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“Worth the side trip...”

Fort Caroline National Memorial
Ranked #14 of 166 things to do in Jacksonville
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Merritt Island, Florida
Level Contributor
82 reviews
33 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
“Worth the side trip...”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 11, 2013

Learn all about Floridas French roots in a fun relaxed natural park settings. So the Fort Caroline area is broken up into different close by areas, a couple of them with trails.
There is the Visitor Center/Fort which also has a petty nice nature trail to hike down. The Fort is smallish but this is good for adults who don't want to walk another step but fantastic for kids to run around and whoop and holler due to the lovely lush green grass, and all can enjoy the view.
Then there is the Ribault Monument, again smallish. Pull into the parking lot, climb the steps and there you have it, the most beautiful panoramic view!
And a short drive away, Spanish Pond, excellent trail for a jog, brisk walk or a leisurely stroll.
We did all 3 of these in about 2ish hours, although we did not complete the Spanish pond trail hike. Fort Caroline may not be a behemoth but it sure does pack a lot of educational punch and natural beauty into a very manageable punch.

Visited November 2013
Helpful?
5 Thank MaeHem50
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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207 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Dover, New Hampshire
Level Contributor
898 reviews
407 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2,788 helpful votes
“A LOOK AT THE BRIEF FRENCH COLONIAL PRESENCE IN FLORIDA”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 24, 2013

Fort Caroline National Memorial is a unit of the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, a U.S. national park site. It memorializes the short-term presence of French settlers in 16th century Florida. Its heritage is full of stories of exploration, survival, territorial battles, religious disputes, and first contact between American Indians and Europeans.

The site chronicles the unsuccessful attempts by the French to colonize Florida and memorializes the lives and deaths of 16th-century French colonists from the first trip in 1562 by French explorer Jean Ribault, a Huguenot, to Laudonniere’s founding of a Huguenot settlement at la Caroline on June 22, 1564 and the famine in 1565 followed by Ribault's second expedition in 1565 that resulted in disasters related to conflict with the Spanish from St. Augustine that resulted in destruction of Fort Caroline and Ribault’s death. When the Spanish took Fort Caroline in 1565, they destroyed it. In retaliation, De Gourgue’s expedition in 1567 later captured two Spanish forts and massacred the Spanish in late April 1568. De Gourgue left Florida in May.

The first replica fort at Fort Caroline National Memorial was built in 1964 and destroyed by Hurricane Dora later that same year. What remains today is a 1/3 scale replacement replica of the original fort.

The place to start your tour is at the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center (TPVC) which has an exhibit "Where the Waters Meet" that showcases the richness of the environment in northeast Florida and how humans have interacted with this environment for some 6000 years.

The National Parks Passport Cancellation Station is located at the TPVC bookstore.

Admission to this national park site is FREE.

There are several trails for hiking. Two lead to the fort which is at the bottom of the hill from the TPVC. The trail from the parking lot is longer and steeper. The more direct trail out behind the TPVC passes a dock where boaters can tie up and visit the fort. You will also see a replica of a Timucuan chickee, a thatched hut.

Once down at the fort, you can read all the info boards and markers as you walk around. I was surprised to see that the riverfront part of this fort was basically a stockade fence built with large angled support posts set at intervals for support of the fence sections. I was also struck by how open the fort was and how low the riverfront wall was. In one section, the fence was only mid-chest height, and I’m 5’7” tall. The replica cannons were nice. The fort provides picturesque views of the St. Johns River.

Another part of the Fort Caroline National Memorial is the Ribault Monument. It is situated atop St. Johns Bluff. It commemorates the 1562 landing of Jean Ribault near the mouth of the St. Johns River. See my separate review of this attraction.

Another part the Fort Caroline National Memorial is Spanish Pond. Five hundred Spanish soldiers marched four days through marsh, forest tangle, fierce winds, and heavy rainfall to an encampment near here. This is where Menendez and his men camped, exhausted and weary, the night before the attack and capture of Fort Caroline. Today, Spanish Pond's boardwalk and trail provide a chance for a walk. It connects you to more trails through pine flatwoods, oak hammock, and tidal marsh in the neighboring Theodore Roosevelt Area. Spanish Pond is located across from the entrance to Fort Caroline National Memorial. It is open 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM daily. I hiked part of the trail with some young college fellows. It was an easy hike.

Other units of the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve include:
- Ribault Club that was built in 1928 and is a monument to the resort era on Fort George Island. It's open Wednesday to Sunday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
- Theodore Roosevelt Area which is a 600-acre area of hardwood forest, wetlands, and scrub vegetation. It is also rich in cultural history. There are a number of hiking trails.
- Kingsley Plantation which provides a look back at slavery and 1800’s Southern plantation life.

When one explores all the units of the national park, it becomes a five-star attraction.

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
8 Thank Maurene_K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Orlando, Florida
Level Contributor
221 reviews
75 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 77 helpful votes
“Good Place For A History Buff”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 22, 2013

Learned quite a bit by visiting this National Park and Fort. Never knew the French had a colony and settlement on the St. Johns River-but were destroyed by the Spanish. Beautiful view of the river with very impressive large ocean going ships passing by the Fort. No cost but worth the time for the kind of traveler with an interest in history-I learned a lot. Nice place to hike.

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank HappyCamper32789
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Massachusetts
Level Contributor
290 reviews
58 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 172 helpful votes
“National Parks Visitors”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 18, 2013

All the National Parks sights we have been to are well maintained, informative and staffed with friendly people. Fort Caroline is no exception. It is not a Disney type attraction but it offers insight into the history of the area. If you read the signs and visit the visitors center you will learn a lot.

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank gailmath
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Riverview, Florida
Level Contributor
124 reviews
35 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 70 helpful votes
“Not much to see but worth a visit”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 20, 2013

We decided to find this fort after hearing stories about it in St. Augustine. The original fort is gone but a version of it has been built. There is no cost and you can walk around with your pet. Nice views and a nice hiking area. Great history here and enjoyed reading the markers. It was a short visit and my only complaint were the mosquitos in the hiking area! yikes!

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank Sylvie521
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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