Today the site offers nature trails, picnic areas and a free ferry ride to the fort.
Fort Matanzas guarded St. Augustine’s southern river approach. The colonial wars are over, but the monument is still protecting - not just the historic fort - but also the wild barrier island and the plants and animals that survive there amidst a sea of modern development
As early as 1569, the Spanish recognized the vulnerability of the Matanzas Inlet and built a wooden watchtower and a thatched hut to house six soldiers who took turns scanning the horizon. If a ship was sighted, a runner or small boat set out to warn St. Augustine. Watching and warning were the tower’s tasks for it lacked any armament.
At least twice the watchtower kept pirates from coming in this "backdoor." In 1683 English outlaws captured the watchtower, but word made it to St. Augustine, and ships and soldiers came and drove them off. In 1686, French pirates attempted to come into the inlet, but again word was sent to St. Augustine, and these pirates, too, were rebuffed.
Today Fort Matanzas represents the fortification that played the important role of repulsing threats to St. Augustine. This National Monument is open to visitors, but not to pirates, Wednesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (except Thanksgiving and Christmas.) Come explore to learn what life was like more than 200 years ago and discover the beautiful nature trails that traverse through the park.