Description - Fort Matanzas, built 1740-1742, represents a well-preserved masonry watchtower fort built by the Spanish. By erecting a perch to observe enemy vessels approaching from the south, the fort played a strategic role in warning St. Augustine of potential enemy advancements via the Matanzas River. This national monument is 14 miles south of St. Augustine, now serving as a reminder of the early Spanish empire in the New World. The park rests on barrier islands along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas estuary. In addition to its historical significance, the site provides a natural habitat rich in wildlife with the salt marsh, scrub, and maritime hammock protecting endangered and threatened species.
Copyright: - US National Park Service
Fort Matanzas National Monument
- The Spanish Fort Matanzas, circa 1740, rests in the St. Augustine area; the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the continental United States. The massacre of French soldiers here in 1565 was Spain's opening move in establishing a colony in Florida. Today, the historic site is administered by the National Park Service, offering a visitor center and self-guided tours.
The original national monument site consisted of only the fort on Rattlesnake Island. Through the years, however, the National Park Service has been able to acquire additional land both on Rattlesnake and on Anastasia Island and begin to set aside a slice of an intact barrier island ecosystem. The river and ocean beaches offer visitors the opportunity to view a variety of plants and wildlife native to this ecosystem.
In addition to Fort Matanzas, nearby Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and Fort Mose serve as outstanding reminders of the might of the early Spanish empire in the New World.
Recreation - Historic Fort Matanzas is accessible only by boat. A free ferry takes visitors across the Matanzas River where they will find a visitor center that provides exhibits, a short video and wonderful books about the site and it's natural inhabitants. Weather permitting, the ferry runs daily from 9 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Exploring the island is very pleasant and informative. A number of federally endangered or threatened species inhabit the island. Tourists may venture along a short nature trail, along the beaches or by the riverfront experiencing the coastal maritime forest. The park hosts educational programs and special events throughout the year, including the popular torch light tours. For details, call 904-471-0116. Fishing and water sports are other forms of permissible recreations.
Climate - Summers in northeastern Florida are hot and humid with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Summer temperatures average in the low 80's Fahrenheit (27 - 28 Celsius). Mild winter temperatures average below 52 degrees Fahrenheit (below 11 Celsius). Freezing temperatures are infrequent but windy conditions are common. The average precipitation for the northeast area is between 52 and 56 inches per year. Light, loose fitting clothing is recommended in spring, summer and fall. Layered clothing is recommended for winter. Biting insects are common throughout the year and are especially heavy from late April through early June.
Fort Matanzas is located 14 miles south of St. Augustine, Florida, on Rattlesnake Island.