Visit the Fort Matanzas National Monument to explore the fort that protected Spanish forces from invasion when they ruled over Florida. Learn about the battles and sieges that took place here and stroll around the nature reserve. Discover the unique wildlife that lives on the salt marshes or enjoy a lazy afternoon overlooking the river.
Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1740 to control Matanzas Inlet, also known as the backdoor to St. Augustine. The word ‘matanzas’ is Spanish for slaughters and many battles took place here before the Spanish secured the land. Now, it is a popular day trip from St. Augustine, offering visitors historical insight and a wealth of natural beauty.
Take the ferry across the Matanzas River and watch as the squat, square shape of the fort grows before you. The ship’s captain will give you a short talk on the historical significance of the building. Once ashore, take a walk around the grounds of the fort and imagine it in the days when the Spanish fought off enemy invaders from this very site.
Learn more about the history of the fort at the visitor center, where models and exhibits detail the building’s past. Attend one of the cannon firing days on the first Saturday of every month. Watch guards fire the ancient cannons that once protected the Spanish soldiers from attack. Musket firing demonstrations take place on all other Saturdays.
Explore the forest surrounding the fort on the short boardwalk nature trail. You can view the plants and animals that make up the diverse ecosystem, such as the Anastasia Island beach mouse, which is unique to Fort Matanzas. Fish off the shore or enjoy a picnic amongst the oak trees, which are over 150 years old.
Tours of the fort and use of the ferry is free. To guarantee your spot, make sure you pick up a boarding pass in the visitor center before the tour begins. Please note that the ferry and fort are not wheelchair accessible.