Fort Castillo de San Marcos is one of the oldest buildings in the United States and North America, a star-shaped stone fort that was built in 1632 by the Spanish and served as a military fortress. Now St. Mark’s Fortress is a national monument that attracts many tourists to Florida and the town of St. Augustine, where the fort is located. And we, too, during our trip by car from Miami to New York, stopped to see with our own eyes the Castillo de San Marcos, which is famous for its unusualness. And now we are ready to tell you whether it is worth going so far from Miami to St. Augustine, how to get to Castillo de San Marcos, where to stay and how to see the fort.
The Castillo de San Marcos is a typical star fort with four diamond-shaped bastions and turrets. It is believed that this shape allowed for crossfire in the defense of the fort. And thus the fort defended the city from both land and sea.
In fact, this fort is not so big if you compare it with other similar forms, such as the familiar Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg or Fort San Felipe in Cartagena (Colombia), also built by the Spaniards.
Interesting fact: Castillo-de-San Marcos Fortress stands on the bank of the Matanzas River and is surrounded by an artificial moat on all sides.
The fort was built of coquina stones (“Coquina” means “small shells” in Spanish), which is made up of deposits of ancient coquina, a sedimentary rock that has become very strong over time, similar to limestone. The stones for the construction of the fort were quarried 4 km to the east, on the island of Anastasia, and transported to Castillo de San Marcos by river. The fort was laid out on October 2, 1672, and was completed only 23 years later, in 1695.
The Castillo de San Marcos is now home to a large number of cannons brought here from around the area to demonstrate the fort’s former fighting power. From time to time the fort organizes firing demonstrations, when people dressed in appropriate uniforms load the newly cast cannon in the shape of the cannon on display in the museum with cannonballs and fire them.
Important to know: The fort is open to visitors every day except major holidays, with hours of operation from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, during Florida hurricane seasons (September through November), the fort may be closed all day for safety reasons.
Cost of admission:
- An adult ticket costs – $15, with free admission for children under 15.
- A full year pass costs $45.
- A full year pass to all U.S. national parks and monuments (aka Annual pass) costs $80.
- It is also worth considering that parking near Castillo de San Marcos is paid, costing $2.5 per hour. Pay by card or cash through a machine that doesn’t give change.
There is a regular demonstration of colonial weapons at the fortress. It usually happens on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, when there are the most visitors with children. The time is every hour from 9:30 to 15:30 (except 12:30).