Fort Matanzas National Monument


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 2 hours

Accommodations:  St. Augustine, Florida

The very last stop on our Spring Break Civil War/Spanish History expedition was this great National Monument located just south of St. Augustine.  Fort Matanzas was Spain’s last effort to ward off the British and was built in 1740-1742. Located on Rattlesnake Island, you must take a ferry ride out there, so be prepared.  The ferry doesn’t hold many people, you may have to wait.  I’m not sure why some people didn’t understand this, it isn’t hard to figure out.  Please be nice and patient with the Visitor Center staff, I witnessed several people being rude about needing to wait for the next ferry, unbelievable.


While we waited for our ferry ride the kids worked on their Junior Rangers, very fun, mostly pretty easy with a few tough pages and watched the film. Here is a view of the fort from the Visitor Center at the dock for the ferry.


We rode the ferry out and did a self guided tour.  Mostly you walk around and if you have questions there is a ranger present.


You could climb all the way to the top of the fort for some outstanding views. We had a gorgeous day out on the island, can’t ask for more than that.


This is the ladder you climb up to get to the top

The fort covered the inlet with 5 guns: four six-pounders and one 18-pounder. All could reach the inlet, less than a half mile away. The fort not only drove off enemy vessels but also served as a rest stop, coast guard station and a place where vessels heading to St. Augustine could obtain advice on navigating the river.

Cannon fire from the tower stopped British attempts to gain the inlet in 1742.


Back to the visitor center for our Junior Ranger badges.  It’s a little cramped in the VC so be polite and patient for others.

That concludes all the NPS stops on this years Spring Break edition. I hope you all enjoyed it, we definitely did.  Please let me know if you have any questions on any stops we made, I would love to help you plan your trip and make things easier for you.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accommodations: Holiday Inn, St. Augustine (Perfect location for walking)

This morning’s adventures found us at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Located right in the middle of beautiful St. Augustine Florida.  We have visited some amazing towns on this trip and St. Augustine is one of them. We arrived here as they opened the gates (we like early starts, less people).

Walking around outside of the gates gets you some pretty awesome pictures especially when the sun is reflecting off the ocean right next to the fort.


We headed in the main entrance and got to work on our Junior Ranger booklets.  They were pretty easy but still educational.  We learned that the fort was constructed of coquina (sand, water and seashells) and it is very fragile, the parts of the fort and how they were used, the different ways of firing cannons and what was brought to the fort from the Old World vs the New world. Even adults would learn from the Junior Ranger book. We worked on the books while waiting for the ranger talk.

After the ranger talk we walked around and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery here at the fort.  It is a well kept National Monument in a great historic town. We took way too many pictures here because of this. We did the self guided tour (you can grab the information as you enter).

The tools used to fire cannons


San Agustin Bastion
Plaza de Armas
San Carlos Bastion
Gorgeous cannons


The Rangers go all out
Spanish flag flying over the fort

We headed back to the information desk and received our Junior Ranger badges and patches.  The guy working the desk was a hoot!  The kids still talk about him and giggle! Great memories. Below are the badge, patch and cancellations you can earn here. You also get a spiffy Junior Ranger Certificate. Here are the boys earning their items.


That wraps up another fort on our Spring Break trip.  We are off to enjoy what St. Augustine has to offer for the next few days, stop back and check that out on the Florida blog (coming soon).

Thanks for stopping by, have you been to Castillo de San Marcos??  I would love to hear if you have.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve: Kingsley Plantation


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 3-4 hours with the addition of Fort Caroline

The drive here from Timucuan Ecolgical and Historic Preserve (Fort Caroline) was a good time that included a car ferry.  You can see that here on our Fort Caroline blog. It was a beautiful drive down a gravel road after the turn off from the highway (see below). This is a gorgeous area of Northern Florida. So glad we found it.


Kingsley Plantation is a 60 acre unit of the 46,000 acre Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can explore the grounds which include the oldest standing plantation house in Florida, the kitchen, barn and waterfront.  The remains of 25 slave cabins offer the most graphic evidence of slave living quarter and daily life experiences in the South.

