St. Augustine: Castillo de San Marcos

A Fort Made Out of What?

I can remember as a little girl my grandma telling me about a fort made of sea shells.  I always wondered how that could be possible…a fort made out of sea shells? 

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When we asked the locals, “What are the must-see spots in Florida?”, practically everyone quickly responded, “You HAVE to see St. Augustine.”  So, we made some room in our schedule for a day trip to St. Augustine, thinking we’d catch most of what the town had to offer.  Boy, were we wrong.  Even though the town is small (about 13,000 people), you could easily spend a week exploring it.

St. Augustine is the oldest, continuously occupied town in the United States.  It was founded in 1565 by Spanish admiral and explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, after Puerto Rico governer and explorer, Ponce de Leon, discovered and claimed the area for the Spanish crown in 1513.  Yep, the 1500s.  For America, that’s old.

The most recognized landmark in St. Augustine would most likely be the fort, Castillo de San Marcos.

Castillo de San Marcos Fort 




Construction on the stone fort started in 1672, after pirates and other enemies of the Spanish burned down nine previous wooden forts.  From a distance, the walls actually look like they’re made of solid stone, but up close, you can see that they’re actually made of coquina, a limestone-like stone made of bonded sea shells. 

Wall made of shells
Coquina wall – see the little shells?

The day we went, the fort, Castillo de San Marcos, was free to the public.  Normally, admission is $6/person.  During Spanish rule, soldiers practiced firing their canons every 15 minutes, and now, in keeping with tradition, volunteers trained in the art of canonry, fire one of the ancient canons (blanks) over the Matanzas River in a mock practice firing several times a day.  Of course, if you don’t pay the $6, you can still hear the canon being fired, but that $6 allows you a full explanation of the firing as well as a chance to see the full firing ceremony.  Remember to cover your ears!

Our opinion, the fort is definitely worth doing, but make sure you catch the canon firing demonstration; it’ll make a good experience that much better.

Your admission also allows you to see inside the fort into the soldiers’ living quarters.

Sleeping quarters in the fort

Can you imagine wearing 20 pounds of wool in the summertime?  In Florida?!?!  This volunteer is a trooper.





Us at the fort

At the fort

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2 Responses to St. Augustine: Castillo de San Marcos

  1. Aunt Kathy says:

    Yes, it could take several days to soak in everything St. Augustine has to offer! Great photos!

  2. Chris and Noelle (two) says:

    How neat! Your grandma was right. ;)

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