Just 15 miles south of the historic city of St. Augustine, Matanzas Inlet is the perfect day trip. At this spot, the Matanzas River joins with the ocean and boasts white sandy barrier island beaches. If you’re hoping to see one of the most picturesque coastlines in the entire state of Florida, you’ll want to add this to your itinerary.
You can find rich natural environments and historic sites at Matanzas Inlet. Swimming, fishing, kiteboarding, and boating are all favorite activities here.
Whether you hike around the barrier island that houses Fort Matanzas National Monument or you take the day to surf, Matanzas Inlet has all the necessary ingredients for a great day on the beach.
Hop in the car and head down the A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway to this treasure of a destination. You won’t be disappointed!
Matanzas Inlet: A Quick History Lesson
Located by Matanzas Inlet is the Fort Matanzas National Monument. Originally built as a Spanish outpost in the mid-18th century, this is a relic of the early Spanish empire in the New World. This structure was constructed to warn St. Augustine of enemies approaching and to guard the inlet.
The fort was built out of coquina, which is a locally sourced shell stone building material. A foundation of pine pilings was used to stabilize the marshy terrain. The soldiers who served here rotated out from their regular duty in the city of St. Augustine.
Nearing completion in 1742, the Fort came under attack by the British. Firing their cannons to drive off the boat, this was the only time the fort fired on an enemy. A few decades later, Spain lost control of Florida only to regain control again in 1783. The United States took control of the state finals in 1821.
Since then, the fort has never been used for military purposes. However, it was restored beginning in 1916 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
You can tour the fort in person for free. Wander the building to see for yourself just how well-preserved the fort and its wild plant barrier really are.
The ecosystem around the fort is worth the trip in itself. Luckily, the National Park Service owns the surrounding land, helping to protect this barrier island.
This is a great spot to have a picnic, go for a hike, and enjoy the incredible shoreline.
Boaters and beachgoers alike love this spot. It’s also seasonally popular with photographers due to its nesting bird population. During the summer, you’ll see plenty of kayakers and paddleboarders here.
When Is Matanzas Inlet Open?
Fort Matanzas National Monument is open every day of the year from 9 am to 5:30 pm except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, the fort tours run on a reduced schedule these days with limited capacity. These tours are currently running on Wednesday through Sunday.
In order to snap a spot on a tour, you’ll have to get a boarding pass for the ferry. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Since this is a popular tourist attraction, it’s a good idea to arrive early because ferry seats and parking spaces fill up fast.
The ferry is free to ride and can carry thirty-four people at a time. There isn’t any ferry service on either Monday or Tuesday. You’re required to be present when boarding starts five minutes before the time for launch, otherwise, you’ll lose your seat!
Boarding passes can be obtained from the Fort Matanzas Visitor Center. In order to board the ferry, each family member has to have a pass regardless of their age.
Can You Drive?
Many people try to snatch a spot on the ferry in order to get to Fort Matanzas National Monument. There is no off-road driving at the national site nor on the beaches of the park. This means that if you don’t get a spot on the ferry, you’re in for a bit of a hike.
However, you can explore some of Matanzas beach by vehicle here. There is a beach ramp to the north where you can exit and a county-operated ramp towards the south. If you’re looking for a Matanzas Inlet fishing adventure, consider driving down the dirt road that leads to the southern tip of Rattlesnake Island.
Matanzas Inlet Weather and Climate: When’s the Best Time to Visit?
The busiest season in the St. Augustine area is typically between June and August. During this time, the temperature and the humidity are also at their most extreme. To avoid the crowds and the heat, consider visiting between March and May during Spring.
It’s always good to bring an umbrella when you’re visiting Matanzas Inlet or St. Augustine. After all, you can get a lush tropical paradise without some rain!
Autumn is also a nice time to visit as there is little rain and the temperatures are cooler. However, this is also hurricane season. If you book a trip during the fall, consider booking refundable accommodations and airfare.
The temperature in the winter in this region of Florida ranges from the mid-40s to the low 70s. You’ll find the smallest number of crowds at this time. If you don’t mind the cooler temperatures, this is also when you can get the best deals on accommodations, tours, and more.
