If you’ve been following me on my social media channels over the last week, you’ll know that I’ve got a secret to share: an island so rich in history, so naturally lush and beautiful, so authentically old Floridian that everyone should visit. Situated just off the coast of the north eastern edge of Florida near the border with Georgia, what this quirky little barrier island lacks in size, it makes up for in character; with a chequered history and a beauty that will steal your heart. Say hello to Amelia Island.
We’ve been planning this getaway for a while. The boys are growing up fast, and we wanted to spend some time together, away from Xboxes, studying and work, before everyone goes their separate ways: a bit of adventure to create some memories for the future. I love Florida, and Disney and Universal will always hold a special place in our family history, but I’ve never really explored many areas away from the theme parks, and we were excited to find out more about the history of this incredible little place that’s been home to pirates and mercenaries, lived life under 8 different flags and was Florida’s first tourist destination.
Exploring Amelia Island
Beaches: With 13 miles of sparkling quartz sand beaches to visit, it’s no wonder they’re popular with nesting sea turtles. There are no crowds or fighting for a sun lounger on Amelia Island. We spent an entire sunny afternoon on the beach by our hotel, the very pretty Seaside Amelia Inn, which is situated right on Main Beach, without seeing anyone at all. And a huge, empty beach makes for a pretty spectacular football field, I can tell you.
Historic Downtown: Once upon a time, Fernandina Beach was the seaside resort for the rich and powerful Floridian, and the huge 50 block Historic Downtown District’s mix of beautiful old buildings, including Florida’s oldest bar, the Palace Saloon, reflects this illustrious Victorian past.
Fort Clinch: The perfectly preserved fort, now part of the Florida State Parks system, was host to both the Confederate and Union Army, although it never saw any active duty. Now, there’s fishing from the ½ mile-long pier, a beautiful three mile stretch of shoreline perfect for shelling and shark-tooth hunting, plus hiking, cycling and camping, and the six mile nature trail through the park is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the beautiful ecology of the area. If you’re lucky, you can spot raccoons, bobcats… even the odd alligator!
Back to nature: Amelia Island’s State Park covers over 200 acres of pristine beaches, untouched wilderness, salt marshes, and spectacular coastal maritime forest, with its spooky Spanish Moss-draped live oaks, playing host to everything from stunning sea birds, bald eagles and ospreys to wild horses and playful dolphins.
Our week together was so exciting and unexpected, and I can’t wait to share more with you about this incredible little island, with its natural beauty and ecology.
So the secret’s out! And if you visit, just don’t tell anyone, okay?