Our Visit to Castillo De San Marcos St Augustine Florida

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Last Updated on January 6, 2023 by Suzy

There is one very major landmark in St. Augustine Florida and that is the Castillo De San Marcos. It is a masonry fort and it’s the oldest in the continental U.S. Construction began back in 1672 and it was designed by the Spanish engineer Ignacio Daza.

The British briefly gained control of the fort and the local area back in 1763 although it was taken back again by the Spanish in 1783. In its history, the fort has been besieged twice. First by the English in 1702 and again in 1740 by the then-governor of Georgia.

When I originally booked our stay in St Augustine during our 3 week holiday to Florida I thought that the fort would be a good place to take our son. Not just to show him some American history but to see something other than theme parks.

Our Visit to Castillo De San Marcos St Augustine Florida
A view of Castillo De San Marcos from the bay

The Castillo De San Marcos is located on the western shore of the bay in St Augustine. It is a landmark that you can not miss when you arrive at St Augustine from the south. The Castillo can be easily reached on foot from the centre of the city. It is on the tram stops and there is also a car park outside, although parking is very limited and it is a pay-and-display.

How Much is the Castillo De San Marcos?

We arrived via the Sightseeing old town trolley bus tour. You can get off at stop #18 for the Castillo. There is a booth outside the Castillo where you pay your entrance fee. When we visited it was $10.00 per adult. This has now increased to $15.00 per adult. They state that this is to “fund important maintenance and improvement projects within the park.” Children under the age of 15 are free to visit and will remain free.

Their website states that you can expect your visit to last between 1 and 2 hours. We were there for just over an hour as we timed it well for the cannon being lit which is an event in itself.

What is the Castillo De San Marcos like?

We visited on a lovely sunny day which certainly improved our visit. It was lovely and warm up on the top of the ramparts and the view over to the bay was beautiful with the sun shining on the water.

Our Visit to Castillo De San Marcos St Augustine Florida
Arriving at Castillo De Marcos

Once you have paid at the cabin on the right you enter the fort via one of two drawbridges. This was great fun for our son and he must have run back and forth a fair few times.

Our Visit to Castillo De San Marcos St Augustine Florida
One of the two drawbridges
Our Visit to Castillo De San Marcos St Augustine Florida
Drawbridge number two

What first struck me was how lovely it was to see men dressed in authentic costumes from the time the fort was in use. It later transpired that these men are indeed volunteers and they are there to ignite the cannon almost every hour. They are also living historians so if there is a question you want answering it is worth asking them.

Once you have crossed the two drawbridges you will enter into the courtyard for the fort.

The courtyard in the fort

This is where the officers who were guarding the fort would have lived. We were impressed with how they have set up a lot of these rooms. They have included objects and furniture true to the time so it feels like you are walking around in the past. There are many boards to read telling you about life back then plus history from when the fort was in use. If your kids have the patience to listen it’s worth reading them out to them.

Authentically set up rooms within the Castillo De San Marcos
It was like stepping back in time

Once you have looked around the rooms of the courtyard you can move up to the gundeck of the fort. This level has no railings so keep a close eye on your children as there is a big drop with little to stop them going over. In a world of health and safety, we were quite surprised by the lack of railings to stop accidents.

The exposed gun deck with no railings at the drop

Our son loved this area the most and spent a long time pretending to fire the many cannons that they have up there. Try and time your visit for one of the cannons being fired. It’s worth it for the commentary and the experience.

Some of the many cannons on the gun deck
Ready, aim, fire

When is the cannon fired at the St. Augustine Fort?

The cannon is fired from the gundeck every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the year at 10:30, 11:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30. You can witness the cannon being fired from outside the fort. Severe weather may sometimes temporarily close the fort. During these times the cannons will not be fired.

Cannon fire at the fort

Before they fire the cannon there is a commentary about life back when the fort was in use plus how the cannons were once used. The firing itself is incredibly loud and you are encouraged to cup your ears or those of little ones. This is why I have no photo! It was indeed very very loud.

That concludes our visit to the fort. You can admire the fort and the cannon fire without having to pay to enter. It is on the expensive side, however, I do feel it is worth a visit, especially if you haven’t experienced much American history before.

The beautiful bay by the Castillo De San Marcos
Our Visit to Castillo De San Marcos St Augustine Florida

Search and Compare Family Friendly Hotels in St. Augustine

If you are looking for other things to do in Saint Augustine why not check out my other posts about the city? Including a ride on the Black Raven Pirate Ship and my post for my Top 8 Things To Do With Kids in St Augustine Florida.

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