On our Florida trip 12 years ago we visited St. Augustine and the Castillo de San Marcos. I remember being really impressed with the castillo and so I was excited to share this with our kids. We had a short drive day from Manatee Hammock up to the Pepper Tree Resort just south of St Augustine. Despite the name, I didn’t really think there was anything that warranted being called a resort other than the price. It wasn’t even an RV park but a mobile home park with a few transient sites. It was a tight turn to get Ava situated on the pad but after a few attempts we got set up. AND we still had time to explore a little bit. So we headed to Fort Matanzas just a ways south of where we were staying.
I had not paid attention I guess during our last visit that, in addition to the castillo, there was a fort protecting the “back door” of St Augustine at the mouth of the Matanzas river. We showed up and got our free tickets for the ferry boat across the river to the fort but they had canceled the previous trips due to wind and it wasn’t looking good for the next one either. The kids grabbed Jr Ranger packets anyway and we went off to explore the nature trails and such. We also watched a short video on the history of the fort and how it got its name due to a butt whoopin’ that the Spanish gave the French…matanzas is Spanish for massacre. The last 2 ferrys of the day were canceled so we decided to come back another day.
Back at home we enjoyed dinner outside and then a nice, or maybe not so nice, game of Bohnanza where team Brielle and Papa took the trophy with their passive leftovers strategy! I think travel days are getting easier…today’s move seemed pretty relaxed and we had plenty of time to still do some exploring and playing.
Cool climbing tree
Matanzas board walk
Matanzas boat dock
I love the beach
"Do NOT get your clothes wet"
Will they get wet?
Hands in the air
We are the champions
The next day we headed into St. Augustine proper with the primary goal of exploring the Castillo de San Marcos. We snagged a parking spot in the pay parking garage at the visitor center. Being surrounded by all the tiny, sleek bodies in the lot the Beast asked, “does this parking lot make my butt look big?”
Dacen’s 4th grade National Parks pass scored us free entry to the castle and we showed up just in time for a cannon firing demonstration. The participants were in full Spanish uniforms and they did the entire cannon drill in Castillian Spanish. It took about 15 minutes to ready the cannon for each shot. But the range of these primitive weapons was impressive…1 to 3 miles depending on the cannon!
The castle has a very cool shape and is made of local cocina rock. Cocina, donax variabilis, shells that have been compacted and fused together with calcium carbonate turns out to be an incredibly robust building material…even against cannon fire!
We had a picnic there and the kids got both a Jr Ranger badge AND a patch. The patches are SOOOOO much cooler than the plastic badges. Even though they require a little more work to earn, our kids always go for the patch if they are available. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the castle and found the rangers and volunteers to all be very well informed and excited to share their knowledge.
We strolled along the main drag of St Augustine which is pedestrian only. It is a bit too touristy for my liking but still neat. We went into the Oldest Schoolhouse gift shop which had all kinds of toys and trinkets geared towards kids. But the woman at the register was MEAN. Maybe she was being “in character” as an old fashioned teacher. But any time someone new came in the store and picked something up to look at it, especially kids, she would say in her thick eastern European accent, “no touch!!” What the heck? Its not like its an art gallery or something. The stuff is clearly designed for kids and to be played with. If I want to buy without touching I can do that on Amazon, for a heck of a lot cheaper than in this tourist trap gift shop. I was happy to not spend any money in there.
We visited a dugout canoe exhibit that was free, informative and really well done, but we were getting tired and the kids had made it known that they observed an interesting pattern…about every 3rd shop on the main drag sells ice cream. “Boy, I sure could use a pick-me-up snack right about now.” So with the promise of ice cream the kids hustled to pick out a place to grab a treat. I kind of wanted to try a gourmet popsicle from Hyppos, but got an old fashioned ice cream cone instead.
Another fun day spent together as a family!
Picnic at the castillo
Draw bridge going in
Inside the castillo
Fam at the fort
Jr. Ranger badges
Draw bridge going out
Oldest school house
Dugout canoe exhibit
Does this parking lot make my butt look big?