FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – On first glance, it might seem possible to dismiss Amelia Island as another beachfront town. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of history and culture.
Located near Jacksonville in northeastern Florida, Amelia Island is a roughly six-hour drive from Atlanta. Though it’s surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Intra-coastal waterway, Nassau Sound and the Cumberland Sound, one of the East’s largest and deepest inlets, Amelia Island hardly seems like an island.
Credited as the “Birthplace of the Modern Shrimping Industry,” the island is 13 miles long and two miles wide and about 10 percent of the island is set aside as park preserves. Fernandina Beach is the only city in the United States that has been under eight different national flags, making it known as the “Isle of Eight Flags.”
“It’s a relaxing place without the hustle and bustle of other beach towns in Florida,” said Atlanta resident Ruth Mitcham who has been coming to Amelia Island for years. “The beach drew me here, but the food, history and culture make me an annual visitor.”
First time visitors to the island will want to spend some time in historic downtown Fernandina Beach. A stroll down picturesque Centre Street provides numerous choices for shopping and dining, not to mention photo opportunities.
Next, visitors should take in Fort Clinch, an extremely well-preserved 19th century fort. The structure dates to 1847, following the end of the Second Seminole War, though the area where the fort stands has been a military site since 1736.
During the Civil War, Confederate troops took control of Fort Clinch in early 1861; Union troops seized it about a year later and used Fort Clinch throughout the rest of the war. The fort was again used during the Spanish-American War, but has essentially been retired from active status since and was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1972.
One last site, the Amelia Island Museum of History, provides visitors with an overview of the island’s history, starting with its Native American occupants and continuing through modern times.