Things To Do at Matanzas Inlet
At Matanzas Inlet, you’ll find water sports, beautiful beaches, great restaurants, and historic sites. Nearby, you can also check out some of the great local shops.
The beaches here are some of the best in Florida. On the riverside of things, there are shallow areas that are great for
As the Matanzas Inlet tide goes in and out, though, the current can get quite strong. It’s therefore important to supervise children closely and be cautious while swimming yourself.
One awesome way to get up close and personal with the wildlife here is on one of the Ripple Effects EcoTours. They offer eco-boat and kayak tours and guide by an expert naturalist.
To really get up close to nature, check out Marineland Dolphin Adventure. Not only can you play with dolphins, but you’ll also learn more about the history of the area.
You can also either choose to go on a guided hike or you can go it alone. On the shores of Fort Matanzas, you can take a walk amongst ancient oaks. The Fort Matanzas Nature Trail is an easy .3 mile loop trail that’s accessible for kids.
A bonus to visiting Matanzas Inlet is that you’ll get to travel down the A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway. 72 miles long and following the coast, this road goes from Fernandina Beach in the north to Keywest in the south.
On this stretch of the Scenic Byway, you can see gorgeous natural ecosystems as well as historical sites. Along the way, there are important locations harkening back to the Spanish conquest and as recently as the Civil Rights area.
The Scenic Byway near Matanzas Inlet is also an active nesting location for sea turtles. Seasonally, the migrating right whale also calls the area home.
- Places to Eat Near Matanzas Inlet
Searching for a Matanzas Inlet restaurant? No problem. There are plenty of awesome eateries in the area no matter your schedule, tastes, or budget.
If you have a craving for seafood, head to Commander’s Shellfish Camp where you can enjoy everything from steamed clams and blackened fish to shrimp and oysters. They have both indoor and outdoor seating and offer a casual environment.
For a quick meal, check out Captain’s BBQ. This is the perfect roadside pit stop for classic barbecue. On the water and uber-casual, there’s no better place to refuel after a day on the water.
Only four miles north of Matanzas is the South Beach Grill. Sitting beside the dunes, there is water access and even a beachy area especially for kids here.
For a more upscale experience that doesn’t drop the Florida casual vibe, 386 in the Hammock area is an ideal destination. A fusion restaurant with twists on American classics offers specialties like rack of lamb, flash-fried oysters, and sea scallops.
Why St. Augustine Should Be on Your Bucket List
In addition to Matanzas Inlet, there’s a lot to see, do, and eat in the St. Augustine area. There’s also an impressively rich cultural history that makes this Florida city a totally unique experience.
One of the most obvious reasons why you should travel to St. Augustine is that it’s the oldest city in the United States. Even if you aren’t a history buff, you’ll likely appreciate the rich and fascinating story of this area. St. George Street and the Historic Downtown are original Spanish Colonial buildings.
In St. Augustine’s Historic District, you’ll literally feel like you’ve been transported back in time. There are tons of eateries and shops on St. George Street that are well worth a visit. While you’re wondering, stop by Kilwins for likely the best ice cream you’ve ever had!
There are also trolly tours as well as walking tours that you can join in this rich historical area.
If you aren’t compelled by the age of the city, maybe the fountain of youth will draw you to St. Augustine. The famous fountain of youth is a natural spring that Ponce de Leon claimed could reverse the aging process. This is a popular attraction these days where you can explore the archeological park.
Of course, there are also the beautiful beaches of St. Augustine. A1A is packed full of gorgeous seaside spots where you can build sandcastles, sunbathe, and surf.
St. Augustine is also world-famous for its golf courses and is increasingly known for its culinary offerings. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love it here! Lovers of retail therapy will also feel right at home with two premium outlets and lots of little shops.
Matanzas Inlet: The Perfect Combination of Nature, History, and Culture
Matanzas Inlet near St. Augustine is a place where the whole family can have a great time. You and your kids will love the gorgeous beach here, and the family history buff will be ecstatic at the restored 18th-century fort. If you’re spending some time in the oldest city in the country, head down the scenic byway for a full day of fun.
If you’re planning your vacation, we’re here to help you find the destinations that you must see. Be sure to check out the rest of our blog for valuable resources exploring the best places to getaway!