Toward the end of last year Melanie and I visited Fort Clinch. I had heard the name in every Folio Weekly Ad (“From Fort Clinch to the Matanzas Bay”) and was curious to see what it was all about. One Saturday morning we realized we were going to be right by the place when we went to watch an ocean-based triathlon so we took the opportunity to check it out.
Located at the absolute northeasternmost corner of Florida, Fort Clinch was built to protect the mouth of the St. Mary’s River and the port of Fernandina, FL. It is one of the best preserved examples of Third System Fortifications in existence. That means it has a two-walled construction with an outer brick wall and an inner earth wall.
Named in honor of General Duncan Lamont Clinch, work began on Fort Clinch in 1847. Construction progressed slowly and by 1860 only two of the bastions and one third of the brick wall was completed. Improving weapons technology began to make brick fortifications like this one obsolete, but construction continued until 1867 when the fort was nearly finished. Fort Clinch was used off and on by the military until 1945 even though the State of Florida bought it and its surrounding property in 1935 eventually turning the site into a state park.
It was a really hot mid morning when we arrived. The first stop was the air conditioned gift shop where we purchased tickets. They sell some snacks, drinks and Fort Clinch doodads just like you’d expect.
Once inside we met a couple of period actors that explained what life was like for men and women (cooks and laundry) working at the fort during the Civil War.
Walking around to the various buildings we could look inside some and actually enter others. Each was outfitted with its Civil War era trappings.
The view from on top of the wall showed exactly why this was such a great spot for a defensive fortification.
We couldn’t have spent more than an hour or two here and I don’t remember it being very expensive, although you pay to get into the park and then again to visit the fort. Overall, Melanie and I enjoyed ourselves and if you live in the Jacksonville area, I’d recommend a visit. The fort is well maintained and every place we went was quiet and clean.
The remainder of the surrounding property has some very nice looking (and nearly empty) beaches, some hiking trails and a pier to fish from. We drove over to the RV camping area which had a surprising number of occupants for a non-holiday time of year. As you can see from the picture, it would be a fairly miserable place for tent camping though. There was absolutely no shade to be found at this campground.
Fort Clinch State Park
2601 Atlantic Ave
Fernandian Beach, FL