Visitors to Florida's Fort Matanzas National Monument arrive by boat, just as Spanish soldiers did in the eighteenth century. The island outpost was built in the 1740s to protect the city of St. Augustine. Though St. Augustine was well-positioned with water on three sides, if an enemy ship crossed into the Matanzas River, it could attack the city's rear. The fort on Matanzas Island prevented ships from entering the inlet to the river.

­Fort Matanzas National Monument
©National Park Service
Fort Matanzas was a Spanish outpost that protected St. Augustine, Florida.

A stairway now leads to the fort, but originally it was a wooden ladder that was drawn up each night. Two of the five original cannons that guarded the inlet remain on the gun deck, left behind when the Spanish departed in 1821. At the rear of the gun deck, under the stairs, is a cistern that caught rainwater, the only source of fresh water on the island. Below the gun deck were the enlisted men's quarters, where seven to ten soldiers cooked, ate, and slept while on duty here. The officer's quarters housed just one officer, usually a corporal or sergeant.

A narrow ladder leads to the top of the tower, which provides good views of the inlet to the south and the waterway leading to St. Augustine to the north. Self-guided nature walks reveal the monument's various habitats: a tidal salt marsh, a coastal dune hammock, and an open area of dunes and scrub. Free ferry service is available from adjacent Anastasia Island.

Fort Matanzas National Monument Information

Address: 8635 A1A South, St. Augustine, FL 32080
Telephone: 904/471-0116
Hours of Operation: Open daily 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. except Christmas
Admission
: Free

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To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.