This historic channel in Florida is between two barrier islands and is connected to both the Atlantic ocean and the Matanzas River. But what is it about this inlet that is so commonly spoken about, and is it worth a trip? If you’re interested in America’s colonial history, keen to see some rare wildlife and enjoy a range of different activities, the answer is yes!
So where is the inlet located?
The Matanzas inlet is in the southern part of St John’s county, just 14km away from St Augustine. St Augustine itself has a profound history regarding the Spanish colonizers and has earned the nickname of ‘the nation’s ancient city,’ of which the Matanzas inlet certainly played a large role in.
What is its history?
Matanzas is the Spanish word for killing or slaughter, and it was certainly aptly named. In the 1500s, St Augustine and some of the surrounding areas were controlled by the Spanish for a significant time. This is reflected in the city’s beautiful European architecture and design. When the French founded Fort Caroline nearby, this was considered an encroachment on Spanish territory, and successfully attacked the fort. The French attempted to retaliate by sea and were caught in a storm, which killed the majority. The Spanish later found the survivors of the shipwreck on the south coast of St Augustine and ordered their execution. This event allowed the Spanish to control Florida for the next 235 years, making it a crucial part of the state’s formation. This bloody history makes the Matanzas inlet a fascinating location for history lovers to explore and learn about the treacherous doings of America’s colonial past.
What can you do there?
If you are planning to visit the Matanzas inlet during your trip to Florida, there are countless activities and sights that absolutely cannot be missed.
The inlet is a salty paradise for fishing, shelling, bird watching, and many different water sports. Paddleboarding is a popular option for enjoying the nature surrounding you while exercising on the water. Although it is an inclusive water sport that caters to all abilities, paddleboarding is a fantastic exercise for your shoulders, core, and back while also building stamina and balance. Lessons are available in this area, or if you prefer to be independent and explore of your own accord, you can also rent a paddle board, meaning that you can spend as long as you like enjoying your time on the water. Paddleboarding in this area is particularly special for history fanatics, as you can take a trip back in time to when French ships once sailed to defy the Spanish and explore the waters that shaped the very future of Florida.
If the waves seem slightly too large for paddleboarding, you can always have a go at surfing. There are also countless surf lessons to try out in this area and a great community of surfers to catch waves. The locals are well-known to be friendly and have interesting stories about the recent history of the area since tropical storms and tectonic plate shifting have transformed it over the years. Be sure to clean up your rubbish from the beach, and respect surf etiquette, as the locals will respect that, and you will be welcomed back to surf again.
On foot is also a perfect way to see all that the inlet has to offer, and with popular hiking trails that offer stunning views, who could disagree? The Fort Matanzas national monument hike is a calming and moderate hike through sand dunes, over an accessible boardwalk, past sand dunes, and through leafy paradises. Parking here is free since it is owned and managed by the National Trust, but there is the option to take a boat tour around the park for a small fee. If you’re interested in bird watching, the forest is filled with the song of the painting bunting, one of the most colorful songbirds seen along the Atlantic coast.
Is there anywhere nice to eat?
If you’re lucky enough to visit, you certainly won’t be short of places to grab a bite to eat. Around the south side of the inlet are countless eateries with excellent reviews all over TripAdvisor raving about their visits. St Augustine as an area is generally famous for conch fritters, shrimp and grits, key lime pie, Minorcan chowder, oysters, anything barbecued, and fresh fish caught that very day. It’s a haven for southern, fresh, and tasty food, so if any of that suits your tastebuds, you’re in for a fabulous time of eating! As well as lovely places to eat, there are also countless bars to enjoy a tasty cocktail, cold pint of beer, or mocktail, depending on what you’re into. These are great places to meet the locals, which is an ideal way to learn more about the area, and what it has to offer.
Where can I stay?
There truly is a complete range of different places to stay near the Matanzas inlet and in St Augustine nearby too. If it is motels for those on a tight budget, luxury rentals with excellent sports facilities, bed and breakfasts, cottages, vacation rentals, camping spots, and Spanish inns, all within mere walking distance to the beach. Some of my top recommendations would be 44 Spanish Street Inn, Ocean Gallery Rentals, or Sea Turtle Cottage, all of which offer a brilliant insight into St Augustine and the culture of the area. There truly is something for everyone, and no matter what you’re looking for, you will always find yourself spoiled for choice.
So if you are a history lover or not, the Matanzas Inlet is a fantastic place to visit, for the range of activities on offer, beautiful beaches, hikes, sunshine, food, and drinks. If it’s for a solo trip, family visit, trip with friends, or romantic getaway, the area is rife with variety and fun.