While out and about on a recent trip to northern Florida, my family and I were pleased to discover Fort Caroline Jacksonville! When we set out for this National Park, we knew vaguely that there was a National park in Jacksonville, but had no idea what it was all about. So there we were, leaving the hotel and we asked Siri for directions. After a quick stop at a Subway for a sandwich lunch, we were on our way!
It was a fairly quick trip from our hotel, and we easily found the Fort Caroline Jacksonville welcome center. In addition to being a the gateway to the Fort Caroline Jacksonville National Monument, this location also serves as the headquarters for the Timicuan Preserve which encompasses quite a few square miles in the Jacksonville area. At the welcome center, there are a few displays that educate guests about the local Timicuan culture, artifacts, as well as the indigenous animals that can be found throughout the preserve.
After checking out the exhibits, we went to check out the Fort Caroline Jacksonville national monument. Getting to the actual fort entails about a half mile walk through a very well maintained trail. It was a nice morning, with a bit of an overcast, so the temperature was just right. I suppose even in the mid day heat, the trail would give plenty of shade so it’s not really all that bad. I would recommend bringing some bug spray though, or at least picking up a spray can at the welcome center. We were able to do the trail with a regular stroller, but there were a few soft spots that could potentially cause someone with a scooter or wheelchair a few issues. Along the short trail, there were a handful of additional sights including a replica Timicuan Indian hut as well as a recreation of the oven used outside the fort for cooking.
When we arrived at the actual Fort Caroline representation, we were actually taken a bit aback. We had recently visited the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, and were expecting something of that scale and magnitude. What we found was surprising. Fort Caroline Jacksonville was a mostly earthen dug out fort and what we visited was a historical representation, and not the actual location. At first we were a bit underwhelmed, but once we started exploring inside the fort gates, we realized exactly what we were experiencing. This was the very first attempt at a French Settlement in the New World! It took many years to build the Castillo in St. Augustine, and this would have been the beginning of a great structure had it not been for the demise of the French at the hands of the Spanish military.
While inside Fort Caroline, we were amazed at just how open it was. Sure there was a moat, to help aid in protection of the location, but it would have been very difficult to protect this location from an attacking army as the French would later discover. I can really only draw a comparison to camping. All the European countries were looking for a foothold in the new territory, and Spain was camping with the equivalent of an RV, and France only had a few tents in the wilderness.
After checking out an amazing view of what was then referred to as the May river from Fort Caroline Jacksonville, we treked back to the welcome center for some more information. The park ranger was kind enough to give us more information about the Timicuan Preserve, but also gave us suggestions on other local sights that we shouldn’t miss. It turns out the Fort Caroline was only part of what would be a great weekend adventure!
Fort Caroline Details:
|Date(s):||7 Days||Time(s):||9am to 5pm|
|Address:||12713 Fort Caroline Rd Jacksonville Fl 32225|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||FREE|