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I first saw this plantation house and state park from the anchorage in front of the plantation house. I had my AAA book, and also looked on the internet. I found that Kingsley Plantation is the oldest remaining plantation in Florida.
Hidden by lush vegetation is evidence of 6000 years of human occupation; ranging from shell mounds, through plantation era structures, to a 1920's resort club, the history of Ft. George Island is a cross section of Florida's history.
Kingsley Plantation is open seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Admission is free. There is a ranger program daily at 2:00 p.m.
When we were there, and apparently it is still true that the visitor contact station (photo 4) and bookstore are located in a 1920s building adjacent to the plantation buildings. We could explore the grounds at Kingsley Plantation, which include the slave quarters (photo 2) but the plantation house (photos 3 and 5) is closed to the public. According to the Park Service website:
The decision was based on a preliminary engineering assessment that revealed structural problems that could jeopardize the integrity of the structure itself as well as pose a potential safety threat to visitors. The report pointed out damage to the support beams by termites and the structure's inability to bear the load placed on it by the 55,000 visitors to the site each year
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Address: 11676 Palmetto Ave., Ft. George's Island.
When my sister rode down the ICW with us in 2003, my BIL drove the rental car down to meet us (pamphlet photo 2), and he took this ferry. So when we went to see the lighthouse in Mayport, I thought we might also take this ferry.
The St. Johns River Ferry dates back to 1948 when the Fernandina Port Authority completed construction of a road down Ft. George Island. Previously, there had been no road and no water connector between Mayport and the Island. The ferry route is shown on the map-image 3. There are two ferry boats the MV Blackbeard (1950's style which is the standby ferry) and the 1990s style car ferry MV Jean Ribault.
It operates every day including holidays and the cruise takes 8 minutes. Weekdays they start from Mayport at 6 am (the first one from Ft. George is 6:10 am) and continue on the hour and half hour. The last ferry from Mayport is 10 pm and from Ft. George is 10:15 pm. Weekends they start as late as 6:20 am from Mayport.
PASSENGER TYPE COST
2 axle (Private) $3.25
2 axle (Commercial/RV) $3.50
3 axle (Private/Commercial/RV) $3.25
4 axle (Private/Commercial/RV) $4.00
Passenger Bus $8.00
The ferry dock was right outside the base. The ramp was labeled that it was unsafe to support weight unless the ferry was under the outer end. It was a few minutes after 11 so we must have just missed one. We got into line, and immediately a whole bunch of other people lined up behind us. The last person in line was a lady in a red convertible who went around in front of us going the wrong way.
There was apparently quite a lot of current in the river because the ferry operator banged the ferry around on the pilings of the dock quite a bit going both directions (photo 5). We were first on the ferry and were right in the front of the middle lane (photo 4) - nothing in front of us.
Because of the way the ferry had banged around on the way in, I was afraid to get out of the car, and the ride was so short I'm not sure I would have had time to take many pictures anyway.
Updated Sep 25, 2007
In this area, State route A1A runs along the barrier islands, including Ft. George Island. From the ICW, we can see the A1A bridges, and from the highway, we can see the beach and marshes of the barrier islands.
If you take the ferry across the St. Johns River (next tip) and follow A1A North past Kingsley Plantation, you will cross the Fort George River. The road goes on through the Big and Little Talbot Islands which are a Duval County park. The next bridge goes across Nassua Sound to Amelia Island, the first barrier island in Florida (photo 2).
On Fort George Island, A1A skirts the ocean side, continuing north to Little Talbott Island State Park. On this stretch of A1A, the Kingsley Plantation road is the only side road off the highway, and it is easy to miss.
Updated Sep 25, 2007
In 2000, as we come in the Fort George River past the big park (Kingsley Plantation) on the south side of the river to anchor, people are out on the lawn pointing at us, and people periodically come out and look at us. We anchored after 19.7 miles at 5.3 mph for a total of 797 nautical miles since we left the Potomac.
LUNATIC II from Boston came in after us and anchored. A motor boat called VALKERIE, and a single hander from Maine also anchored. The Maine boat is too far away for me to see the name, as is a boat that anchors right at the end of the creek. There are a lot of little fishing boats, but most of them leave by sunset.
The next morning, the boat at the entrance left early and fisherman came back into the creek starting at dawn. Started the engine at 7. There was a crab pot boat pulling pots and a gaggle of pelicans following him
Another (power) boater wrote: When we anchored last night, the tide was running out. The tidal range in that area of Florida can be as much as 5 feet. We anchored with our bow into the current, facing west. There was a sailboat about a half mile further up the creek who had apparently come in on the high tide and when the tide ran out, they went hard aground. At low tide, they were almost completely out of the water, and leaning over about 45 degrees. I can explain away a lot of things but I'm glad I wasn't that guy trying to convince his wife that heeling at anchor was normal.
Equipment: There are no services here. You can land at the dock and walk around the grounds of the plantation. It is free.
You can kayak around the area too, but there is no actual connection between the Fort George River and the Atlantic except by going out and down to and out the St. John's River. If you want to go across to the Atlantic, you will have to portage.
Updated Sep 25, 2007