What to do in San Marcos de Apalache State Historic Site

Steeped in history, this site experienced revolving occupation. In 1528, Panfilo de Narvaez arrived at this site with 300 men. Recognizing the strategic importance of the confluence of St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers, he decided to build and launch the first ships made by white men in the New World. Eleven years late, Hernando de Soto, along with 600 men, followed the same route. By 1679, the Spanish Governor of Florida ordered construction of a fort at the two rivers. Within three short years, pirates burned the fort down. It was not until 1718 when Captain Jose Primo de Ribera arrived to construct a second wooden fort. In 1739, construction of a stone fort began. Construction was slow and by 1763, the fort fell to English as a result of the war with Spain. Twenty-four years later, Spain regained control, occupying the fort for 13 more years. British officer, William Augustus Bowles, challenged control by recruiting 400 Indians, eventually capturing San Marcos. Five short weeks later a Spanish flotilla of nine ships recaptured control. Continued Indian assaults in Georgia forced General Andrew Jackson to penetrate in 1818 overtaking San Marcos. A number of events strained relations between the United State and Great Britain forcing General Jackson to withdraw from San Marcos, thus leaving it once again in Spanish control. In 1821, Florida was ceded to the United States encompassing the San Marcos site. Within three years, the fort was turned over to the Territory of Florida and by 1838, it once again returned to the U.S. Eighteen years later, a federal marine hospital was built to care for victims of yellow fever. In 1861, Confederate Civil War soldiers occupied the site renaming it Fort Ward. A Union squadron blockaded the mouth of the St. Marks River until 1865.

A visitor center / museum depicts the revolving control by Spanish, English, Indians, Americans and pirates. The hours of the visitor center and historic site are from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Thursday through Monday. The site is closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays and major holidays. A boardwalk, short nature trail, concession, and restrooms are provided.

The more adventuresome might enjoy bicycling the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. Lying just east of the historic site, the terminus of the trail, which obviously can be the trailhead as well, has a concessionaire who offers bike rental, cold drinks, and more. The multi-use route travels 16 miles north, terminating just shy of Tallahassee.

San Marcos de Apalache State Historic Site offers a museum, boardwalk, nature trail, concession, observation deck, half dozen picnic tables and a restroom.

San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park is located in St. Marks, off S.R. 363 on Old Fort Road.

Florida experiences mild, comfortable winters and warm to hot, humid summers. The area offers a great warm escape for outdoor recreation during the cold northern months. Summer temperatures average in the low 80's Fahrenheit and mid 20's Celsius. Winters are mild with temperatures averaging between the high 40's to the high 50's Fahrenheit. The average precipitation for the north central area is diverse. The central western area receives more than 60 inches per year while the central eastern tract receives about 50 inches. August and September are peak months of the hurricane season that lasts from June 1 through November 30.

c/o Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail
1022 Desoto Park Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32301

Phone: 850-922-6007

  • San Marcos de Apalache State Historic Site Travel Q&A