We went to the visitor center and grabbed our Junior Ranger books and set off to explore the grounds. The self guided tour takes you to 7 stops and is really easy to do.

The Main house
The Waterfront 

Most plantations were located along waterways because transportation by ship or boat was the easiest way to get crops to market or bring in supplies.


Slave Quarters

We headed back to the visitor center where we were taught how they harvested the cotton in this area. Pretty cool demo. We earned our Junior Ranger badges and we were off to St. Augustine.


Here is the badge we earned and the cancellations we got.


What a great morning and mid afternoon stop on the way from St. Mary, Georgia down to St. Augustine Florida! Have you been here? Is it on your list? 

Fort Caroline National Memorial


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 3-4 hours (including Kingsley Plantation)

Venturing into Florida found us at this great Preserve.  We stop at 2 of the places here. The Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center (Fort Caroline) and the Kingsley Plantation.

First stop was the Timucuan Preserve and Fort Caroline.  We grabbed Junior Ranger books and set off on a small hike out to the Fort Exhibit. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed getting out to stretch our legs before heading down to St. Augustine.


Most of the questions on our Junior Rangers were found in the visitor center so we spent most of our time in there, researching.  Finally finished this one up and earned our badge.


We got in the car and headed to Kingsley Plantation via a car ferry.  The boys were excited about this one, something we hadn’t planned.  We ate a lunch in and out of the car while waiting for the ferry. Then we hopped on the boat. In no time at all we were across the St. Johns River. How fun.

Always a fun time when you are on a ferry.  The drive to Kingsley Plantation was a short one after the ferry ride.  It was also very gorgeous. Check out our post on Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve: Kingsley Plantation. Here are the Junior Ranger badge and cancellations we got at Fort Caroline!

This was a short stop, we spent most of our time at the Kingsley Plantation when we were in this area. Still a fun and educational stop for us.



The Georgia State Line sign!  This was sign #36, working our way up to 50!  We didn’t get this one going in, it had to be done on our way home.  There was no sign on our entry into Georgia unfortunately.  This sign is located on I 75 north leaving Florida. A real easy spot to pull over, traffic not too bad.

We had such a great experience in the state of Georgia that we are looking forward to coming back very soon. It is a “Georgia”ous state.

National Park Service Sites we visited in Georgia:

Fort Frederica National Monument

Fort Pulaski National Monument

We spent our time located in Savannah, Georgia.  This had always been a bucket list destination and it didn’t disappoint us.  We loved everything about this town.

After hitting Fort Pulaski we spent our afternoon out at Tybee Island, the weather was perfect for a little dip or just hanging out on the beach enjoying the sun.  Kids and I hung out on the beach while Dad went and got the car fixed, it seems every spring break we need a new hub assembly.  This worked out perfectly.  It was a gorgeous day, we really lucked out.



We headed back to Savannah to walk the town, it was St. Patrick’s day and it was hopping downtown.  We took in all the shops, sampled the Georgia drinks and listened to some great music all outside. AMAZING!


We hit up the Pirate house for dinner and had a blast there! Great food and drinks. One of the waiters spent his summers where we live at. What a small world.  Gunnar really got into and enjoyed this place!


We did the evening Ghost tour, I think this is a must in Savannah.  Can you actually go here and not do this?  We had a blast on this tour, there are so many to choose from but it looks like they all hit pretty much the same places.  Here are the only 2 places that I took pictures at.  Hard to get pictures at night.  I do recommend doing a ghost tour even if you think its dumb it is fun.


The last day before leaving we hit River Street, took in the wonderful food they had and just walked around and shopped.

Last but not least was a trip to Forsyth Park.  We needed a couple of family pictures of our time here.  If you hit this park at 7 am NOBODY is there.  Worked out perfect for us.


That’s a wrap on Georgia.  We will be back to see what else this great state has.  We loved what we did on this trip. The South is a great place to be.  We are heading to Florida! Check back soon and thanks for stopping by. Have you been to Savannah?  Did you love it as much as us?

