Sunday, May 24, 2009

Touring the Island

My parents moved to Amelia Island about a year ago. The island is just north of Jacksonville and boasts 13 beautiful miles of beautiful beaches. Separating it from every other beach town, it's history is unique and fascinating, being the only community in the United States to have experienced life under eight different flags. Amelia Island and its charming seaport village of Fernandina Beach are largely characterized by its colorful and sometimes turbulent past. With its cast of pirates, Timucuans, shrimpers, nobles and confederates, the island's rich 4,000 year history is full of tales and treasures that live on today.

Originally inhabited by the Timucuans (as early as 2,500 B.C), the French rose what would be the first of eight flags over Amelia Island on May 3, 1562. This began a chapter of the island's history that has been described as "the French visited, the Spanish developed, the English named, and the Americans tamed."

Amelia's maritime heritage is due in large part to the natural deep harbor on the north end of the island, which provided easy access for smugglers, pirates, and assorted sea captains. The waters surrounding Amelia Island today attract a wide variety of recreational and commercial activity. The island's city center, Fernandina Beach, was once a charming seaport village, and in the early 20th century became known as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. Now visitors can enjoy waterfront dining as they watch shrimp boats dock. Once a year, the island hosts the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival to celebrate the industry with live music, arts and crafts, and boatloads of fresh shrimp and seafood.

Today Fernandina Beach is still characterized by Victorian-era architecture and a remarkable historic district. The district is home to Northeast Florida's oldest continuously operating bar, the Palace Saloon, and Florida's oldest operating hotel, the Florida House Inn, both located in a 50-block area of homes and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the north end of the island, visitors can explore Old Town, the last Spanish Town in the Western Hemisphere in 1811. Old town was the original encampment of the Timucuans and at one time featured the Spanish Fort San Carlos. In 2011, Old Town will celebrate its 200 year anniversary.

Right across the Amelia River is Cumberland Island, where you-know-who got married (JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette). I am planning on visiting there on my next visit since it takes the whole day. There are no roads there and you have to bring your own snacks.

Downtown hosts a farmers market every Saturday with many local farmers selling fresh fruit and vegetables and gourmet baked goods and delights.

The Island is a great place for family visits with a great variety of housing options from an amazing Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island Plantation, lots of local hotels and motels and charming bed and breakfastes, many right on the beach.
Visit for more information.


Pink Julep said...

Looks lovely!!!

cdiaz said...

I wish I was there too. Love it. SO nice.

Belle (from Life of a...) said...

That is indeed a lovely area. My best friend lived in Fernandina for awhile and got married there.