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interior of the fort
Fort Macon State Park
Closest available address
2300 E, Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, NC 28512
The fort is open 9-5:30, closed Christmas Day.
Best time to visit
Ft. Macon is a small masonry fort that was built in the 1820s and 1830s. It was one of a string of forts built at this time in the U.S. for coastal defense purposes. The fort saw primary military action during the US Civil War, but had ongoing roles in coastal defense up through World War II. While the fort is the main attraction of this 300 acre park, there is also a walking trail and beach.
The building of Ft. Macon was prompted by inadequate US coastal defenses made clear by the War of 1812 and to protect the port at Beaufort Harbor. As it was lightly staffed, the fort was easily captured by the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War. It was retaken by the Union via a battle in which new rifled cannon technology pulverized the masonry fort and demonstrated its obsolescence. After the war the re-built fort served various roles in coastal defense. It became a state park in the 1920s and was renovated by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Fort Macon was back into service as a coastal watch station in World War II.
Having visited many forts around the US, Fort Macon is in the top tier, if not the best overall. It combines a number of impressive attributes that make it stand out. There is a modern visitor center with an informative museum and a high quality film. The fort is in good condition, and has great accessibility. The interpretive displays are diverse and insightful. The park hosts special events and visitor days, including live firing of cannons in the summer, and last but not least the staff members were helpful and courteous. Walking around the fort, seeing the displays and talking to a ranger, provided a very good understanding of the fort in various eras. Since multiple rooms in the fort have interesting exhibits, it’s also easy to learn about different aspects of the fort quickly and coherently. In addition to the fort, the park offers a wide and clean beach, picnicking and a short nature walk. While many people just come here in summer for the beach, the fort and museum are impressive, and a visit to both is recommended for history buffs and for a general audience.
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