Fort Matanzas is one of my favorite parks, Located right off the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway. As you enter the park you will notice a few picnic tables under the oak hammock. This park has a small trail to explore only about a half a mile, well worth it, at the end the views are great. The ramp leading to the ferry dock is a great place to view the shoreline, Matanzas Inlet, and the surrounding areas of the Fort.
The park is small but loaded with history and scenic views and a free ferry ride across the Matanzas River to take a closer look at the fort. Fort Matanzas was built to guard the southern approaches and warn Saint Augustine, which is fifteen miles north of the Fort. To view the inner workings of how the fort was used and lived in click here.
Fort Matanzas was built on an island, less than two acres. Today, the island now occupies more than 200 acres and is referred to as Rattlesnake Island. The fort is accessible by boat only.
In 1565, French forces led by French Hugenot Jean Ribault set out to attack and gain control of St. Augustine. Fortunately for the Spaniards, a hurricane struck the northeast coast of Florida, that scattered Ribault’s vessels down the coast. Pedro Menendez’s troops traveled on foot and captured the enemy base. Menendez had 245 prisoners put to death on the beaches 14 miles south of St. Augustine – thus, the name Matanzas.
In 1569, a wooden watchtower and thatched hut were built just north of the Matanzas Inlet to house six soldiers. The fort was the lock on the backdoor to St. Augustine. The soldiers patrol the waterways surrounding the Matanzas Inlet from their watchtower and temporary residence, Fort Matanzas. In 1740, engineer Pedro Ruiz de Olano was summoned by Gov. Manuel de Montiano to build a stronger, more reliable stone structure.