Experiences & Amenities
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. Please stay in a single file line as the park drive is narrow and winding. Early morning and late afternoon are best suited for bicycle riding on the park drive as the park receives quite a bit of vehicle traffic between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
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 trail is considered an intermediate level trail, and caution should be used at all times.
Helmets must be worn when bicycling the multi-use trail. The multi-use trail is one-way for bicyclists and two-way for hikers, so please watch for hikers along the trail. Parking for the multi-use trail is at the visitor center, and the trail can be accessed from multiple points along the park drive.
There are several miles of beach with hard-packed sand that can be ridden with large tire bicycles during low tides. Please walk bikes on boardwalks leading to beaches. Beach cruisers (bicycles) are available for rent at the Visitor Center for a nominal fee.
- Helmets are highly recommended for all cyclists and Florida law requires helmets for cyclists age 16 and under.
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. Favorite viewing areas include the Egans Creek Overlook and directly south of the jetty. The Great Florida Birding Trail Exhibit is located at the beach parking area.
Woodpeckers abound in our forests include the pileated, downy, red-bellied and redheaded species. Red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, barred owls, great horned owls, purple sandpipers, painted buntings, warblers, vireos, wrens and numerous wading birds make regular visits. Bald eagles, Northern mockingbirds, scarlet tanagers, rufous-sided towhees, indigo buntings, gull-billed terns, wood storks, roseate spoonbills, magnificent frigate birds, piping plovers, salt marsh skipper and juniper hairstreak have all been counted in the area.
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.
- The Amelia River campground is located at the north end of the park along the St. Marys River. Shady, Spanish moss-laden oak trees offer an old Florida ambiance to the Amelia River Campground's 42 sites while providing a breathtaking view of the Amelia River just a short distance from each campsite. The Amelia River Campground bathroom is air conditioned during the warmer months.
- Located along the northeast tip of the park, just steps from the ocean, Atlantic Beach Campground offers 21 RV and six tent-only sites that are typical of the Florida beach atmosphere, surrounded by snow white sand dunes and sunny sites. Both campgrounds have a dump station, laundry machines and beautiful new accessible heated bathrooms with showers.
- Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, potable water and a mixture of 30- and 50-amp electric hook-ups. Specific details about each site can be viewed on ReserveAmerica. The dump station facilities are free of charge to registered campers, and also available for day visitors for a fee. Well-behaved and attended pets are welcome at both campgrounds.
- Reservations: Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance through ReserveAmerica. Book online or call 800-326-3521 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) or TDD 888-433-0287.
Surrounded by wilderness and shaded by magnificent live oaks, the primitive group camp facility offers a great wilderness retreat and excellent hiking opportunities. Considered one of the best group camping facilities in the state park system, three spacious sites in the group campground accommodate up to 75 campers.
Located adjacent to the Egans Creek Marsh, each site provides a group fire ring and access to potable water and restrooms within 100 feet of the sites. Modern accessible restrooms with hot and cold water are provided.
- Reservations for primitive group camping can be made up to 11 months in advance for youth groups and 30 days in advance for adult groups (if the sites have not been reserved by youth groups) by calling the park at 904-277-7274.
Fishing within the park is quite popular, and the park provides 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. Popular bait choices include dead or live shrimp, mud minnows, finger mullet and squid, along with a variety of lures. A small variety of fishing tackle and bait is available for purchase at the visitor center.
- Fishing is permitted in accordance with Florida state law. Please visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website to obtain the most current saltwater fishing regulations and to obtain a fishing license online. The park does not sell fishing licenses. All fishing within the park must conform to the regulations concerning size, number, method of capture and season.
- Free Fishing Clinics: Sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and many local businesses, an annual free Kids Fishing Clinic “Take A Kid Fishing Day” and a free women’s fishing clinic are held at the park. These clinics teach participants how to be responsible anglers, tie knots, cast, safely release a fish and much more.
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. Please check the Geocaching website for the most up-to-date information and clues to locate these caches.
Fort Clinch offers a 6-mile trail for hikers and off-road bicyclists. Traffic is one-way for bikers and helmets are required. Hikers may travel in either direction. The trail begins at the fort parking lot and parallels the park drive for approximately 3 miles, then crosses the road and returns back toward the fort on the opposite side. 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.
- A short quarter-mile hiking trail can be accessed from the west inlet parking area. The trail travels through maritime hammock along the edges of steep dune elevations.
- 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.
A 6-mile off-road multi-use trail is located adjacent to the park drive and provides a more adventurous ride through maritime forest while dune elevation changes provide rolling hills and turns. The trail is considered an intermediate level trail and caution should be used at all times.
