Fort Matanzas National Monument | FORT TOUR

National Park Service shuttle boat to Fort Matanzas

National Park Service shuttle boat to Fort Matanzas


Note:  The boats required for a tour of Fort Matanzas are always breaking down, so before heading to the fort, be sure to either call the park at (904) 471-0116 or check the National Park Service’s official Fort Matanzas National Monument website to see if tours are being held. If you can’t get to the fort, there is no point in visiting.


Fort Matanzas lies on the opposite side of the Matanzas River from the Fort Matanzas National Monument Visitor Center, and it is thus necessary to take a shuttle boat to the fort. Tours are typically held Wednesdays through Sundays at 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM, 2:30 PM, and 3:30 PM. However, times can always change, so be sure to check the National Park Service’s Fort Matanzas Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the latest times and activity schedules.

Tickets for the tour of Fort Matanzas are free but are required for everyone, even babies. They are issued on a first come, first served basis and are only given out for the next available tour. For example, you cannot arrive at 9 AM and request a ticket for the 1:30 PM tour unless all tickets for prior tours have been taken. Furthermore, if you have a ticket and do not arrive at least five minutes prior to departure, your spot will be given to somebody else. The boat only holds 35 passengers, and tickets to most tours do sell out during the summer, including weekdays, so arrive early.

Tours can be cancelled if the weather looks bad, therefore it is advisable to visit Fort Matanzas, if possible, only on days that promise good weather. I was talking to a group who had been to the fort on three previous days, and the tours were cancelled on all three days. On the day I visited, I missed the 9:30 AM tour and had to wait until the 11:30 AM tour because threatening weather had cancelled the 10:30 AM tour. The 11:30 AM tour was held despite intermittent light rain.

The tour of Fort Matanzas lasts about 45 minutes, of which 30 minutes are spent at the fort. This is plenty of time to see the entire fort and read all the information panels at the exhibits. The fort isn’t any bigger than a typical single-family home. The tour begins with a Ranger giving a brief overview of the fort’s history. If you didn’t have time to watch the park film at the Visitor Center, don’t worry, as this talk fills you in on what you need to know to understand the fort and its purpose. After the talk, you are free to explore the fort at your own pace. The Ranger is available to answer questions.

The fort is not accessible for wheelchairs. You must be able to walk up two sets of stairs to visit both levels of the fort, plus a ladder if you wish to access the roof area.

Steps to top level of the Fort Matanzas.

Steps to top level of the Fort Matanzas.

From the ground, walk up the first flight of stairs to the main deck of the fort. Here you will find cannons and the Soldiers’ Quarters, which is furnished as it would have been at the time of use.

Soldier's quarters on main deck of Fort Matanzas

Soldier’s quarters on main deck of Fort Matanzas

Gun deck of Fort Matanzas

Gun deck of Fort Matanzas

A flight up some more stairs takes you to the Officers’ Quarters, again furnished according to the period. From there you can climb up a ladder and access the roof of Fort Matanzas. It is from the roof that you will understand why the fort was built where it was—unobstructed views in all directions. The hole in the roof is very small; large people may not make it through, nor will anyone with backpacks (leave them in the Officer’s Quarters).

Hole to climb through to access the roof of Fort Matanzas

Hole to climb through to access the roof of Fort Matanzas

View towards St. Augustine from the roof of Fort Matanzas

View towards St. Augustine from the roof of Fort Matanzas

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Last updated on April 17, 2022
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