Fort Matanzas National Monument. Built by the Spanish in 1740, the fort guarded against southern approaches from the Atlantic Ocean and Matanzas Inlet. The fort and the river were named the Spanish word for massacre to memorialize a 16th-century skirmish between the French and Spanish.

    Fort Matanzas National Monument.

    - Scott Barnett

    Fort Matanzas National Monument and Matanzas Natural Trail

    By Kevin Mims

    We all like a nice walk once in a while, right? Sometimes all you need is a just a few minutes in the woods to relax.

    If that sounds like you, then head over to Fort Matanzas National Monument in St. Augustine where you can enjoy a shady and scenic stroll through a coastal maritime hammock. 

    The walk is only a half mile along an elevated boardwalk through towering clusters of saw palmetto, yaupon holly, beautyberry, wax myrtle and other vegetation typically found in a coastal habitat.

    While there, take some time to stop and watch for warblers, vireos and other migrating species along the boardwalk, especially when the beautyberry and yaupon holly is loaded with fruit. You probably need to bring along your camera, too – this is a pretty decent birding spot.

    Take your time. This is one boardwalk that offers plenty of options in a short span. Listen. Explore deeper, and visit often since things differ with the seasons.

    It's easy to miss doing this short walk and head straight to the ferry over to Fort Matanzas (more on that later), but make sure you plan in a little bit of time for a quick stroll to set you in the mood for exploring the park. Don't blame me if you miss the ferry, either. I did (I always take too long on trails) and had to wait for the next ride over, which was just fine and gave me more time to sit on a bench down by the water. Not bad.

    Fort Matanzas National Monument is open every day of the year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Dec. 25. There's no fee to enter the park or for the ferry ride over to Fort Matanzas, but donations are accepted.

    For this and other ideas on things to do while in Florida, don't forget to go to VISIT FLORIDA's things to do section.

    RELATED: Historic Forts of Florida