Helmets must be worn when bicycling the multi-use trail. The multi-use trail is one-way for bicyclists and two-way for hikers, so please watch for hikers along the trail. Parking for the multi-use trail is located at the visitor center, and the trail can be accessed from multiple points along the park drive.
Visitors who want to launch a canoe or kayak from the park may use the East or West Inlet Parking areas accessed through the Fort Clinch's 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 these 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.
Please be aware that most everything you find on the beach still could be alive and should be returned to the water if an animal is using it. Favorite shelling locations include the areas north and south of the jetty rocks. Favorite shark tooth areas are along the shoreline adjacent to the fort where beach sand has been renourished.
Swimming is available in the Atlantic Ocean south of the jetty. No lifeguards are on duty; swim at your own risk. Visitors are reminded to pay close attention to the Beach Warning Flag Signs posted at welcome station and at the Atlantic Beach Access Boardwalk. These flags indicate the swimming conditions at the beach. Swimming in all other areas of the park is prohibited due to dangerous currents and steep slopes.
Park Rangers and volunteers provide a wide variety of programs and activities that are sure to entice your adventurous side. Join us for programs that will immerse you in the park. Visit our events section for a list of upcoming activities and events. Contact the park for information on upcoming programs, events and projects or group tours at 904-277-7274.
Fort Clinch State Park provides an excellent backdrop and is perfect for smaller weddings. Popular wedding locations include the Atlantic Beach, along the St. Marys Inlet and inside the fort. Call the park administrative office at 904-277-7226 for more information (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
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:
- The jetty boardwalk provides great opportunities for viewing shorebirds, osprey, pelican, dolphin and sea turtles. Deer are regularly seen foraging in the dunes during early morning and late afternoon hours.
- The bird pavilion provides a great location for viewing songbirds and other migratory birds such as the painted bunting. Occasionally, bald eagles, Cooper's hawks and American kestrels are seen in the beach parking-area borders.
- Willow Pond Nature trail provides a wide variety of habitat for alligators, raccoons, songbirds and an occasional bobcat.
- Egans Creek Overlook provides an open vista of the marsh habitat popular for wading birds including great blue heron, great white egrets and roseate spoonbills, as well as an occasional alligator. There is a beautiful view of the Amelia Island lighthouse.
- The shoreline along St. Marys Inlet provides great opportunities for viewing dolphin and an occasional right whale. Visitors with binoculars might see the wild horses on Cumberland Island shoreline just to the north of the park. Deer often graze in the grasslands adjacent to the fort during early morning and late afternoon. Gopher tortoise are seen along the dune ridges during the warmer months.
- The best times for viewing most animals is when they are more active in early morning and prior to sunset.
Three distinct sections of beach shoreline provide a wide variety of activities for visitors to enjoy.
The 0.75-mile section of Atlantic Beach just south of the jetty provides opportunities for swimming, surfing, sunbathing and surf fishing. Please pay attention to ocean conditions at all times, as the ocean always presents some degree of danger. The park displays a beach warning flag system at the designated entrance of the park that provides general conditions of the surf. Lifeguards are not on duty and swimming is at your own risk. Restrooms, dressing rooms and outdoor showers are located in both beach access boardwalks.
The shoreline just north of the jetty provides for more relaxing activities such as sunbathing, shell collecting and surf fishing. Shell collecting is popular near the jetty rocks and along the shoreline. Visitors can view a wide variety of wildlife including resting shorebirds, dolphins, and deer foraging in the dunes. Please do not disturb resting shorebirds as this causes them to utilize energy necessary for their migratory journeys and reduces natural habitat for resting and nesting activities. Swimming is not permitted north of the fishing pier due to dangerous currents of the St Marys Inlet.
The shoreline near historic Fort Clinch provides ample opportunities for fishing, shark tooth hunting, nature and wildlife viewing, and more. Bring your binoculars and you might be able to catch a view of the wild horses foraging along the shoreline of Cumberland Island National Seashore, which lies directly to the north.
Fishing opportunities are popular adjacent to the jetty rocks for redfish, flounder, spotted trout and whiting. Shark tooth hunting is popular in this area as they are usually pumped onto the beach during dredging of St. Marys Inlet. Swimming is prohibited in this area due to dangerous currents and steep drop-offs associated with the inlet.
Fort Clinch Campfire Programs are an excellent opportunity for interacting with Florida Park Rangers! Programs are held every Saturday evening November through April, weather permitting.
Campfire programs are fun, free and open to all registered campers. Program topics vary from ranger to ranger and week to week. Past topics have ranged from Florida Animals, Florida Cooking, How to Start a Campfire to Evening Nature Trail Hikes, just to name a few.
Special hikes are also held at varying times. Program topics and times are typically posted a week in advance by flyer in both campgrounds and at the ranger station. For more information about the campfire programs, contact the ranger station at 904-277-7274.
