This place is about 25 miles south of Jacksonville, or maybe 45 miles from Fernandina using Hwy A1A. It is a wonderful town, which is the first founded in the US, and the oldest. Spaniards made this are defense position and built a fort at the point. Trade with Indians and later with settlers developed this town into a vibrant community. The fort defended the residents by surrounding the whole area with a high wall. Sites a plentiful in the town, and so many old buildings from the founding to about early 1800's abound. There also is a great college; Flagler, and Lightner Museum which was Alcazar hotel in late 1880's. YOu could spend a couple of days here to see and tour sites, and that excludes shopping at 200-300 places, and eating at maybe 50 spots. You do have to "weed" through a lot of touristy type junk and "cruddy" things to do besides, though.
There is a nature preserve and wildlife rehab place called "Beaks". They are located about 20 miles south of the Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach area. They have numerous exotic and native species of birds on premises in a totally natural-type setting.
This really isn't a zoo, it's more of a research station. They will take visitors, and they'll be more helpful if you give them a donation, which you'll probably be willing to do when you see the good work they do.
The best way to find your way is to ask the locals, or at your hotel. I do not remember the exact directions. It wasn't any problem to find, though.
Just a few miles north of Fernandina Beach is the Fort Clinch State Park and fort monument. Fort Clinch was a Union fort, active during the American civil war. The fort is largely preserved, and there is a great deal of historic items for your viewing pleasure.
But, the neatest part of your visit is that the staff is dressed and placed in the mindset of an 1864 timeframe. Soldiers will talk to you as if you are a visitor during the civil war. We sat down and had a cup of hot and strong coffee with the fellow pictured below, and it was quite a history exercise and learning experience to attempt to place ourselves in the proper timeframe for conversation. Be sure to say nice things about President Lincoln, and don't make the mistake that ::I:: made by saying I was born in Alabama. He threatened to lock me up as a rebel spy! And, no, they don't have creamer for your coffee.
This is a historical and small town that is 2 miles by way of water from Fernandina Beach, but 25 miles around taking the highways. It has a home tour of Orange Hall, and a number of historic homes and downtown structures dating back to late 1800's and early 1900's. In addition, this is the pick up point to get to Cumberland Island by boat, which is a nature preserve just across the water inlet. It also has a nice Naval Sub museum at the waterfront.
Take US 95 to Hwy 40 east to St. Mary's 8 miles east.
This is an old well preserved home and surrounding buildings, as though it would look like in the old days of planting and working the land. The plantation had been operating since 1761, when John McQueen harvested indigo for blue dye. The house was built in 1798, and Kingsley married a slave women and they then came to own the island in 1814. There are 23 ruins of slave tabby homes close to the main house. Crops grown then were Sea Island cotton, indigo, and sugar cane. The plantation thrived until the Civil War, and afterword it declined but still had crops until 1929 era. Kingsley's wife moved to Haiti and operated a slave farm down there, while he tried to raise money to support the slaves that he moved down there.
Take Hwy A1A south. The exit to Kingsley and Ribault is off the road about 3 miles.
This is mostly used for events and wedding, even though it is a Florida visitor center for the Timucuan Preserve overall, and the museum is housed here. A short 3/4 hour spent would provide all you want to see, but hiking around the area is also a feature, and the waterfront nice to view. The clubhouse was for members that formed a club back in 1928 to enjoy nature and serenity out in the natural environment. They had parties for the wealthy and gentry of the area there.
There is some hiking trails along this park and some lead up to Fort Caroline, further north. The trail to it would be about 6 miles round trip. I took a 3 mile round trip hike to the marsh area. It was nice and serene along the way, but did not see much wildlife; just a few birds.
The park entry is free and operated by NPS & state of Florida. Take A1A south and get ferry across at Mayport. Then head west to get to Monument Rd and then up to Mount Pleasant Rd where the park is located. Further along that road is Fort Caroline.
This is a fort from 1564 and recreated-of course. The history is a real story to read about in the attached. Jean Ribault was an explorer, and upon a return trip from England in 1565, he had a battle with the Spanish with a fleet of ships. Spanish in turn came back to this fort and killed most of the citizens and soldiers, and executed Ribault.
There is a small museum of murals at the visitor center; maybe worth 10 minutes to review it. It is located off Monument Road at Mount Pleasant Rd. TAke Hwy 115 north and follow signs. Entry to the visitor center and fort is free and operated by Florida/NPS
The Amelia Island Light was originally the Little Cumberland Island light of Georgia. In 1820 it was a modest fifty-feet tower at the entrance to the St. Mary’s River. In 1839, the Lighthouse Board moved it to Amelia Island, and the height of the tower was raised to sixty-four feet. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 13, 2003.
In 2001, the Coast Guard gave the Amelia Island Lighthouse, oil house, and surrounding property to the City of Fernandina Beach. But it is still an active aid to navigation, and when we saw it in February 2005, the lighthouse was off limits for visits. Volunteers in the Coast Guard Auxiliary assist the Coast Guard in maintaining the light.
The city is overseeing the current restoration of the lighthouse tower. Plans were to open the tower in 2004 on a limited basis. Small groups will be allowed to climb the sixty-nine granite stairs ro view Amelia Island and the Atlantic Ocean.
The major focus (pun intended) has been on the restoration of the lantern room and the parapet (gallery). Fortunately, the historic third-order Fresnel lens still remains in the tower.
This is a very large area that is interspersed with marshes and water inlets. It has some nice sites in the preserve that is sectioned off into Ribault Clubhouse/Visitor Center & museum, Kinsley Plantation, Theodore Roosevelt Preserve and Fort Caroline. Driving in between these is about 30 miles overall. It is a good one to two day venture to see the sites and do some hiking, which I did a little. Entry into Ribault center is free and the museum informative and takes maybe 1/2 hour to read the murals of history. Kinsley takes about 1 hour to tour the grounds and home, and Fort CAroline and visitor center take about 1/2 hour.
Housed in the old Nassau County jail, this very interesting museum has docents to explain the extensive island history. They give a lively 90 minute show which is worth the price of admission. It is Florida’s only oral history museum and contains displays and live interpretation portray the island’s history from aboriginal Indian settlements to 18th-century plantations to the present.
The museum also conducts walking tours of the historic district Thursday and Friday afternoons at 3 and has available an Amelia Island Lighthouse stamp for the Lighthouse Society Passport.
Open Monday-Saturday, 11 to 2.
From Centre Street:
Walk or drive three blocks South on 3rd Street.
This is a well preserved nature island that is a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. A boat is the only way to get there, and NPS has trips to the island twices daily; in the morning and around midday. The island has a lot of trails and nature walks, in addition to beaches, and remote marsh areas, camping and tour guides walks. There also is a burned out mansion called Dungeness that remains can be seen. The island is about 9 miles long, so maybe cannot see all in one day.
We did not go there do to time limits. The boat ride across is $18 adult fee.
One of many well kept State Parks around the Fernandina/Amelia Island neighborhood. Don't hestitate to stop at the ranger's office and ask for the best places to go.
The pier here is a great walk and a great view almost a 1/2 mile out.
This is located over by Fort Clinch, and can be seen from there. Tours are not available, but you can drive up to it for views. Located at 2500 Atlantic Ave, just to the southeast of town 2 miles.