had blockaded the inlet in 1740, trying to gain control of St. Augustine and the shipping lanes coming from the Caribbean. In anticipation of future attacks, Florida Governor Montiano ordered the fort built on Rattlesnake Island with its commanding location over the Inlet. As the fort neared completion, its cannon successfully drove off British ships and never were used again. After the United States acquired the fort, it was not used and fell into ruin until it was stabilized about a century ago (Wikipedia). Visit the Fort’s website for stories about the its history from prehistoric times to the present.

Brown wooden boardwalk with railings on either side in center surrounded by green trees, sunlight pattern on boardwalk

National Park Service Photo

The grounds of the National Monument on Anastasia Island include many places to explore its dune, salt marsh, and maritime forest ecosystems. Visitors can follow a half mile long Nature Trail whose boardwalk leads through the Coastal Hammock Forest. This forest, on the oldest, highest part of the island, shades the habitat for many types of animals. In addition to the Nature Trail, visitors can enjoy both river and ocean beaches. The river beach is ideal for walking and fishing from shore, while the ocean beach offers beach-combing or just relaxing on the sand. Although the area received significant damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017, most repairs at the National Monument have been completed. As of July, 2018, the ocean beach boardwalk still remains closed and the river boardwalk has limited access. Visit the website for updates.

Fort Matanzas National Monument is just one of the many historic sites our guests can explore during their stay in northern Florida. Just give us a call or go online to reserve your St. Augustine accommodations at Casa de Solana. Our B&B’s 10 guestrooms offer luxurious 21st century comfort in the seventh-oldest house in St. Augustine. We look forward to welcoming you soon!

Fort Matanzas National Monument
Location: 8635 Highway A1A (approximately 15 miles from St. Augustine).
A bike path/sidewalk extends all the way from St. Augustine Beach to Fort Matanzas.
Admission: Free
Hours: Open daily from 9:00 am until 5:30 pm except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
The Ferry departs on the half hour beginning at 9:30 am; the last ferry departs at 4:30 pm, weather permitting. Boarding Passes are required, and issued for free in the Fort Matanzas Visitor Center.