Amelia Island possesses a delightful blend of pristine nature and historic architecture
Apr 28, 2021 at 6:00 AM
Imagine Florida at its finest, enhanced by southern charm. Amelia Island is as lovely as its name. (Doesn’t Amelia conjure up thoughts of grace and beauty?) Named for Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of England, Amelia Island does indeed possess a delightful blend of pristine nature and historic architecture along with many wonderful places to lodge, dine, shop, re-center yourself and recreate.
Part of the Sea Islands chain of islands that stretch along the east coast from South Carolina to Florida, this thirteen-mile-long island is the northernmost of Florida’s barrier islands. At four miles across at its widest part, Amelia Island abounds with fabulous soft-sand beaches, parks and a wide variety of other places to relax, rejuvenate and have fun. If you travel south along the A1A, the main drag, you’ll pass through beguiling beach bungalows, impressive mansions, quaint inns and B and Bs and high-end resorts until you arrive at beautiful Amelia Island State Park at the southernmost tip.
In terms of beaches, you can discover lots of beachfront access points along the way as well as parks and other places from which to enjoy the magnificence of the Atlantic Ocean. At the northernmost tip, Main Beach Park ranks tops for its sand dunes, boardwalk and public sports and recreation facilities. Farther down at Peters’ Point Park, you can drive right up onto the beach and cast your line into the big blue. It’s a great place to park it for a while, since many amenities such as bathrooms are provided. Don’t forget your cooler! Down south American Beach is noteworthy for its historic significance and allure. Founded during the Jim Crow era when African Americans were not allowed to go on the beaches at nearby Jacksonville, today American Beach is a community in transition. Listed as an historic site by the National Register of Historic Places, many of the old endearing homes have been restored to their original splendor; others lie in wait of beinlks looking to embrace the renaissance of this unique part of Amelia Island.
From there – as well as on other parts of the island – access to uncrowded beaches, meandering rivers, tranquil ponds and marshlands as well as glorious greenways remains unfettered.
Europeans first settled on Amelia Island in the 1500s. Tourists began arriving here in the 1870s. In all, this prized piece of land flew under eight different flags, including the British, French and Confederate, to name a few. You may discover the most tangible piece of this bastion of history at Fort Clinch State Park on the north end of the island. Built in 1864, this pentagonal-shaped garrison offers us opportunities to feel the rich history of the island and to take in some terrific views. (Selfie alert!) Stroll out onto the park’s nearby fishing pier, which extends a half mile into the ocean. Known to be the longest fishing pier on the east coast, people come here to fish for angelfish, sheepsheads, reds and whatever else the sea offers. Whether fishing or not, this is an extraordinary place to embrace the wonder of the ocean while keeping your feet on the ground.
From there, you can go to the Amelia Island Lighthouse, the oldest existing lighthouse in Florida and a real beauty.
After you’ve had your fill of toes-in-the-sand fun, pelican gazing and history retracing, head over to one of Amelia Island’s terrific places to restore and refresh yourself. The Down Under, an old jumble of a fish shack on the Intracoastal Waterway, one of the main access routes to the island from the mainland, offers an authentic experience. Enjoy some locally-fished shrimp and a cold and frosty as you toast your day’s activities. (Go early to claim a spot on their deck.) Whether you were beaching it, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, horseback riding, hiking or coming off of one of the island’s beautiful golf courses, fun in the sun should be cheered.
Stop into the Amelia Island Chamber of Commerce while you’re in the area to find out about what this island paradise and other parts of Nassau County offer. If you’re a fisherman, they’ll surely tell you about George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park. If you want to rent a boat, they might point you to Amelia Island Boat Club & Rentals or one of the other purveyors of watersports fun. From sushi to sea glass art, the folks here can help you with that and much more. Amelia Island is typically found alluring to all, you just have to find your flavor!