Castillo de San Marcos National Park-Day Trip

Castillo de San Marcos National Park-Day Trip

So we took advantage of our 1st free National Park Admission and visited Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine (which was built between 1672-1695) during our summer trip and it was totally AMAZING!!! We are HUGE history fans and love to visit places where our children learn something. So, to get the chance to visit the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States for FREE was totally AWESOME! Normal admission to the Castillo is $10/person and children under 15 are free. Parking was $1.50 as opposed to $5 every where else.

For those of you who haven’t heard of of Castillo de San Marcos before let me share a little bit of background with you.On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed on the shore of what is Matanzas Bay today, and began the founding of the Presidio of San Agustin.From 1565-1668 ten forts were built. The first 9 forts were built out of wood.


This could be why it is still standing over 322 years later. So why did they build the castillo in the first place? Well, the Queen Mariana wanted them to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World. It is now considered to be a National Monument and it’s the oldest structure in St. Augustine.The fort is beautifully located overlooking the Matanzas Bay and the Saint John River.

It wasn’t until after a pirate attack on St. Augustine that the Queen Regent Mariana ordered for the construction of the fortress that would become the Castillo de San Marcos in 1672.It took 23 years for the Spaniards to build a large fort, which is one of two forts built of coquina. What is coquina? A soft limestone that indigenous to the area and quarried from Anastasia Island,composed of broken shells. Now, why did the Spaniards opt to use coquina instead of stone? Well, because instead of cracking or collapsing, coquina walls absorbed or deflected enemy projectiles.

The coquina walls were so strong that the Castillo was never conquered despite many attacks including the 1740 attacks by English General James Oglethorpe who attempted to subdue the town. General Oglethorpe was firing from the tip of Anastasia Island, but quickly found out that he his cannonballs were no match for the coquin walls, which absorbed the blast.


The picture of the Florida state flag flying over the Castillo de San Marcos is such a simple one. However, it has such a rich history. Did you know that….many flags have flown during the Castillo de San Marcos throughout the course of it’s illustrious history.

From 1695 – 1763 the Spain flag flew.

Then from 1763 – 1784 the British flag flew over the fort and it was know as Fort St. Marks.

Then, after the Revolutionary War the Spanish flag flew over the Castillo de San Marcos again from 1784 – 1821.

On July 21, 1821 Spain conceded to the heavy pressure from the United States on the Empire and gave Florida up.During this time the Castillo de San Marcos was known as Fort Marion. The name Fort Marion was in honor of Revolutionary War General Francis Marion.

In 1845, Florida became a state in the Union, but would only remain so until December of 1860.

It joined other Southern states to form the Confederate States of America and entered the ensuing American Civil War. During the War, Fort Marion was in Union hands for the majority of it, having been handed over to the Confederates in January, 1861 on the basis of a receipt for the Fort and all of its contents signed by Confederate authorities and given to the Union commander.

It wasn’t until March 11, 1862 that the Union regained control of the fort. The interesting thing is that the Confederates had evacuated the area and the locals left behind surrendered to the Union in order to save the town. Beginning in 1870, the fort housed Seminole Indians detained by the U.S. Government. During the Spanish American War in 1898, the fort housed about 200 court-martialed deserters from the American Army imprisoned within its walls.

It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, that the Fort finally completed its long tour of duty and was finally made a national monument in 1900 after serving six flags over the course of 205 years.It wasn’t until 1933 that Castillo de San Macros joined the National Park Service.  What an interesting history a simple flag can share. Once a year they hold a reenactment of the change of flags. It sounds like something cool to see.


The entrance is via a draw-bridge over a moat!! An actual moat!!! My kids were over the moon that they got to see a real drawbridge and moat. Once inside you taken into past!All the staff is dressed in their 1400’s attire except for the park  rangers who were dressed in their uniform.  In the fort there are many rooms to explore we spent about an hour and a half walking through the fort. We saw the soldiers quarters and guard turrets.The cannons were amazing and the view from the top of the fort of St. Augustine was fabulous this was my boys favorite thing to see.


It was amazing to walk through all the rooms in the castle and see the way they lived in the fort. In the King’s room they had someone writing summons. It was cool They also had books for the kids to fill out with what they had learned to get a badge.They had two levels one for the younger children. The book below is for the older children and when they complete it they get two badges. The younger ones have a one sheet where they circle their answer and they get only one badge when they turn it in.


Enjoy this online tour of San Marcos :

So in the end for those of you interested in visiting a site which is foundation of St. Augustine’s intricate history this is a must see.
They have guided tours early in the day. However, we got there late in the day so we just guided ourselves. LOL!

