On a high bluff above the St. Johns River, a memorial pays tribute to the French expedition that claimed Florida for France— three years before the founding of the Spanish colony at St. Augustine.
Lat-Lon: 30.387960, -81.489865
Restroom: At Fort Caroline
Open 9 AM to 5 PM
Although there’s no hike here, just a walk to the bluff, this historic site is part of Timucuan Preserve National Park and worth a look. Bring your camera for the sweeping scenic view.
From Mount Pleasant Road in Jacksonville, follow Fort Caroline Rd 0.3 mile to pass by the Fort Caroline and Spanish Pond entrances of Timucuan Preserve. Continue another 0.5 mile to the sign for the Ribault Monument, on the left, and drive up to the parking area.
On May 1, 1562, French Huguenots landed at this bluff and claimed Florida for France. Jean Ribault named the river “The River of May” to commemorate the date of his landing. The column standing tall on the bluffs above the St. Johns River is based on the one placed here by the French, copied from one of the many drawings of Jacques Le Moyne, the colony’s resident artist. According to his illustrations, the Timucua who lived along to the river came to the tall pillar and left offerings of worship.
In 1564, the French built Fort Caroline for their protection as they established Florida’s first European colony, with more than 200 soldiers, artisans, and their families settling on St. Johns Bluff. If you haven’t visited there yet, stop in as you pass the Fort Caroline entrance to explore this oft-forgotten chapter of Florida history.