While in St Augustine we had visited the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a bastion that was part of the walled defense line surrounding the city of St. Augustine. There is another small National monument nearby that is worthy of a visit as well, the Fort Matanzas National Monument closer to Palm Coast than to St Augustine.
Fort Matanzas is yet another piece of the early Spanish empire in this part of Florida. As we entered the National Monument we couldn’t help but love the beauty of the Live Oak trees as we parked. We parked and got out our National Parks Pass but as we neared the visitor’s center we noticed visitors had to take a boat over to an island to view the fort. We assumed that that fee would not be waived by the park pass as many of these type of National Park excursions are done by non-national park personnel and additional fees are required. Sharon asked the ranger at the desk if our pass was good for the boat ride and she said we didn’t need the pass as access to this monument was free… as in no cost at all!!! Not sure how they pay for all that gas but we weren’t going to complain as I figured 40 years of paying taxes probably covered my share.
So we picked up our boat passes and still had about 40 minutes before departure. We found a nearby nature trail that was about a half mile so we decided to do it before visiting the monument. It turned out to be a nice trail, mostly on boardwalk,winding through the forested area nearby and over to a salt water marsh near the Matanzas River. When we finished we queued up at the dock and waited for our ride to the island.
As the boat brought over the last group that toured the island a splash cought my eye as we spotted some dolphins frolicking in the river. I was able to snap a few pictures with my cell phone since I had inadvertently forgotten my camera… sigh… Also by the docks were large schools of mullet swimming against the current that we could see from the dock as well. When the passengers departed the boat we got on and listened to the narrative of one of the rangers explaining the history and significance of the monument.
In the early 1700’s the Florida Governor, a Spaniard, was worried about a British invasion that most likely would come through the unguarded inlet at Matanzas. As a result he had the small fort built to guard this southern approach. It took a long time to build due to challenges of sinking posts into the marsh. Also the British and their Indian allies tried to stop construction repeatedly. But by the early 1740’s it was built and once completed few British attempts at invasion occurred and those that did were repelled by the fort.
What a cool little fort on the Matanzas River and with the free boat ride it is also a great spot for watching the dolphins in the river enjoying themselves… Of course as we were done it was time to got find a spot for a cold beverage. We ended up at JT’s Seafood Shack where we scored another happy hour with a buy one get one free. Loved what was printed on one of the T-shirts we recently saw – “Life is too short to drink crappy beer!”... Did we mention, we love Florida…