Castillo de San Marcos: America’s Oldest Fort

In the winter months, many folks from the north will make their way down to Florida to escape the ice and snow. Not far off the I95 is the quaint community of St. Augustine; founded in 1565, this is the oldest city in North America. One of the most interesting tourist attractions there is Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.

About Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

St. Augustine was the first permanent Spanish settlement in Florida and the Spanish built the Castillo to protect the city. Construction began in 1672 using a unique form of limestone called coquina, used for building both here and at neighboring Fort Matanzas. It took 23 years to build this massive fort on the waterfront.

Coquina

Declared a national monument in 1924, Castillo de San Marcos (at that time named Fort Marion) was not deactivated from military service until 1933 when it was transferred to the National Park Service. In 1942, an act of Congress changed the name back to Castillo de San Marcos.

Visiting Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Located in the heart of the historic district, it would be pretty hard to miss Castillo de San Marcos. The National Monument is over 20 acres so you can walk inside the fort and outside; marveling at the huge walls and old city gate; and checking out the moat that surrounds the castle. Now dry, it is said that the Spanish used to corral their livestock there and only flood the moat with seawater during times of attack.

When you visit Castillo de San Marcos you will step back in history, reliving the stories of attacks and sieges and pirates. This fort was never taken by force, but it did change possession six times, all peacefully – Spanish, British, United States and even for a brief time, the Confederate States of America.

The tour is self-guided, although depending on when you visit there may be costumed re-enactors. There are also lots of rangers and ranger talks.

We found it neat just to wander on the old ramparts and walk among the old canons, with a clear view of the river beyond. The castle walls are 33 feet high and 12 feet thick. From the top, the views of the waterfront are lovely.

Open from 9 to 5 every day, there is a fee to enter. There you go… another great reason to buy an annual National Park Pass.

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Need Help Planning your Visits?

If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.

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