Coasting: Scenes from Castillo de San Marcos

Marker --  Castillo de San MarcosIf you’re the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, you deserve to be seen, climbed on, photographed, and written about.  Right?  Well, we think so. Of the three forts we toured (Fort Frederica in St. Simons, Georgia; Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, and Fort Clinch in Fernandina Beach, Florida) during our trek along the coasts of Georgia and Florida, this one — Castillo de San Marcos — dwarfs the others with a mostly intact hollow square and diamond-shaped bastions at each corner. It stands today mostly as it did over 300 years ago as a fortress capable of protecting the people of the area. Facing the waters from the left bank of Matanzas Bay, the Castillo held a superior vantage point.  And the sturdy, thick walls of a thick sedimentary rock called coquina (Spanish for “small shells”), became a primary factor in protecting St. Augustine from pirate raids and Spain’s major rival — Great Britain.

The shape of Castillo de San Marcos as seen by air (photo by Wikimedia)

The shape of Castillo de San Marcos as seen by air (photo by Wikimedia)

Built by the Spanish after watching Sir Francis Drake and other pirates attack St. Augustine over the course of many years , the Castillo was begun in 1672 and completed by 1695, replacing nine previous wooden fortifications.   Its greatest test came during the War of the Spanish Succession when the English occupied St. Augustine, burning the town before they left. But the Castillo remained unscathed even after 50 days of attack, making it a symbol of the strength and endurance of what was to become new St. Augustine.

Plaza de Armas, Castillo de San Marcos

Plaza de Armas, Castillo de San Marcos

Although the fort has been called by many names, the original name of Castillo de San Marcos was restored in 1942.  Now a part of the National Park Service, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is open to the public every day except December 25th.

Above and below -- Castillo de San Marcos

Above and below — Castillo de San Marcos

We took our time looking inside rooms that once held soldiers who normally stayed in their own homes in town but came in for rotating guard duty.  And as usual, we stopped to read information posted in the guard rooms, storage rooms, and powder magazine.

Outside on the upper level, we walked the bastions taking a closer look at beautifully wrought cannons, a thick-walled bell tower, and peaceful views of Matanzas Bay.  The aging structure of the Castillo offers scenery not just of itself but distant glimpses of towers and rooftops of St. Augustine.

The Castillo offers something for every age group. And ever-ready rangers give talks as small groups of visitors crowd around to learn more.

Ranger waits for crowd to gather prior to her talk on Castillo de San Marcos

Ranger waits for crowd to gather prior to her talk on Castillo de San Marcos

Of course, we think touring the Castillo de San Marcos is one of the six must-do’s of the area.  But don’t take our word for it.  Look up some information.  Take a gander at your schedule.  And see if you can find time for this memorable glimpse into the history of St. Augustine.  You’ll be glad you did.

Colorful re-enactors at Castillo de San Marcos

Colorful re-enactors at Castillo de San Marcos

For more information:

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, 1 S. Castillo Dr., St. Augustine, FL; 904-829-6505;

“Castillo de San Marcos.” National Park Service website:

“Castillo de San Marcos.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from

Photo of Castillo de San Marcos.  Wikimedia

St. Augustine’s 450th Celebration: and

For more posts in our Coasting series, click the picture of the pelican in the right-hand column of this blog.  Or go to the Page at the top labeled Travel Series — Coasting.

Thanks for traveling the coasts of Georgia and Florida with us!

Bert and Rusha


About Oh, the Places We See

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
This entry was posted in Coasting, Florida, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Coasting: Scenes from Castillo de San Marcos

  1. Jessi says:

    Awesome photos! I have never been but I would love to one day. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    • Not all people love forts, of course, but we always find something great to see. And being married to Bert means that I have to be patient while he reads EVERY marker, sign, etc. (Oh, well. He’s worth the wait!)

  2. I keep enjoying your series Bert and Rusha, and learning as I go along. I am always amazed had how well crafted the old cannons were. Can you imagine being under attack for 50 days as cannon balls come crashing into your fort? –Curt

    • We were pretty amazed at the cannons, too. And the stacks of balls around, I’m just glad I didn’t have to live and fight back then. Would be on the casualty list early on!

      • Some of my ancestors were up at Fort Mifflin. If you ever get up around Philadelphia, be sure to check it out if you haven’t in the past. BTW, some of the cannons there are works of art. –Curt

  3. susanissima says:

    Awesome post, and I love your photos!

  4. cindy knoke says:

    Wow! Really gorgeous. Reminds me of Puerto Rico’s fort. We’re heading to Florida soon, will see if we can divert to see at least one of these beauties~

    • It’s a remarkable place. But the fact that you can touch the walls, experience the living quarters, and get great views from the top sold us on this as a true destination. I’d love to see Puerto Rico’s fort, too!

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