Tell me if this ever happens on your weekends… Wake up on Saturday morning, veg for awhile (’cause you need it), then look at your husband at around 9:30 and ask “what should we do today honey?”
For me, that’s an awful way to start the weekend because by then, it’s already too late to get our slow moving train in motion to fun-ville. Since the great fall weather is just around the corner, I’ve decided to start making a habit of taking charge of our weekend plans BEFORE the weekend has arrived. Inspired by Kacey’s post 10 Kid-Friendly Day Trips From Jax, we recently decided that we would try out Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach. I’m so glad we did because we found lots to love about it!
1) Proximity to Jax
From my home in the Fort Caroline area, the GPS gave us two different route options. We could take either I-95, or Heckscher Drive, with drive times of 50 and 55 minutes. Either way you go it’s a pretty easy drive! Next time, we might take the Mayport Ferry to get there just because the kids would get a kick out of that!
2) The Fees
Admission to the park is $6 per car for up to 8 people. Then you pay separately for entry into the fort. That fee is $2 per person and kids 6 and under are free. Also, no cash is needed, they accept credit cards!
3) The Fort History
I’m no history buff, however I do find historical places to be very interesting. I knew absolutely nothing about the history of Fort Clinch before visiting, but now I know slightly more than nothing. There are only so many details that you can absorb while chasing around little ones, right?
I was really surprised to learn that Fort Clinch was actually a Union fort used during the Civil War. The land was acquired in 1841, and the construction began in 1846. The building process was slow (and actually never completed) because much of the work was done by slaves (yes, you read that right… the union army used slaves to build the fort) who worked on it only during the winter months.
During the Civil war the Confederacy used the St Mary’s river to transport goods that could be traded for weapons and supplies for their army. With Fort Clinch sitting at the mouth of the St Mary’s River, the Union set up a blockade of ships there to limit the South’s ability to export. The primary function of Fort Clinch at that time was to stop any “blockade runners.”
Fort Clinch was never engaged in battle and that is the reason that it’s still in amazing condition!
4) The Fort Exploration
The fort seemed pretty big to me and a good majority of it is open for visitors to explore. There are many tunnels, several buildings, lots of stairs, canons, and even bunk beds with hay filling to try out! My son really loved the tunnels. I’m pretty sure we found them all!
5) The Soldiers + Fife Music
At the fort there are “living history interpreters” that help to explain the history of the fort. I have to say, they are pretty neat guys! Their role at the fort is to pretend to be soldiers living in Civil War times. They do an awesome job of staying in character and helping visitors learn about the fort!
They are kind of funny too… one of them made mention of how me being a city dweller “explains a lot.” My son didn’t quite get the act… he just wanted straight answers to his many questions. However, when he found “the man with the tools,” he found someone with whom he could speak a common language! The carpenter answered each of Evan’s questions about the names of his tools, and what they were used for. My son even got to help sharpen one of the tools too!
Okay the fife… I had to Google this instrument. It looks and sounds a bit like a flute, but it’s higher pitched. One of the soldiers plays his fife in different areas of the fort. It’s really a beautiful sound. But, when he went up to the top of the fort and played, the sound resonated through the whole fort in a really amazing way! That’s something I definitely want to experience again.
6) The Sea Breeze and View
It was a nice toasty day when we went, but it was actually bearable because of the sea breeze, especially at the top of the fort. Even the interiors of many of the fort buildings had a nice breeze giving plenty of places to explore out of the sweltering heat! Also at the top, there is an amazing view of the Cumberland Sound.
7) The Playground
Very near the fort is a nice playground with picnic tables. There is great tree cover providing plenty of shade. We ate our lunch here, then the kids enjoyed relaxing on the swings after our tiring visit to the fort.
Want to stay overnight? Fort Clinch has really great camp sites and very clean facilities, too. They are available year round. Check out the sites and make reservations here.
9) The Beach
Wow, the beach here is very pretty! We didn’t put on swimsuits but should have. Instead, we walked along the shoreline admiring the nice sand and looking for shark’s teeth and shells. Although we didn’t find any shark’s teeth, a group near us did!
10) The Quiet Drive Home
After all the fun we had, the kids were pooped. The 50 minutes of silence in the the car was priceless!
Okay mommy friends… what other kid-friendly historical locations in and around Jacksonville should I know about?