Fort Matanzas National Monument is on Anastasia Island and the only way you can visit it by taking an NPS ferry. When we got to the Visitors Center, there was a sign out front “Ferry out of service today”. (NO! We’d driven quite a ways to only see the fort across the river.)
We went inside so George could at least stamp his passport. The ranger said the Coast Guard had just called and cleared the boat for service! (Yahoo!) We chatted for awhile then headed down to the dock. Once we had loaded, a ranger gave us a little history talk about the fort which guarded the “back door” to St. Augustine.
Fort Matanzas (“slaughter” in Spanish) marks the site where almost 250 French Huguenot soldiers from French Fort Caroline were killed by the Spaniards in 1765. The fort was built in 1740-42 to prevent the British from attacking St. Augustine.
Once we crossed Matanzas Inlet to the fort, we were free to wander anywhere we wanted inside the fort. The fort had been a real mess by the 1900's, and there was some repair done in 1924. Actual rebut was restoration was done by the WPA in 1937. Built of a local shellstone called coquina--which another ranger described later as “fossilized beach”--it's really blocks made of shells, sand and lime. They've set up an exhibit in the Officer’s Quarters and Soldiers’ Quarters set up so you can see how they would have lived. We climbed up a ladder through the roof onto the Observation Deck.
The guns were used to hold off British attempts to gain the inlet in 1742, and that was the only battle it was ever in.
After we’d all seen everything, they took us all back across on the ferry. We picnicked under a big live oak tree before we headed to St. Augustine.