Welcome to Fort Clinch State Park
History meets nature at Fort Clinch State Park. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover or a bit of both, enjoy exploring the unique natural and historic resources of this pristine park.
A row of cannons pointing across the St. Mary’s River into Georgia are silent testimony to the strategic importance of Fort Clinch during the Civil War. Visitors can explore the fort’s many rooms, galleries and grounds, and learn about the life of a Union soldier through unparalleled living history programs. Make plans to visit on the first weekend of every month when a soldier garrison fires cannons and demonstrates other battlefield skills. The historic fort is only one aspect of this diverse 1,400-acre park. Maritime hammocks with massive arching live oaks provide a striking backdrop for hiking and biking on the park’s many trails. The park is known for its gopher tortoises, painted buntings and other species of wildlife. Camping, fishing, shelling and shark-tooth hunting are popular activities.
Fort Clinch provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy numerous different coastal activities, including the following:
The park drive provides 3.3 miles of paved road for those wishing to ride a touring bicycle through the oak-shaded canopy drive that ends at the visitor center for historic Fort Clinch. A 6-mile off-road multi-use trail is located adjacent to the park drive and provides a more adventurous ride through the maritime forest as dune elevation changes provide rolling hills and turns.
The park offers outstanding birding opportunities and is one of the first stops on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. The abundance of dunes, beaches, coastal strand, maritime hammock, and the park’s salt and fresh water marshes offer a variety of habitats with over 100 species of birds that inhabit the park permanently or stop during the migratory season.
Enjoy the conveniences of modern camping while taking in the rich cultural and natural history of one of Florida’s oldest and most diverse state parks. Nestled at Florida’s most northeasterly tip, Fort Clinch State Park offers 69 campsites in two separate and unique campgrounds.
Fishing within the park is quite popular with multiple options for anglers to enjoy a full day of fishing. Popular locations include surf fishing along the Atlantic shoreline and St. Marys Inlet as well as adjacent to the jetties near Fort Clinch, which is accessible by the east and west inlet parking areas. Depending on the season, the most popular fish caught within the park are redfish, black drum, whiting, flounder, mullet, sheepshead, sea trout and an occasional grouper.
Explore the park in a new and challenging way. Experienced Geocachers have requested permission to hide caches containing trinkets, treasures or information in various places around the park.
Fort Clinch offers a 6-mile trail for hikers and off-road bicyclists. Parts of the trail are heavily forested and traverse ancient dunes that are very steep, offering a challenge to off-road bicyclists and hikers as well. Willow Pond Hiking Trail is located centrally along the park drive. Parking is available. Two loops encircle a series of freshwater ponds. The shorter loop takes around 20 minutes to complete, and the longer loop takes 45 to 50 minutes. Wildlife observation is very good on these trails. Alligators, deer and a variety of bird life can be seen in this area. A guided nature walk is offered every Saturday at 10:30 a.m., weather permitting. Hiking along the beaches of the Cumberland Sound, visitors can stand on the northernmost reaches of Florida and look over to Cumberland Island National Seashore where wild horses sometimes roam the beaches. Some of the largest dunes in the state loom over this section of coast, where rugged windblown oaks and gnarled cedar trees anchor the sands in steep inclines.
Visitors who want to launch a canoe or kayak from the park can use the East or West Inlet parking areas accessed through the Fort Clinch visitor center parking lot. Visitors should exercise caution as this activity is discouraged for all but the most experienced sea kayakers. St. Marys Inlet is known for extremely strong and unpredictable currents and is a very active shipping channel. A kayak cart is recommended due to the distance from the parking areas.
Day visitors are not permitted to launch canoes or kayaks from the Amelia River Campground or Atlantic Beach Campground as these areas are reserved for registered campers only. Visitors may utilize two free public boat ramps adjacent to the park – Dee Dee Bartel’s public boat ramp is available free of charge; there is minimal walking distance. Caution should be used – this access provides a bit more shelter, but dangerous currents and an active boat channel are still a concern. The Egans Creek public boat ramp provides direct access to Egans Creek and has less boat traffic and currents.
The visitor center picnic area is located in a maritime hammock area surrounded by relic dunes and oak trees. Visitors will find freestanding grills, picnic tables, and a playground for children. An accessible parking area is available with a sidewalk leading to this picnic area. A beach picnic area with tables is located adjacent to the main beach boardwalk. Please note this is an open, sunny picnic area with limited shade.
Beach combing or shelling is a favorite pastime of many visitors. Collectors can find a multitude of shells along with a variety of fossilized shark’s teeth. Plan your shelling around the low phase of the tide, which exposes the most beach area.
Swimming is available in the Atlantic Ocean south of the jetty. No lifeguards are on duty; swim at your own risk.
Park rangers and volunteers provide a wide variety of programs and activities that are sure to appeal to your adventurous side. Join us for programs that will immerse you in the park.
The secret to viewing wildlife at Fort Clinch is learning where and when to look, from the beaches to the nature trails. Here are a few suggestions to increase your likelihood of viewing wildlife in the park: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/fort-clinch-state-park/experiences-amenities-0#wildlife-viewing
The museum displays many of the artifacts associated with Fort Clinch and supplements the unique living history experience presented by soldiers in the fort. A 10-minute introductory video details the history of Fort Clinch while giving visitors an introduction to what they will encounter inside the fort itself. The video provides panoramic views of the rooms as well as commentary from the soldiers for any visitor with an accessibility concern. A timeline display explains the importance and history of third system forts such as Fort Clinch. A large wall display explains the unique brickwork used in site construction. A flanking wall display explains armaments and projectiles from the Civil War era. Projectiles are arranged so that visitors can touch and compare. The museum contains two large freestanding displays devoted to later periods in the military life of Fort Clinch. The first is a restored Gatling gun and carriage, and the second is a display of Fort Clinch in the World War II period when the site served as a naval surveillance and communication station. Dozens of photographs line the walls showing different stages in the fort’s construction as well as military events. The museum houses many smaller artifacts from Fort Clinch during the Civil War period.
Fort Clinch State Park charges a $6 admission fee per vehicle with 2-8 occupants. Single occupant vehicles are charged a $4 admission fee. Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers (over 8 in a vehicle), or passengers in a vehicle in which an occupant holds a valid Annual Individual Entrance Pass are charged $2.