Fort Clinch is know as a Third System Fortification as was built from 1816 to 1867. This large fortification shaped like baseball’s home plate, was built at the mouth of St. Mary’s River to protect the port town of Fernandina. This crucial Atlantic water port was connected by railway to Cedar Key on the other side of the state. Although the fort never really got completed, it was garrisoned in both the Civil and Spanish-American Wars.
Fort Clinch never saw action in either wars and that’s the reason it is one of the best preserved historic forts in the nation. By 1935, it had fallen into disrepair and the Civilian Conservation Corps were requisitioned to repair and renew the fort as a historical monument and state park.
Today, Fort Clinch State Park is as it looked in 1864. Rangers and volunteers each day put on a show for visitors inside the fort. Dressed as soldiers, drills are preformed, duties are carried out and displayed and of course, muskets and cannons are fired! It truly is a unique living history display and I encourage anyone to go out and watch this awesome display of living history.
Once you’re done exploring the fort, head on over to the beach for fun in the sun and sand. This beach has tons of shells and is the perfect place beachcomb. Swimming is available but there are no lifeguards on duty, so be careful in the sometimes rough surf. Head on up the boardwalk and get a shower to wash off all of the salt. You can visit the nearby pier and fish until your hearts content.
Six miles of off-road biking and hiking trails are available at Fort Clinch State Park. The pond trails take you around two freshwater ponds located in the center of the park and offer relatively flat riding and hiking. The dune trails offer harder trails as climbing can be difficult over the high soft sand dunes.
Beach hiking and biking is a treat as well when the tide is low. You can hike to the most northern point in Florida and look out across to the Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia, where sometimes wild horses can be seen roaming the shores.
For information on directions to the park, fees, and campground reservations, visit the Fort Clinch State Park here.