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Fort Clinch State Park - Amelia Island, Florida

Updated on October 30, 2012

The Best of Old Forts and Old Florida - Fort Clinch State Park

If you are visiting Amelia Island, Florida, you'll want to include some time to see Fort Clinch State Park.

In addition to a wonderful old fort that dates from 1847, there's a great beach for shelling and shark tooth hunting, hiking and biking trails, camping, and picnic facilities.

You'll find Fort Clinch State Park just outside the little town of Fernandina Beach, the most delightful little town on Amelia Island.

So come along and let me show you the sights at Fort Clinch State Park!

Fort Clinch is known as a Third System Fortification fort. These forts were built between 1816 and 1867 and combined the best attributes of earth and brick - giving this fort two walls for the ultimate in protection.

But before we visit the fort, let's see what else there is to do at Fort Clinch State Park.

Fort Clinch State Park - The Beach

Swimming, Fishing, Shelling, Shark-Tooth Hunting and more on Amelia Island

Fort Clinch State Park is much more than Fort Clinch. Here you'll find a very popular beach. It's perfect for lazing away a day just sun-bathing.

Or you can be more active and fish from the long, long pier.

Better yet, you can hunt for shark teeth and pretty shells. The beach at Fort Clinch State Park has plenty of both!

Are you a birder? Fort Clinch State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. There's a birding "blind" also called the Gateway Station to the Great Florida Birding Trail where you can watch birds in their natural habitat on the brush and dunes of the beach. The only shooting you'll want to do here is with your camera!

Feeling like being a little more active? Then join a guided nature hike along the Willow Pond Trail.

You can also bike along the main road through Fort Clinch State Park or you can go for a more challenging bike ride off-road through the trees and dunes. Helmets are required on this trail.

Whether walking or biking, watch for wildlife including herons, alligators, and other creatures that like to inhabit the maritime hammocks, dunes, and coastal grasslands.

Biking the Trail at Fort Clinch State Park

Now, let's go explore Fort Clinch!

You didn't think I forgot tell you more about the actual fort, did you? Fort Clinch is definitely the highlight of the Fort Clinch State Park.

Some forts you visit are total reconstructions; some forts are just the sites of old forts with maybe some rubble. Fort Clinch is actually standing for you to visit today.

Funny thing is, Fort Clinch was never really finished. The United States began work on it around 1847, but work progressed slowly and by the time the Civil War began, Fort Clinch still wasn't finished. When the Confederate Army took control of Fort Clinch in 1861, there were only two bastions and a third of the brick wall in place.

Without a completed fort, the Confederate Army probably camped in tents around and within the fort's walls.

After a brief period of Confederate control, the Union regained Fort Clinch in March 1862. The Civil War proved that not even Third System Fortifications were able to withstand progressively improving guns and cannons. While Fort Clinch was never fired upon, other forts like it were and it became obvious that not even the "Ultimate Forts" could withstand guns like the rifled barrel cannons.

By 1867, Fort Clinch was once again abandoned to the forces of nature and deactivated.

Views of Fort Clinch

Fort Clinch as It Might Have Been - Restored Buildings Provide Flavor of the Past

Today, storage rooms, barracks, and even the jail are restored and reenactors provide an idea of what Fort Clinch would have looked like as a busy fort.

Firing the Cannon at Fort Clinch State Park

Remember the Spanish-American War?

Maybe if I Say "Remember the Maine!"

Not many of us do think much about this war today but the Spanish-American War meant a brief reactivation for Fort Clinch. Battery "A" of the 6th Artillery of the United States Army was assigned to protect Florida.

What they found when they arrived was a rotting drawbridge and no sanitation facilities, among other things.

Those other things included lots of rattlesnakes! Yikes!

World War II

The Last Hurrah for Fort Clinch

Did you know that German U-boats patrolled our waters during World War II?

The U.S. Coast Guard, along with the Army and Navy, provided surveillance support from the walls of Fort Clinch.

This was the last time that Fort Clinch was used in any official military capacity.

For more information on the best time to visit Fort Clinch State Park visit this Guide to Touring Fort Clinch.

You can also visit the Florida State Parks - Fort Clinch Homepage.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection also has a very nice color map of the trails found at Fort Clinch State Park, including a printer friendly map of Fort Clinch State Park Trails.

Follow the sites on the 5.3 mile Fort Clinch Trail.

Learn all about camping at Fort Clinch State Park, including a map, sites available, and reservation guide.

Great Stuff on Amazon

If you'd like to learn more about Fort Clinch State Park, the fort itself, or Amelia Island on which Fort Clinch is located, I suggest the following books.

Find Your Way to Fort Clinch

2601 Atlantic Ave., Fernandina Beach, Fl:
2601 Atlantic Ave., Fernandina Beach, Fl

get directions

If you've visited Fort Clinch, leave a note to let others know what you liked the best!

Have You Visited Fort Clinch State Park?

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    • Fatih LM profile image

      Fatih LM 

      9 years ago

      Visited Florida, many times but no I have never had the pleasure of seeing Fort Clinch State Park. Great pic's and wonderfully written lens.


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