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St. Augustine fort: Castillo de San Marcos makes history fascinating

Last updated on October 18th, 2021 at 11:33 am

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

The St. Augustine fort, Castillo de San Marcos, 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.

Preparing to fire the cannons at the St. Augustine fort, the Castillo de San Marcos. (Photos: Bonnie Gross)
Preparing to fire the cannons at the St. Augustine fort, the Castillo de San Marcos. (Photos: Bonnie Gross)

Tips for your visiting the St. Augustine fort

Note: the following programs are suspended during the pandemic. Check the National Park Service website for latest updates. 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 and if you’re visiting the area, it’s a good idea to try to arrange your visit to take advantage of it.

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

St. Augustine fort cannons. Castillo de San Marcos
Cannons lined up on bastion of the St. Augustine fort. The don’t-miss experience when visiting St. Augustine is touring the Castillo de San Marcos, the historic Spanish fort. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

When to visit the St. Augustine fort

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.

Pandemic impact: While Castillo de San Marcos is open 7 days per week, a maximum capacity of 250 visitors in the historic fort at any time is in effect. Formal programs and historic weapons remain suspended.

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

Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine fort entrance
St. Augustine fort Castillo de San Marcos entrance. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

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.

Admission is $15 adults; children 15 and under are free. Details on park website.

Castillo de San Marcos walls

Exterior walls of the St. Augustine Fort. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Common questions about the St. Augustine fort

What is the St. Augustine fort made of? Coquina, which is actually a rock made out of seashells! Coquina is formed when the tiny clam donax variabilis dies. These are the small pink, lavender, yellow, or white shells you see along the Florida coastline at the waterline. These shells accumulated in layers over centuries, forming a rock. It is found in very few places in the world. Here, from the National Park Service, is the fascinating story of coquina and the construction of the St. Augustine fort.

Where do I park at the St. Augustine fort? A city parking lot is located in front of the Castillo de San Marcos and costs is $2.50 per hour. The pay station accepts credit and debit cards.

What year was the St. Augustine fort built? Construction began in 1672, 107 years after the city’s founding. The core of the current fortress — it was modified over the years — was completed in 1695

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

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

This article is the property of FloridaRambler.com and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


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Julia Falkner

Monday 25th of October 2021

Fort Marion "Castillo de San Marcos", has a lot of Native American history tied to Indians in the vicinity. A sad history not told, they were brought up to the Fort, pictures and records were taking and later killed right on the back walls of the Marion Fort.

HENRY M PLISKE

Thursday 1st of October 2020

Born in Miami, I have probably been to the fort at least 20 times, from barely being able to remember to taking grandchildren. Never cease to be amazed. Ya gotta go see it.

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