"Fort Matanzas National Monument" Fort Matanzas National Monument Tip by barkybite

  Aerial view of the boat ramp and Fort Matanzas
by barkybite

This old fort is tiny and unimpressive in itself. The Spanish built it on Rattlesnake Island, about fifteen miles south of the port at St. Augustine. It guards the small inlet (still "unimproved") that is the Matanzas River and forms the "Back Door to the Port."

The name Matanzas means slaughter, referring to what Pedro Menendez did there to a group of Hugenot attackers from Fort Caroline (sixty miles north).

What's neat about this place is experiencing its intimacy. You board a small boat at the ranger station and ride with eighteen others across the river. You can then listen to a nicely-presented narration and begin exploring the fort. The final ascent is on a narrow, rustic ladder, but the view from the top is very rewarding. You can see a stretch of Intracoastal Waterway and marsh that stretches more than three miles north to the highway 206 bridge, or you can look east along the Matanzas River to the A1A bridge and the inlet beyond. You are likely to see bald eagles, osprey, dozens of terns and gull species, and perhaps even dolphins.

Back on shore, take the short habitat walk through a hammock environment on a handicap-accessible boardwalk. The whole thing is free. Picnic tables are available, and so are clean rest rooms.

So is the ocean. Across from the park entrance, there's a ramp through the dunes. You can park free and walk down, or you can pay a toll to the County (most parts of the year) and drive on the wide, clean beach. There is a bird sanctuary adjoining, and sea turtles sometimes use this area for nesting. Two popular ways of fishing in this area are surf casting and dropping a line from the bridge.

othercontact: Boat departs every half hour.
Phone: (904) 471-0116
Website: http://www.nps.gov/foma/

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated May 29, 2005
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