Castillo de San Marcos and a Rainy Glimpse of St. Augustine

This post is part of a series of stories from our 2018 trip to Florida.
Click here for all posts.

As we build travel itineraries for experiences across the country, we always check the area for National Parks. Sometimes the National Park itself is our destination — but often we’re able to add a stop to a trip with a different focus, and experience a special, local place as a bonus.

Castillo de San Marcos — and Canaveral National Seashore — were exactly that during our recent trip to Florida to visit Kennedy Space Center. A quick check of the area while trip planning, and we happily added both to our itinerary and looked forward to spending a full day getting a glimpse of two of Florida’s unique and special destinations.

After checking out Canaveral National Seashore on our way out of Orlando — we drove further north to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. First stop – Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest masonry fort in the continental US and operated by the National Park Service since the 1930s.

As we walked up, the sky was looking pretty cloudy but we crossed our fingers the rain would hold out. Colt grabbed a Junior Ranger packet and we headed for a Ranger-led tour of the fort.

What a fascinating place! Construction of the fort began on October 2, 1672 and lasted twenty-three years, with completion in 1695. The Ranger took us back in time to hear stories of the Spanish and the English battling for control of this region throughout the 1700s, including the waterways and rumored gold. The fort was even used in the American Civil War and as recently as the Spanish-American War in 1898, before being designated a National Monument in 1924.

I borrowed the below photo from the National Park Service to show the unique shape of the Castillo — four bastions, a center area, and a moat surrounding the entire structure. Cannons lined the top of the walls.

Photo cred: National Park Service

As the rain started to roll in as a sprinkle, we hurried to check out the upper level as the Rangers warned it would be closed as soon as they spotted lightning.

Rain chased us back downstairs to explore some of the internal rooms, and finish up Colt’s Junior Ranger activity book.

That patch reads: Master Junior Ranger. And you can BET Colt was all about the opportunity to go above and beyond the basic requirements of Junior Ranger and go for the MASTER Junior Ranger. We’ve never seen that offered before, but he’ll be on the lookout from now on.

The walls of the Castillo are made of a stone called coquina — or shells. It made the walls quite resistant to cannonball damage.

As we finished up at the Castillo, the rain clouds started looking ominous. We headed for the dry safety of the car, but not before snagging a #PictureByTheSign in the RAIN!

We made it to the car in time for the sky to absolutely open up. And it POURED. I glanced at the list of other things we’d planned to do in St. Augustine that day — then looked at the weather — and realized we needed Plan B.

I quickly googled “things to do in St. Augustine on a rainy day” and found a fun little museum called the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum. Perfect!

But even as we emerged from a tour through pirate history and pop culture — it was raining even harder. Most of what we had planned for the rest of our day was a walking tour of the old city — so we decided we’d have to put St. Augustine on our “Next Time” list, and head back to the hotel. We were bummed, but the Castillo had been our number one destination and we’d been able to fully explore it before the weather turned. A lesson in prioritization, if nothing else!

We started the rainy drive south toward Orlando, and waved goodbye to St. Augustine — for now!

Our intended itinerary – should you find yourself in St. Augustine:
  • Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
  • Walking tour: Old City Gates, The Love Tree, Treasury Street (narrowest street in America), Lightner Museum, Bridge of Lions, Fountain of Youth Park, Magnolia Avenue, The Old Jail, Shrine of our Lady of La Leche
  • Try to catch sunset at St. Augustine Beach Pier

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