Fort Frederica National Monument


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accommodations: Savannah, GA on the way to St. Mary’s, GA

We are heading south after a few beautiful days in Savannah, GA.  You can see what we did in Savannah over St. Patrick’s day on the Georgia blog (coming tomorrow), we had a fabulous time in that town. I highly recommend it.

Traveling south towards Florida but we still have some Georgia sites to hit.  Fort Frederica was one of them.  We had heard that this place has an award winning Junior Ranger book and they were not joking.  This book was the best Junior Ranger we have done to date.  I think we are at about 90, so this is quite impressive!  It was a pop up book and you followed the townspeople around the town and helped them hold off the Spanish.

To start the adventure we stopped in the visitor center and were given the Junior Ranger books, a hat and a haversack full of items to help the townspeople.


We were off. The site of Fort Frederica was well chosen. The army put this fort in an area that is easy to defend and would give the enemy as much trouble as possible.  If the Spanish wanted to attack the more valuable settlements of Charles Town and Port Royal in South Carolina they had to deal with Frederica first.

The Junior Ranger Adventure Booklet held 11 stops/tasks for the boys.  Is it really a task when you are having fun? Here are the boys going through the park and helping the townspeople of Frederica.


While they finished up their booklets Chris and I walked the grounds and enjoyed how peaceful and gorgeous the park was.

We went back to the visitor center to receive our Fort Frederica Junior Ranger badges.  Bonus:  You could earn a Master Junior Ranger Patch if you complete Fort Frederica Junior Ranger plus Underwater Explorer and Junior Archaeologist Junior Rangers.  We worked on the 2 extra ones on our road trip in the car and had them done when we arrived. Always plan ahead!


Lots of items earned here and a great Visitor Center to explore. Look at all our goodies.


What an amazing National Park Service Site!! Enjoyed our time here and was one of the  highlights of our expedition. We are off to St. Mary’s, GA now.  Lets see what we can explore there.

Thanks for visiting.

Fort Pulaski National Monument


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 1/2 day

Accommodations: Downtown Savannah, GA

Fort Pulaski is Civil War stop #4 on our Spring Break Civil War Expedition!  I can’t say enough great things about our experience here.  It was by far the best stop on our whole trip.  The secret?  Our Ranger guided tour of the fort.  I will need to admit that this is by far the best ranger program from the 90 National Park Service Sites we have visited.  I really don’t remember the Ranger’s name (sorry), but he was top notch.  If you can interest a 13 and an 11 year old for an hour on history, you have my vote.  We were all wanting more when the tour was done (that is a hard task to accomplish).

The tour started in the chapel and continued clockwise around the fort.  The ranger explained every type of canon, how they were used and manned, all about the ammunition and which was the best at its job.  These cannons were built to sink ships and that is what they did best. Now for photo overload because this place was not only interesting but gorgeous!

Our Fantastic Ranger led program


Looking out toward the ocean
View of the interior of the fort from the top level


View to the North
Gunnar working on his Junior Ranger in the courtyard
The Moat


The entrance to the Fort


Gorgeous grounds around the Fort

We really enjoyed our time here.  Now we are heading to the beach to enjoy some fun in the sun.  We went back to the visitor center to earn our Junior Ranger badges.  This is where we were awarded our Civil War Historian patch for completely 3 Civil War Junior Rangers.  Pretty cool.  The concludes the Civil war part of the trip we will be moving on to the Spanish invasion from here to the end.  I hope you enjoy our stops so far.

Next stop (after Tybee Island) is Fort Frederica.  We can’t wait.

South Carolina


South Carolina!!! State line sign #34 for us.  This sign is apparently a big “hit”.  Not sure what happened but I am assuming someone didn’t see it and ran right into it??  This sign was at the Landrum Welcome Center on I-26 South and let’s hope it is fixed by now.

We did several things while in South Carolina and we loved it!  What a great state to spend part of our Spring Break in!

National Park Service sites visited:

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

Fort Moultrie

Fort Sumter National Monument

I think the most entertaining thing we did was to book a charter through Absolute Reel Screamer Charters. We booked the Private dolphin watch, lighthouse and ecological boat tour and there were no disappointments. What a fun day we all had.  I can’t believe how much we learned. We met our guide Gresh at Folly Beach.  He warned us it was going to be a cool one so we dressed in layers.

