Florida Man on the Run

Day Trip to Amelia Island

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It is really amazing what can be found when you venture just a little ways from home. A day trip to Amelia Island ended up being a real treat. In the decade I’ve lived in Jacksonville, I had never taken that hour drive north. I’m a bit disappointed in myself, but glad I’ve “found” Amelia Island now. The entire time my wife and I were there, we talked about needing to come back to see it all again and catch what we missed. It surely won’t be another decade til I return for another day trip to Amelia Island.

Exploring Fort Clinch During Your Day Trip to Amelia Island

The northern tip of Amelia Island is home to the fantastic Fort Clinch State Park. Fort Clinch offers a wealth of things to do including camping, bike and hiking trails, and over three miles of beach. Oh, and don’t forget the historic fort itself. There is something for everyone, but it’s especially great for families.

Fort Clinch is a must visit on any day trip to Amelia Island
Fort Clinch from the battlements

Our explorations of the park started at it’s wonderful beach. Unlike plenty of other beaches in Florida, this one stands away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Surrounded entirely by the park, the beach stands tucked away in a more natural state. Take the opportunity to search for shark’s teeth or simply enjoy the tidal pools with your kids. Without a doubt there were people, but no where near the number that were on Fernandina Beach proper when we poked our heads out there. If you’re coming for a day trip to Amelia Island, catch Fort Clinch’s beach instead. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Beyond exploring the beach, there is also the historic Fort Clinch proper. The fort was built in 1847 and was primarily garrisoned during the Civil War. However, it is in fantastic condition thanks to restoration efforts that are on going to this day. While we were there, we encountered three “soldiers” hard at work on building bunks in the guards quarters. Even the same tools that would have been used in 1864 during the war were used! If you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll love touring the fort. I recommend going on the first weekend of the month when the fort is completely “garrisoned” with reenactors! We didn’t get to see that, but I’m certainly coming back for it.

Downtown Fernandina Beach

The historic courthouse in Fernandina Beach is a neat stop during your day trip to Amelia Island
The historic Nassau County Courthouse, with the rain clouds rolling in

Fernandina Beach sits along the Amelia River, as it meanders into the St. Marys. Just south of Fort Clinch State Park on the island, the city center contains a wealth of small shops, bars, restaurants and historic homes. Serving as the heart of this district, Centre Street is where all the action happens in Downtown Fernandina. (A quick note here that the spelling of Centre Street is correct, but I’m not sure why the British spelling is used. If you know, let me know in the comments below!)

The main stretch of Centre Street is just under four-tenths of a mile. However, there is plenty of side streets to wander down in search of good eats and cool drinks. There are a number of shops on the street, all of which are locally owned. If you’re a big fan of art, I’d recommend stopping into Art on Centre. The art is gorgeous and features a number of local Amelia Island artists. On the second Saturday each month there is an art walk where all the galleries downtown stay open late. The street also features nifty antique stores, a cute little book store, and even a dedicated Christmas store. Its the perfect places for an afternoon stroll to kill some time before dinner, or in our case before Happy Hour!

Don't forget to visit the oldest saloon in Florida during your day trip to Amelia Island
Welcome to the Palace Saloon!

We took the time to pop into the Palace Saloon to grab a few happy hour drinks. The Palace Saloon happens to also be the oldest continually operating bar in the state of Florida. While they didn’t legally serve alcohol during prohibition, rumors say those closest to the owner, Louis G. Hirth, could even get his own Cumberland Whiskey. When you enter from the corner of Centre and 2nd Streets, you’ll be stepping back in time. This is the location of the original bar with all of its original decoration. Even the bar you’ll grab a cold one from it over 100 years old. If you’re in town and need a drink, head down to the Palace Saloon.

The Amelia River is a great spot for sunset to wrap up your day trip to Amelia Island
First stirrings of sunset with the seagulls on the Amelia River

When you make it to the end of Centre Street, you’ll have reached the Amelia River. Brett’s Waterway Cafe sits along the water offering some spectacular sunset views over the river. You can also grab a cruise from Amelia River Cruises, which can give you any number of other adventures in the area. We took the opportunity to head over to Marlin and Barrel Distillery, which is just off the main drag. There you can pick up some handcrafted spirits, take a peak inside the distillery itself, and if it isn’t the middle of summer even take a quick tour. The interior of the distillery can get well over 120 degrees in the summer, so don’t dawdle if you want the tour then. If you ask nicely and the owner is there, he might even sign your bottles!

Finishing Up Your Day Trip to Amelia Island

I certainly enjoyed my day trip to Amelia Island. If you’re staying in Jacksonville, its a perfect distance to get away for a day. However, the island itself is home to many B&Bs, hotels, and campgrounds. Staying on the island itself is the ideal way to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. There is also a great lighthouse on the island that you should be sure to visit! Amelia Island is a great place to relax and unwind for a few days, and I’m already planning a little mini-vacation there. It’s certainly a gem on Florida’s North Atlantic coast.

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3 Responses

  1. Hey there! Great read and wonderful insight into some day tripping from home. The spelling is correct as you said. It’s just the way it was spelled originally. Same in Canada. Kinda like color (American version) and colour (Canadian version). It’s cultural.

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