Going Back in Time in the Oldest Castle in the United States: Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots here in Florida. There’s history, culture, good food, interesting architecture, and the people are so friendly. I’ve always thought that it was like New Orleans but classier and cleaner. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I adore New Orleans so it should come as no surprise that I love St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is located about 40 minutes south of Jacksonville, Florida, on the Atlantic coast in northeast Florida. It’s a popular tourist spot and is full of history and things to do.

Florida recently had its first beautiful, sunny and hot day in months, so of course I took the opportunity to go to St. Augustine. I’d previously been at night to see Christmas lights, but I really wanted to visit during the day when it was warmer. I was definitely not the only one with the same thought and there were tons of other people. If you’re squeamish about people during the virus (and it’s Florida, so not very many people are wearing masks), then I wouldn’t advice you go to St. Augustine. I’ve remained very safe and vigilant during the virus and needed an escape outside to my favorite spot, so I went.

My focus on this trip was to visit the Castillo de San Marcos. I’d seen it on my previous trip and heard so much about it, so of course I wanted to go. The Castillo is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States at 450 years old, built in the 1670’s by the British. The fort passed through the British, Spanish and eventually the Americans before becoming a National Monument in 1924, and the National Park Service (NPS) maintains it today.

The Castillo is located right in downtown St. Augustine and there’s hourly parking right in front of it for $2.50 an hour (I think), but it is a nightmare finding parking there, so I recommend going to the Historic District Parking Garage, where parking is $10 for the day and it’s only a short walk to the fort.

Due to the virus, the NPS is only letting 100 people into the fort at a time. It’s a relatively small building (big for the 1670’s, of course), so it allows everyone to socially distance. However, this means that there is a long line to get in. They space out the line from the people in front and behind you, but I still had to wait 45 minutes in the sun before getting inside. There’s no shade or covering for the in line, and I did get a little sunburnt / tan while waiting in line.

Exploring outside the fort

There is a park entrance fee to go inside the Castillo. It’s $15 for adults, age 16 and up, and kids age 15 and younger are free when accompanied by an adult.

When you finally get inside, it’s like stepping back in time. You enter the fort via a bridge over a dry moat, and there’s a view hidden gems of coat of arms as you enter.

Inside, you can walk around the fort and look into various rooms, where you can read more about the history of the fort and find old artifacts. I won’t go into the full history and details of what you can find because I’ll leave that for your own exploration, but it’s very interesting!

What it looks like inside the fort, beyond the walls
Old “dorms” for the soldiers

Outside, you can go upstairs and see beautiful views of St. Augustine, with the bay on one side and the historic town on the other side. It’s only a two-ish story building, so it’s no a super great or tall view, but it’s still pretty. There are old cannons that you can climb and take photos on, and a few older ones that you can’t climb but it shows the progression of the cannons throughout time.

It took me about 1.5 to 2 hours to slowly meander around the fort, both upstairs and downstairs, and I read basically everything. It’s a fairly small fort so it doesn’t take too much time to see everything.

Views of St. Augustine and the bay

The fort officially closes at 5pm, but if you stay in St. Augustine past sunset, they light up the fort in lights and it’s really beautiful and, honestly, kind of majestic.

I’m not sure how much this historic place would interest children to see, but there were many families inside and if your children are interested in history, this could be fun for them! I, personally, loved it and am excited to go back! If you enjoy really old history, this is the place to go!

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Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to the Castillo de San Marcos? Do you want to? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!

Xoxo’s

Emmalee

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