We all know that Florida is America’s crowning jewel of theme parks, and has some of the best beaches around, but what you may not know is that Florida is home to some serious icons of American and Caribbean history. So far I have visited Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, and so far, the one thing that I have found in all of them are forts. It was a mainstay of the Caribbean back in the day when Europe was fighting over who would control the “new” world. Turns out, you don’t need to leave the mainland in order to get a taste of this history, as Florida is home to some impressive French, Spanish, and American forts.
The first fort that I visited in Florida was Fort Caroline, located in Jacksonville in northern Florida. This is thought to be the site of one of the oldest colonies in the United States. It was the French who settled here in 1564 on the relatively high, dry ground of the area, and had good relations with the native Timucuan people for a time. Unfortunately, the Spanish weren’t too happy with the French setting up shop in the area, so they ended up massacring the people that tried to make Caroline their home only a year after the settlement had been established. The area is currently cared for by the US National Park Service, and it is free to visit. The fort itself has been recreated to some extent, and there is some really lovely hiking in the park as well.
Castillo de San Marcos
South of Jacksonville in the coastal city of St. Augustine, which claims to be the oldest, colonial city in the United States, is Castillo de San Marcos, another site protected by the National Park Service (sensing a theme here?). Unlike Fort Caroline, the Castillo de San Marcos was built by the Spanish in 1672, and as its relatively in-tact existence indicates, it was a far more successful settlement. The fort held St. Augustine’s bay from the British until 1763 when the area was given to the British by treaty. Any attempts to attack the fort before this, were unsuccessful, in part, due to the special stone that was used to build the fort. The fort provides insight into the colonial history of Florida, but also US history as well, since the fort was eventually used to incarcerate Native Americans. It isn’t all (or even mostly) a happy story, but it represents an important part of our past nonetheless. Once you’re done learning about the Castillo, head to nearby downtown St. Augustine, for a charming place to walk around, shop, and eat great food (for more info on this city see DQ Family Travel’s post).
Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas
Fort Jefferson in my opinion, it is the most magnificent of the three (although Florida is home to more than just these). The fort is massive, and somehow located in the middle of the Caribbean ocean, about 70 miles away from Key West on the Dry Tortugas islands. It was built by the American people in order to protect the deep waters of this area, which are key to some of the busiest shipping lanes in the region. The building process itself carried on for almost thirty years (1846-1875), but the building was never actually finished. While the fort was never attacked, it did serve as a symbol of American power, and it also was a strategic location during the Civil War, when the Union used it to blockade Southern shipping and hold prisoners. Now, it is an enchanting spot to spend the day, exploring the past in the long, chambered halls of the fortress, and looking out onto the brilliant blue of the Caribbean sea.
Interesting post. I didn’t even think about Florida having forts. I somehow just have sunshine, crocodiles and beaches in my mind. 🙂
That’s what I thought before I went as well!
It’s so great to see that these forts are still standing today. These old buildings really give you an opportunity to get a sense of history. Good to know they’re still there, and it’s not just the land of Disney!
I agree! It is all thanks to the National Park Service.
Florida definitely played a large role in U.S. military history. I haven’t been to many of the forts back in the U.S. but they seem really cool. I like the moat around Ft. Jefferson, but overall Castillo de San Marcos looks like it might be my favorite.
Castillo de San Marcos was much smaller, but the city where it was added alot to the experience as well. It was really neat to visit.
Probe around the Globe
I didn’t know Florida had that many forts. From the looks of it, I like the Fort Jefferson the best too! With the red brike it has a fierce and striking appearance! Lovely list of fords in Florida!
I didn’t know until I went! And yes, Fort Jefferson was my absolute favorite. It was massive, in the middle of the ocean, and I loved the brick as well. Very cool.
Interesting to learn that there are so many forts in the area! I saw a few around Cartagena and found the history fascinating. The Florida forts are now on my one-day travel wish-list 🙂
Awesome! I wasn’t super interested in forts before hand, but it was so cool seeing all the different kinds and the history behind each one.
Your post made me think how much I have still to learn of American history! Nice to learn of Florida history, as well and to think of Florida more in the way of culture and history, not only the beaches, sunshine and leisure time.
That is exactly the journey I went on! It really expanded my horizons.
It is so refreshing to read about something other than Disney when it comes to Florida. For me, I think I would prefer to spend time walking around these forts than traipsing with crowds around a theme park.
I do love Disney, if I am being honest, but I do prefer to avoid the crowds for the most part. These were so unique as well.
This is amazing! I just found a reason to visit St. Augustine, Florida, Castillo de San Marcos! It looks beautiful! Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy it when you go!
I will admit, I am one of those awful travellers that associate Florida with Orlando and it’s theme parks!! But who knew there were so many awesome and photogenic forts! Will deffo add these to the wish list 🙂
I think that has to do with Florida’s marketing rather than you! I had no idea these were there and wouldn’t have found out except that I am a national park fanatic. 😛
Love the title and your photos! I’ve never been to Florida, but would definitely like to visit and stop at each one of these on the way 😊
Aw. I hope you can make it in the future. I think you would really enjoy yourself. 🙂