Destination Highlights Florida's Spanish Colonial Heritage

    By VISIT FLORIDA staff

    You are planning a trip to Florida for its history and cultural offerings. With so much to see and do from Pensacola to the Keys to Amelia Island, where does your adventure begin?

    VISIT FLORIDA along with numerous partners have come together to illuminate Florida’s rich Spanish colonial heritage and enable visitors to plan their next historic/heritage trip effortlessly. The multi-year Florida-Spain initiative “Viva Florida!” which launches in 2009 promotes cities statewide by pulling a thread through over 50 different historic Spanish arrival exploration and settlement sites.

    Below is a sampling of some of Florida’s historic and cultural destinations that you simply can’t miss! Explore these significant venues and learn about the Sunshine State’s rich Spanish roots:

    Mission San Luis was the western capital of Spanish Florida from 1656 to 1704. Today the Mission brings the 17th century to life through guides in period dress reconstructed buildings exhibits and archaeological demonstrations. The site is a National Historic Landmark and recipient of a Preserve America Presidential Award and is managed by the Florida Department of State Bureau of Archaeological Research. For more information call 850-245-6406 or visit Mission San Luis.

    Sebastian Inlet State Park and McLarty Treasure Museum Melbourne Beach
    In 1715 eleven Spanish treasure galleons sank along the east central Florida coast. One of the survivors’ campsites was located on the present day site of the McLarty Treasure Museum. Seven hundred people lost their lives in this disaster while more than 1 000 people survived. Also within the state park is the Sebastian Fishing Museum which tells the history of the area’s fishing industry. Enjoy fishing swimming scuba diving canoeing kayaking and snorkeling on three miles of beaches in the Indian River Lagoon. For more information call 321-984-4852 or visit Florida State Parks.

    Calusa Heritage Trail and Randell Research Center at Pineland Pine Island
    This trail is an interpretive path that leads visitors through the mounds canals and other features of the archaeological site at Pineland. Drawing on Spanish accounts and archaeological remains the Calusa Heritage Trail tells the story of the Calusa the group of people the Spanish met when they arrived in the early 1500s. The Trail includes interpretive panels on the interaction between the Calusa and Spaniards. While here don’t miss the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail a 190-mile marked canoe and kayak trail that meanders through nearby coastal waters and inland tributaries. For more information call 239-283-2062 or visit Florida Museum of Natural History.

    San Pedro Underwater Archaeology Preserve State Park Islamorada
    This underwater archaeological preserve features a submerged shipwreck that is available for diving and snorkeling. Part of a Spanish flotilla the San Pedro was a 287-ton Dutch-built ship which sank in a hurricane on July 13 1733. Her remains were discovered in 1960 in Hawk Channel near Indian Key. After major salvage efforts in the 1960s all that remains of San Pedro is a large pile of ballast stones covering an area 90 feet long and 30 feet wide. The underwater site has been enhanced with seven replica cannons an anchor and an information plaque. Visitors can also appreciate the marine life that occupies the site. For more information call 850-245-6444 or visit Florida Heritage.

    Fernandina Plaza/Old Town Fernandina Fernandina Beach
    Old Town Fernandina was platted by the Spanish in 1811 and was the last town in the Western Hemisphere to be platted by the "Laws of the Indies " developed by the Spanish government regarding settlement and town planning in the Americas. The original grid – encompassing some 26 blocks – remains to this day although some has been lost to erosion by the Amelia River and the routing of the 14th Street extension through it. Plaza Fernandina now a State Park was included in the original plat and occupies a full block of green space overlooking the Amelia River. Two blocks are included in the historic Bosque Bello Cemetery. For more information call 904-277-0717 or visit Old Town Fernandina.

    Castillo de San Marcos St. Augustine
    Administered by the National Park Service the National Historic Landmark Castillo de San Marcos National Monument preserves the oldest remaining masonry European fortification in the continental United States. The Castillo and its surrounding land comprise 20 acres in historic downtown St. Augustine. Construction of the Castillo began on October 2 1672 and was essentially complete by 1695. Ignacio Daza a Spanish military engineer designed Castillo de San Marcos to fulfill the mission of  protecting the city and the people of St. Augustine. Local Indians African-born slaves free blacks and Spanish soldiers toiled alongside skilled stone masons from Cuba and Spain. Hand-cut coquina blocks were quarried from nearby Anastasia Island. This soft limestone formed locally from naturally cemented seashells. For more information call 904-829-6506 ext. 227 or visit National Park Service.

    Cathedral Basilica St. Augustine
    The Cathedral Basilica is home to the first and oldest Catholic parish in the United States with parish records dating to at least 1594. The oldest structure the Basilica was built in 1797. For more information call 904.824.2806 or visit The First Parish.

    Fort Mosé Historic State Park St. Augustine
    Hidden away in the marshes of St. Augustine is one of the most important sites in American history: the first free community of ex-slaves founded in 1738 and called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose or Fort Mosé (pronounced Moh-Say). More than a century before the Emancipation Proclamation slaves from the British colonies were able to follow the original "Underground Railroad" which headed not to the north but rather south to the Spanish colony of Florida. There they were given freedom if they declared their allegiance to the King of Spain and joined the Catholic Church. Although nothing above ground remains of the fort the National Historic Landmark site and the Visitor Center is a tangible reminder of the U.S.’s African-American heritage. For more information call 904-823-2232 or visit Florida State Parks.

    Historic Pensacola Village and T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum Pensacola
    Within the Historic Pensacola Village are the the Lavalle House and Julee Cottage both constructed in 1805 during the Second Spanish period. A reconstruction of the Tivoli High House used as a public ballroom and gaming house during the Second Spanish period is also within the historic village area as the gift shop. Living history demonstrations of colonial period activities are given on a seasonal basis. The T.T. Wentworth Jr. State Museum includes the "City of Five Flags" exhibit on the history of Pensacola from Spain's first attempt at settlement in 1559 through the American period. For more information call 850-595-5993 or visit Historic Pensacola.

    The Archaeology Institute at the University of West Florida Pensacola
    The Archaeology Institute Exhibit Hall features exhibits on Northwest Florida archaeological sites. Explore the archaeology and history of 16th-century Spanish shipwrecks 18th-century Spanish Presidios British-era towns and a Spanish colonial cemetery. Northwest Florida's first major industrial mill complex Arcadia is also represented. Exhibits link to archaeological sites and museums in historic downtown Pensacola and the surrounding area.. For more information call 850-474-3015 or visit University of West Florida.

    SPONSORS & PARTNERS