Built in 1742 to defend the city of St. Augustine from British attack, the Fort has stood in the Matanzas Inlet for more than 250 years. A remnant of Florida's Spanish past, today it is maintained by the National Park Service.
The park hosts frequent reenactments and living history demonstrations depicting the times of the early fortification. A reenactor is on-site almost every day during the summer, relaying the fort's history to visitors. Weapon firing demonstrations also take place on some weekends.
History of Fort Matanzas
Fort Matanzas has a long history, closely connected with the founding of St. Augustine by Pedro Menéndez de Aviles. In 1565, Menéndez killed more than 250 French Huguenots upon the shores of this inlet, including the famed Jean Ribault. Due to the history of the site, the Spanish named both the fort and the inlet "Matanzas," which means "slaughters" in English.
It is believed that a small wooden watchtower was always present on the inlet to guard the watery 'back door' entrance to St. Augustine. The fort that visitors see today was not built until British attacks increased along the Florida coast in the 1740s. Visitors will note some similarities between the construction of St. Augustine's fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, and Fort Matanzas because both are made of coquina. The stone is impenetrable to cannon fire and easy to quarry, providing the Spanish with ample building material.
Amenities at Fort Matanzas
- Nature trails
- Reenactments / demonstrations
- Guided tours
Visit Fort Matanzas
Address: 8636 A1A South, St. Augustine, Florida 32080
Parking: Transportation to the fort is by ferry only.
Ferry to the Fort
The Visitor Center and most of the park grounds are open daily to the public, but the Fort is only accessible via a passenger ferry which leaves the mainland from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., on Wednesdays thru Sundays. Both the ferry and fort admission are free; however, guests must obtain a ferry pass from the Visitor Center.
Every person on board the ferry, regardless of age, must have a pass. Passes are given out on the day of the trip only, and on busy days all passes are often gone by 11:00 a.m. No passes are distributed over the phone.
Note: Dogs on a leash are allowed in the park, but not in the buildings, on the ferry, or at the fort.
Other Parks Near Fort Matanzas
Faver-Dykes State Park and the Castillo de San Marcos are the closest to this area. Check out our local Parks Directory and article, Exploring the Past at Fort Matanzas.