The United States has more than 400 National Parks; a remarkable representation of America’s natural and historical legacy. Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine is part of the National Park Service as a designated national monument. Along with national monuments, Florida’s Historic Coast has dozens of parks for you to enjoy.
The Castillo de San Marcos
The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. After 9 wooden forts designed to protect St. Augustine were burned by invaders, the Spanish militia took on the monumental task of constructing a stone fort that would protect the city and its treasury from pirates, the British and other attackers. The Castillo is made from coquina, a locally sourced stone-like compound made of shell and limestone. The use of coquina as the building material for both the Castillo de San Marcos and the nearby Fort Matanzas created fortresses that were nearly indestructible. Construction of the Castillo began in 1672 and took 23 years to complete. This fortress was never taken in battle. The Castillo played a pivotal role in protecting Spanish St. Augustine from the 1700s to the late 1800s.
In 1924, the Castillo, or Fort Marion as it was known at the time, was declared a national monument by President Calvin Coolidge. He signed a proclamation that also designated Fort Matanzas a national monument.
Fort Matanzas, located on the Intracoastal Waterway south of St. Augustine, was built by Spanish soldiers as the back door protecting the city by preventing the British sailing through Matanzas Bay from invading St. Augustine. Today, Fort Matanzas has grown to a park of almost 300 acres and features walking trails, picnic areas, small tidal beaches and of course the fort located on Rattlesnake Island, which visitors get to by ferry.
State and County Parks
Like the national parks, state and county parks on Florida’s Historic Coast are cherished playgrounds for visitors of all ages. Find your park, explore and enjoy!
Anastasia State Park
One of Florida’s most popular parks with its white quartz sands is perfect for a day at the beach with the family. The quiet beaches here are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, fishing and bird watching. You’ll find plenty of parking, permanent restrooms, snack bar and picnic areas, and watersport rentals. Travel + Leisure magazine included Anastasia State Park on its list of America’s prettiest beach campsites, with full service and primitive camping available.
GTM Research Reserve
Located on scenic A1A, the GTM Research Reserve is a hiker’s delight with 9 plus miles of nature trails. The coastal estuary offers incredible views of lush vegetation, nesting bald eagles, and possible encounters with the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and the West Indian manatee. The GTM is a popular fishing spot with boat ramp access. GTM volunteers and staff offer monthly guided beach explorations and seining workshops. Natural and cultural history exhibits that illustrate the many functions of the coastal and estuarine ecosystem can be viewed in the Environmental Education Center.
Fort Mose State Park
A state park, Fort Mose is historically significant as home to the first free African settlement in the U.S. Here, in 1738, slaves fled the British and were granted freedom by the Spanish in exchange for conversion to Catholicism and allegiance to the Spanish crown. Today the park has a history museum and hosts several festivals and historic re-enactments throughout the year.
Faver-Dykes State Park
The tranquil Faver-Dykes State Park borders Pellicer Creek as it winds along Florida’s east coast highways down to the Matanzas River portion of the Intracoastal Waterway. Popular for birding with more than 100 bird species seen during spring and fall migrations, Faver-Dykes State Park is a paddling launch site and offers fishing, picnicking, and nature walks, as well as a full-service camp ground in a pristine wooded area.
St. Johns County Parks & Recreation
St. Johns County has a collection of pristine parks and natural habitats. From the historic Alpine Groves Park on the St. Johns River to Treaty Park which is a sport’s lover’s dream with a skate park, basketball, tennis, pickleball and racquetball courts. You can also bring your pet to the dog park and there is a handicap accessible playscape.
Florida’s Historic Coast’s parks offer something for everyone.