Gresh was awesome, he was really laid back and answered the million questions my husband had for him.  First stop was showing us how the oysters grew on the shore.  Being from Iowa we were clueless on this so it was very cool to us.  We wouldn’t have even know it was oysters by looking at it. Check it out.

We then headed out to Morris Island, this is where the movie Glory was filmed for the Fort Wagner events that took place.  Our oldest was just watching that movie in American History class and loved this part of the tour.  We were able to get out and walk on the beach where Gresh showed us that you can still find shells, bullets found from the Civil war, jellyfish that have washed up and lots of other good things. See below for the goodies Gunnar found.

Hunter in front of “Fort Wagner” from the movie Glory

We walked the island looking for finds and Gunnar made out the best.  He found a shark tooth and a sloth claw from the ice age.  Needless to say he was excited about this.


Gresh took our photo in front of the Morris Island lighthouse and did a fabulous job.  What a great guy.


All the while on the boat we had a spectacular display of dolphins.  I have so many videos it is unreal, they were right next to us.  This was my highlight.


I cannot recommend this tour enough. If you are in the Charleston area, it is a great half day adventure.

We headed back to Charleston and grabbed some dinner at a fantastic restaurant, Fleet Landing.  While we waited, the kids played bags and we had some interesting conversations with some really fun people in town from North Carolina.  Food was great!

We hit the City Market for some shopping, it was super packed and I just couldn’t find anything that I couldn’t live without,  except for a shot glass and a magnet. The best part of the trip to City market was the bike taxi we took to get back to our car.  What a great idea, we loved this!


We then wandered down the road and hit Waterfront park with its beautiful water fountains and went down the way to Rainbow Row.


We did everything we wanted to do on this trip to Charleston.  What an amazing place to be. So much history and beauty. This is going on my list of places to revisit. We loved it.  Have you been to Charleston?  What did you love about it? I would love to hear of more things to do.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 1/2 day

Accommodations: Charleston, South Carolina


The last stop we have in Charleston was to Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.  What a beautiful place.  We enjoyed this short stop and had a great time working on the Junior Ranger books on the back porch of the house, so peaceful.



Charles Pinckney was important to the state of South Carolina because he served as the governor, as a US senator and was Thomas Jefferson’s South Carolina campaign manager. He was also one of the delegates that signed the Constitution. This site is a small portion of the property know as the Snee farm, that Charles inherited from his father.


Here at the site you can sign your own name to the Constitution 🙂


After finishing up we walked the path that leads around the farm. It is gorgeous.

Back in to the Visitor Center to earn our badges and get our passports stamped.

What a fantastic stop.  We are off to Savannah, Georgia.  Check back for more updates from our National Park Trip Season 4 Spring Break Trip! Thanks for stopping by.

Fort Sumter National Monument


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 1/2 day

Accommodations: Charleston, SC

Civil War stop #2 on our Spring Break Civil War Expedition was Fort Sumter. What a great place.  We stopped in the visitor center in downtown Charleston and signed up for the last ferry ride of the day.  On the ferry the kids worked on their Junior Rangers (just about all of the answers are in the talk during the ride out to the island. (FYI)

When arriving at the island we did a self guided tour (remember to grab a guide).  We also were able to witness and volunteer for the lowering of the flag. Here we listened to a talk about all of the flags that have flown over Fort Sumter; The 33 star, The 35 star, the Flag of the Palmetto Guard, the South Carolina state flag and The Stars and Bars.  If you can I suggest doing the last tour of the day, you don’t want to miss this.

We walked around the rest of the fort looking at the cannons and enjoying the displays inside the visitor center.


The kids earned their Junior Rangers at the island and that was a wrap! What a great day!

Another Civil war site down and much more to go.  Junior Ranger badges earned and Passport Stamp received.

Until the next time, join us tomorrow when we visit Charles Pinckney and find out how he fits in to South Carolina history. Thanks for visiting.


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