Sea Life Viewing Tip: We recommend that you take a moment to walk to the stone seawall on the water side of the fort. Not only is the view amazing, but dolphins are regularly spotted there mornings and late afternoon… Sometimes manatee too.


64 thoughts on “Castillo de San Marcos National Park-Day Trip

  1. Wow! You sure know your history & you have such a good knack at explaining it to your readers! I loved how you explained that the fort was built from coquina. The history about flags was also quite intriguing!! Lived reading through this piece!

  2. Beautifully written and a lot of details. I holiday mostly with k Des and bl Gs like these are just so helpful. Would definitely get help from these blogs. Keep them coming and happy travelling ✈️

  3. Sounds like an amazing things to do on a day out with the kids! So much history and so much to learn from such a place! And the surroundings look beautiful!

  4. I’ve been there a couple and its such a neat place. Florida has several interesting forts to visit. I just love St. Augustine.

  5. This looks like a interesting place… I love anything historical… Curious to know more about it 😀

  6. Oh wow what an amazing looking place to get to explore I love the history of the flags that have flown over it so interesting.
    Sarah Bailey recently posted…Halloween at EtsyMy Profile

  7. Amazing! We moved to Florida years ago but we haven’t been to St. Augustine yet. I think a trip is going on my bucket list. The fort looks wonderful!

  8. This is a place that my boys would enjoy. They are all into history and wars right now.

  9. Very nice. I have a cousin that lives in St. Augustine and I have visited this place each time I go there. Love the town and all it has to offer.

  10. I really like when you can get into National Parks for free! It’s usually a little spendy at full price for the family to go, but I always leave a donation. I love historical places so this is some place I would enjoy visiting.

  11. Seriously. This post is really interesting. We are a homeschooling family from Indonesia. We are doing World History and we learn about the time when the Spanish explorers conquered the SOuth America. This site should be the witness of that historical event. Thank you for sharing.

  12. I would love to visit such a place. I’ve only been to Spain in passing to Portugal and I need to rectify that soon!

  13. What a great idea! It’s a fun outing yet educational. That would be great for the grandkids.

  14. Such a great place to visit with children. Educational, and adventurous…

  15. This would be such a neat place to explore. I love history, so I’d have fun here.

  16. You guys must be having such a good time on your trip.

  17. oh man that looks like it would be an awesome place to visit. i would love to spend a day here with my family.

  18. I love visiting historical monuments. Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine looks gorgeous and I can’t imagine what its walls would say if they could talk!

  19. Wow – what an amazing experience for you and your whole family. Before reading your post I had no idea Castilla de San Marcos National Park even existed. I appreciate you putting this important landmark on my radar!

  20. This reminds me of a historic revolutionary war park that is down the street from where I grew up. There’s so much to discover in places like this!

  21. It’s been a while since I had a fascinating history lesson and loved reading about Castillo de San Marcos, {St Marks for us Brits}, i am off to Spain in a couple days to absorb some Spanish history.
    Anosa recently posted…Local Adventures: Ashdown House #localtouristMy Profile

  22. You seem to have had a great time. The place looks great. Kids look so happy. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  23. I like the way you talked about this place. I like learning new stuff. I would love to go there, the photos looks so amazing and your experience is awesome.

  24. I swear I would go to St Augustine just for the castillo de san marcos and I was entranced by its historical narrative. Where are you thinking of going next?

  25. This looks like the kind of place I would really enjoy visiting. I love a location with proper history, and I like taking my kids to visit such places too.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Indian Tapas: Lamb, Pea & Potato Mini SamosasMy Profile

  26. Moats, pirates, oh my! It looks like such a lovely way to explore Florida’s history. I don’t think much in California is that old.

  27. Wow what a very interesting place, such a cool experience to spend some time there! Awesome for kids!

  28. I’ve never heard of the Castillo De San Marcos National Park before. I definitely need to visit Florida soon so I can check it out for myself – I think the kids would love it there 🙂

    Louise x
    Louise recently posted…Wedding Abroad: Top Countries for a CeremonyMy Profile

  29. Wow this is a lot of history. Its great you took your children to this site to learn.

  30. This is definitely a must-see when we visit Florida! Rich in history and beautiful surroundings! I’m sure my kids would enjoy it too!

  31. Leigh Anne Borders

    St. Augustine is such a beautiful place full of history. We have been to that fort before and love it.

  32. that’s one amazing looking park for your kids to visit. Wow. it looks like it’s an adventure and a half. i want to visit for the architecture alone.

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