Fort Clinch is one of the most well-preserved 19th-century forts in the country. Although no battles were fought here, it was garrisoned during both the Civil and Spanish-American wars. Fort Clinch is one in a series of masonry forts constructed between 1816 and 1867 known as the Third System of Fortifications.
Fort Clinch was built at the mouth of the St. Marys River to protect the natural deep-water port of Fernandina from becoming a point of invasion by a foreign power. In addition to serving as a sentinel against invasion, Fort Clinch also protected the eastern link of Florida’s only cross-state railroad.
After being abandoned for war purposes, the fort fell into disrepair and sand accumulated throughout the structure. A New Deal was in the works for Fort Clinch. In 1933, during the midst of the Great Depression when more than 25 percent of the nation was unemployed, Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps Program to put men back to work and simultaneously preserve and protect our nation’s natural and cultural treasures.
Now recognized as the single greatest conservation program in America, the CCC constructed more than 800 parks nationwide. CCC Company 1420 worked at Fort Clinch State Park constructing the museum, campground and park roads as well as beginning the restoration of Historic Fort Clinch by removing an extensive amount of sand and debris.
Today, visitors can see how Fort Clinch may have looked in 1864. Staff and volunteers in period Civil War uniforms depict daily life, allowing visitors to take a step back in time.
- Admission to the museum is free with the park entry fee. All visitors are encouraged to tour the museum before entering Fort Clinch. A $2.50 per person fee is charged.
Inside Fort Clinch, visitors can tour five bastions, guard rooms, a prison, enlisted men’s barracks, bakery, blacksmith shop, storehouses, hospital, kitchens, lumber sheds and galleries. Every room is furnished to re-create a depiction of the site as garrisoned by the 1st New York Volunteer Engineers in 1864.
Two large ramps give visitors access to the rampart and gun deck with its 10-inch smooth-bore cannon. Standing on the gun deck provides the visitor with breathtaking 360-degree views of Cumberland Sound, Cumberland Island, the mouth of the St Marys River, the Atlantic Ocean and Fort Clinch State Park.
Fort Clinch offers a unique living history experience. A soldier is on duty every day of the year, including holidays. All visitors are encouraged to ask questions and interact with the soldier as he goes about his daily activities.
The Fort Clinch Museum is located adjacent to the visitors center and is provided free of charge with park admission and is open from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. every day of the year including holidays. Entrance to the actual fort is $2.50 per person.
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 a primer to the experience 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 including 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 time period.
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.
Well-behaved dogs are welcome on all nature trails, hiking trails, along the park drive and within camping areas. Dogs must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times and cannot be left unattended. They are not permitted in buildings including the fort, boardwalks or on the beach.
- See our Pet Policy.
The visitor center offers a variety of snacks and refreshments including ice cream, cookies, candy, granola, soda, water and chips. Visitors can purchase a variety of supplies and souvenirs including firewood, ice, bait, clothing such as shirts and hats, educational supplies including Civil War items, books and more.
- The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is located at the northern end of the park 3 miles from the park entrance and a half-mile from the River Campground.
- Visitors who wish to visit Historic Fort Clinch must purchase tickets at the Visitor Center for $2.50 per person. Children under 6 admitted free.
A brochure is provided with a diagram and detailed history of the fort. Please be sure to read important safety information before entering the fort. A museum building is located adjacent to the visitor center, provides visitors with an introduction into the history of Fort Clinch. There is also a variety of artifacts and displays including a personal collection of 1st Sergeant George D. Hughes, who served at the fort during the Civil War, as well as a restored Gatling gun.
Visitors also can find a wide variety of historic weapons, fort artifacts, and a short video introduction of the life of a Union soldier.
Fort Clinch State Park is in various stages of accessibility. All beach access boardwalks and buildings are ADA accessible and there are several accessible viewing platforms along the boardwalks. The park provides equipment for visitors with mobility needs including standard and all-terrain wheelchairs for enjoying the beach and other areas. Please contact the park in advance at 904-277-7274 to reserve and utilize this equipment.
The park offers two fully accessible campsites in the River Campground. Campsites Nos. 35 and 25 are equipped with concrete pads, water service and grills as well as accessible walkways to the restroom. All Atlantic Beach campsites include solid surfacing and accessible routes to the restroom facility. Both campground restrooms are fully accessible.
Due to the historic nature of the Fort Clinch structure, certain portions of the fort are not accessible; however, we offer all-terrain wheelchairs, and access to lower-level fort structures with the use of ramps installed upon request. Please contact the Ranger Station and Visitor Center staff upon arrival. You can contact the soldier on duty in the fort for additional assistance. Sign-language interpreters are available for the fort programs with a minimum of two weeks’ notice. A wide variety of large print brochures are also available upon request.