Discover Fort Clinch State Park

As you approach Fort Clinch State Park, put aside the tense memories of traffic lights, strip malls, and fast food joints that lead up to the park gates, and start to relax as you travel down the three winding miles under a majestic canopy of live oaks draped in Spanish moss. If not camping, a six-dollar entry fee buys you a day of coastal swimming, birding, hiking, fishing, off-road biking, sharktooth hunting, and shelling.

Fort Clinch State Park Campground
GPS:
30.670071, -81.434638
CATEGORY:
Camping

Historic Fort Clinch

Rich in both natural and historical resources, you have to hand it to the State of Florida for preserving Fort Clinch in both capacities. The land itself has been through many owners (including private ownership), but was finally purchased by the state in 1935. From the year 1937-42, the Civilian Conservation Corps repaired the fort and built a visitor center - adding roads, campsites, restrooms, and picnic areas to become one of Florida’s first eight state parks.

Named for General Duncan Clinch who fought in both the War of 1812 and the Seminole War (and later went on to become a Georgia congressman), the pentagon-shaped Fort Clinch is a visual delight.  Having played a part in three wars – Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War II – its riverfront location, huge cannon-topped stone walls, and various furnished rooms help transport you back to the 1800's.

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
                                ~St. Augustine of Hippo

Fort Clinch Museum and Tour 

The self-guided tour (additional $2.50/person) begins at the Fort Clinch Museum. A short looping film, various visual displays, weapons, and artifact collections aid in your introduction to the historic site and to what the life of a Union Soldier would have been like in the mid-19th century. Because of its well-preserved thick masonry walls, Fort Clinch is considered one of the finest examples of a Third System of Fortification. Construction on the fort began in 1847, and it was designed to garrison up to 500 soldiers.

The tour takes you through finished guard rooms, prison, barracks, storehouses, and kitchens that help re-create an 1864 era.  Walk the large ramp and get close to the enormous cannons that point out over the Cumberland Sound awaiting an impending invasion.  As part of the living history experience, a soldier in Civil War period uniform welcomes questions from visitors to the fort.

Architecturally speaking, Fort Clinch is an impressive site and you are free to explore the extensive grounds, rooms, tunnels, and nooks with very few areas roped off.  Examine winding stairwells, graceful arches, gun ports, and turrets  - some in original brick. Watch out for historical graffiti carved into the walls. Where newer reconstruction occurs, the craftsmen have stayed true to period aesthetic principles.

Other events and reenactments at Fort Clinch that might be of interest:

  • Candlelight Tours – First Saturday evening Oct-May (excluding Dec); Friday & Saturday evenings, May – Labor Day
  • Federal Garrisons – First full weekend of every month
  • Confederate Garrisons – 3rd weekend of Mar; 2nd weekend of Oct
  • World War II Garrison – Memorial Day weekend
  • Spanish American War Garrisons –3rd weekend April & Sept
  • History of American Soldier – 2nd Saturday of November
  • Federal Holiday Jollification – 1st Saturday of December


Willow Pond Nature Trail


We could see where it would be easy to get all caught up in the historic features of Fort Clinch State Park. Do make sure to include a hike or two. Looking for a trail recommendation? Consider Willow Pond Nature Trail.  Twist your way through the maritime hammock ecosystem  and look for numbered markers indicating unique features along this family-friendly hike.  It is a perfect habitat for wildlife observation so look out for: alligators, gopher tortoises, bobcats, raccoons, and a variety of migratory and resident avian species. Guided nature walks are also available. See the park website for dates and times.

Fort Clinch State Park Beach

From the parking area, boardwalks lead you through the dunes, past the rest rooms, and on to the glorious white sand beaches at Fort Clinch State Park.  The undeveloped shoreline adds to the remote feeling of the park and makes for a perfect location from which to spend the day playing in the Atlantic ---hunting for shells, fishing from the pier, or searching for sharks' teeth. A very welcome array of outdoor showers are available as you leave to help wash the sand and salt away before returning to camp.

Dupont cannon powder kegs in corner at Fort Clinch State Park, Florida
Cannons on ridge around historic Fort Clinch on sunny day in Florida
Looking through a brick gun portal at historic Fort Clinch, Florida
Three people walking toward the entrance to historic Fort Clinch, Florida
Walking through arched brick walkway and viewing a series of arched brick windows in historic Fort Clinch, Florida
Historical graffiti carved into the bricks at historic Fort Clinch State Park, Florida

Campgrounds: Atlantic Beach vs Amelia River

On paper you might look at the two available tent camping areas and choose the Atlantic Beach location which is within walking distance to the beach. What you gain in ready ocean access, you'll lose in spades by way of privacy and vital shade, especially if visiting Fort Clinch in the summer months. Parking is also a little removed from the tent blocks meaning you'll have a short haul of your gear. Access to the bath house – while convenient to the RV slips – is less so for the segregated tent site population.

In the midst of a maritime hammocks forest,  the Amelia River Campground – in our estimation – is a much better option with natural screens providing privacy and wind reduction. An excellent little west facing 'beach' on the Amelia River is easily accessible from the end of the campground loop. A great place to do a little fishing or to take in a glorious Florida sunset. Modern and very clean bathhouses - including laundry – are at both the beach and river campgrounds.

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Expansive view of exterior brick walls of historic Fort Clinch
American flag flying in front of outbuilding in the courtyard of historic Fort Clinch, Florida
Beautiful typography on commander's barrack door in historic Fort Clinch, Florida
Two people view two of the mounted cannons and the courtyard with American flag flying in historic Fort Clinch, Florida
Looking through No.17 cannon toward Cumberland Sound with five people at a distant cannon in historic Fort Clinch, Florida
Teenager on Willow Pond Trail looking at pond duckweed with an alligator crossing sign at Fort Clinch State Park, Florida
Two people on boardwalk heading to the beach with yellow warning flag and no pets sign at Fort Clinch State Park, Florida
Wide, sandy white beach and bright blue sky at Fort Clinch State Park, Florida
Sunset on Amelia River on rocky shore near Amelia River campground at Fort Clinch State Park, Florida
Elevation
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4
Check-in/out
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3pm/1pm
Cost/Night*
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$26
Showers
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Hot
Restroom
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Flush
Max People / Vehicles
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8/2
Visitors Center
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Yes
Camp Hosts
icon for camp hosts
Yes
Best Site
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# Sites
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58
Open Year Round
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Yes
Laundry
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Yes
*Tent campsites only; accurate at time of publication
2601 Atlantic Avenue
Fernandina Beach
FL
32034
Contact:
/
904-277-7274
Bathrooms - new and clean. Atlantic beach campground: tent area is not shaded. RVs have better access to beach and bathrooms. Amelia River campground: well-shaded and sites 39-42 have short walk to Cumberland Sound shore. Pets are allowed in the campgrounds, but not on the beaches, trails, buildings, or in historic Fort Clinch.
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