Tips for visiting St. Augustine’s Historic Fort with kids
St. Augustine, Florida is a city made for lovers of history, and Castillo de San Marcos is the pinnacle attraction related to the city’s robust past. We visited recently with our young children and found the historic fort to have something for all ages. Here are my tips for exploring America’s largest and oldest fort.
The history of Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos was constructed by the Spaniards between 1672 and 1695. The fort was crucial in protecting the city of St. Augustine from pirate raids and Spain’s greatest rival, Great Britain.
What makes the fort so unique is its construction from coquina. Coquina is a porous type of limestone that looks like little bits of seashells stuck together. Coquina is found in very few places in the world, but the east coast of Florida was perfect for its formation. This was the first fort constructed from coquina. The Spanish hoped that it would withstand British cannons, and at the very least, knew that unlike wood, it wouldn’t burn or be destroyed by termites.
After the Seven Year’s War, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the Treaty of Paris (1783) returned Florida back to Spain. Finally, in 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States and the fort was renamed, Castillo Fort Marion. Fort Marion was used to house Native American prisoners during the Seminole War of 1835-1842. During the Civil War, Confederate troops occupied the fort and during the Spanish-American War, it was used as a military prison.
What will you see at Castillo de San Marcos?
Visitors to Castillo de San Marcos are free to roam most of the historic fort and grounds. Many of the former storage rooms offer displays explaining the use of the fort or the many chapters of the fort’s history.
From the top level of the fort, families can gaze over downtown St. Augustine or the waters of Matanzas Bay. This is also where visitors watch the artillery demonstration.
Visitors will also see the Powder Magazine and the Chapel.
What to expect when visiting with kids
Castillo de San Marcos is a family-friendly destination. For starters, visitors 15 and under get free admission!
The biggest thing to consider when visiting with kids is the climate of Florida! Be prepared for hot temperatures and high humidity. Bringing a reusable water bottle and plenty of sunscreen (<- our favorite) will ensure a more comfortable experience. The fort has modern restrooms and a water fountain.
Pay close attention to small children while exploring the top of the fort. As you can see below, the fort walls provide no protection from falling. If you can keep young ones in a carrier, that would be helpful. The top of the fort does not offer wheelchair or stroller access.
While much of the history may be “too much” for young ones, even little ones can take interest in the coquina. Our youngest children were impressed that the fort was made of “seashells” and enjoyed watching the firing of the cannons.
The fort is located at:
11 South Castillo Drive
Saint Augustine, FL 32084
Parking is available.
Castillo de San Marcos is open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving. The park is open from 9 am – 5 pm.
Admission is $15 for those aged 16 and over. Tickets are valid for 7 days.
Have you been to Fort Augustine? Did you visit Castillo de San Marcos?
For more things to do in Florida, click HERE.