There is one very major landmark in St. Augustine Florida and that is the Castillo De San Marcos. It is a masonry fort and it’s the oldest in the continental U.S. Construction began back in 1672 and it was designed by the Spanish engineer Ignacio Daza. The British briefly gained control of the fort and the local area back in 1763 although it was taken back again by the Spanish in 1783. In its history, the fort has been besieged twice. First by the English in 1702 and again in 1740 by the then governor of Georgia.
When I originally booked our stay in St Augustine during our 3 week holiday to Florida I thought that the fort would be a good place to take our son. Not just to show him about American history but to see something other than theme parks. It was quite costly and the price has increased since our visit, however, I was glad we went and if you are visiting St. Augustine I recommend that you also visit Castillo De San Marcos.
Castillo De San Marcos St Augustine
The Castillo De San Marcos is located on the western shore of the bay in St Augustine. It is a landmark that you can not miss when you arrive at St Augustine from the south. The Castillo can be easily reached on foot from the centre of the city. It is on the tram stops and there is also a car park outside, although parking is very limited and it is a pay and display at $1.50 an hour.
How Much is the Castillo De San Marcos?
We arrived via the Sightseeing old town trolley bus tour. You can get off at stop #18 for the Castillo. There is a booth outside the Castillo where you pay your entrance fee. When we visited it was $10.00 per adult. This has now increased to $15.00 per adult. They state that this is to “fund important maintenance and improvement projects within the park.” Children under the age of 15 are free to visit and will remain free.
Their website states that you can expect your visit to least between 1 and 2 hours. We were there for just over an hour as we timed it well for the cannon being lit which is an event in itself.
What is the Castillo De San Marcos like?
We visited on a lovely sunny day which certainly improved our visit. It was lovely and warm up on the top of the ramparts and the view over to the bay was beautiful with the sun shining on the water.
Once you have paid at the cabin on the right you enter the fort via one of two drawbridges. This was great fun for our son and he must have run back and forth a fair few times.
What first struck me was how lovely it was to see men dressed in authentic costume from the time the fort was in use. It later transpired that these men are indeed volunteers and they are there to ignite the cannon almost every hour. They are also living historians so if there is a question you want answering it is worth asking them.
Once you have crossed the two drawbridges you will enter into the courtyard for the fort.
This is where the officers who were guarding the fort would have lived. We were impressed with how they have set up a lot of these rooms. They have included objects and furniture true to the time so it feels like you are walking around in the past. There are many boards to read telling you about life back then plus history from when the fort was in use. If your kids have the patience to listen it’s worth reading them out to them.
Once you have looked around the rooms of the courtyard you can move up to the gundeck of the fort. This level has no railings so keep a close eye on your children as there is a big drop with little to stop them going over. In a world of health and safety, we were quite surprised by the lack of railings to stop accidents.
Our son loved this area the most and spent a long time pretending to fire the many cannons that they have up there. Try and time your visit for one of the cannons being fired. It’s worth it for the commentary and the experience.
When is the cannon fired at the St. Augustine Fort?
The cannon is fired from the gundeck every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the year at 10:30, 11:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30. You can witness the cannon being fired from outside the fort. Severe weather may sometimes temporarily close the fort. During these times the cannons will not be fired.
Before they fire the cannon there is a commentary about life back when the fort was in use plus how the cannons were once used. The firing itself is incredibly loud and you are encouraged to cup your ears or those of little ones. This is why I have no photo! It was indeed very very loud.
That concludes our visit to the fort. You can admire the fort and the cannon fire without having to pay to enter. It is on the expensive side, however, I do feel it is worth a visit, especially if you haven’t experienced much American history before.
If you are looking for other things to do in Saint Augustine why not check out my other posts about the city. Including a ride on the Black Raven Pirate Ship an Eco Tours St Augustine Florida | A Review – Dolphin Tour and my post for my Top 8 Things To Do With Kids in St Augustine Florida.
Some exciting news – Our bucket List Lives has been selected by the panel at Feedspot as one of the TOP 20 BUCKET LIST YOUTUBE CHANNELS on the web.
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