Historic / Northeast Florida

St. Augustine: Castillo de San Marcos makes history fascinating

The Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos, is the star of St. Augustine

Castillo de San Marcos cannon demonstration

Preparing to fire the cannons at Castillo de San Marcos.

St. Augustine cannons at Castillo de San Marcos

Cannons lined up on bastion of the Castillo de San Marcos

The don’t-miss experience when visiting St. Augustine is touring the Castillo de San Marcos — the historic Spanish fort.

The Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine is a winner in so many categories — it has fascinating, history, it offers spectacular views and when the rangers fire the cannons (on weekends), it’s dramatic and entertaining.

It is the oldest masonry fort in the United States, built from 1672 to 1695, a hundred years after St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish.

It’s located right next to the walkable Old Town area and it has adjacent parking.

Tips for your visiting the Castillo de San Marcos:

Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine fort entrance

Castillo de San Marcos entrance

Volunteers and rangers in accurate period guard demonstrate how to fire a cannon at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This is a highlight of many visits.

Be sure to read up on the fort, which has a  website with lots of information.

When to visit the Castillo de San Marcos

Firing the cannons at Castillo de San Marcos

Volunteers who assist with firing the cannons at Castillo de San Marcos must be in period dress.

The Castillo de San Marcos is open to the public from 8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. every day of the year except Dec. 25. (The ticket booth closes at 4:45 pm.) The park grounds are closed from midnight until 5:30 a.m.

Visitation is lowest from the middle of September through late November.

Visitation is highest June through Labor Day, and quite high on summer and holiday weekends when an average of 3,500 people visit the Castillo daily. During the summer, the Castillo de San Marcos extends its hours of operation to open one hour later, until 6:15 p.m.

School group visitation is quite high February through May. High visitation can also be expected during the December holidays, and March through April.

Castillo de San Marcos walls

Exterior walls of Castillo de San Marcos

Other highlights of St. Augustine:

  • Old Town, best explored on foot. Get a free walking tour map of Old Town at the visitor information center, 10 S. Castillo Dr., across the street from the fort. Or, you can download and print  it here.
  • St. Augustine Pirate Museum: Fun for history lovers and kids
  • The 120-year-old St. Augustine Alligator Farm has one of the best bird rookeries in the state for viewing and photographing birds in spring and early summer. Year-roun, the gators and crocs are fun to see too.
  • Anastasia State Park is a coastal treasure for camping and its beaches. It has an archaeological site where coquina was quarried to build the St. Augustine Fort. Anastasia State Park is located off A1A, 1.6 miles south of the Castillo.
  • Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum: A living history museum recreating the life in St. Augustine  in 1740. Costumed interpreters bring life the St. Augustine that was an outpost of the Spanish Empire. The Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum is only a five minute walk from the entrance of the Castillo.
  • St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum:  The 1874 lighthouse  is the second highest lighthouse in Florida.
    The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is located 1.5 miles south of the Castillo just off route A1A.

Things to do near St. Augustine:

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