The first month of 2016 has already come to a close and February is under way, can you believe it? I am happy to report that I’ve already checked out one of the destinations on my 2016 Florida Travel list. This weekend my family whisked me away to Amelia Island for an early birthday celebration. We had less than 48 hours on the island, but we had a fantastic time. Here’s how we made the most of our Amelia Island time.
Relax on arrival day
We headed out on a Friday afternoon after I was able to leave work for an important appointment. Amelia Island is just north of Jacksonville, and I will say that heading through the Jacksonville area on a Friday night is a bit daunting. So if your weekend getaway means traveling through this area on a Friday be sure to plan for some delays and pack some patience.
Our journey from the Orlando area to Amelia Island took about three hours, not too bad. It was very tempting to head to Sliders to toast our arrival and raise a glass to the short getaway ahead of us. However, our hotel had an inviting fire pit. We opted to gather around the fire with some wine and beer, my dog Dodger at our side. Amelia Island can be a little chilly during the winter months. Thankfully on our weekend weather was mild and enjoyable.
Visit Fort Clinch in the morning
Florida has a rich and deep history. The lure of the beach, charming downtown areas, and major attractions like theme parks is hard to resist, but I strongly recommend making time in your trip to Florida to visit one or two historical sites or state parks. Fort Clinch is incredibly easy to get to no matter if your Amelia Island or Fernandina Beach accommodations are located.
The parking / vehicle entrance fee is very reasonable and the drive from the toll gate to the fort itself is actually one of the most scenic drives I’ve seen anywhere in Florida. Old oak trees create a canopy atop the long, winding drive. There are a few out coves at which you can stop and catch some beautiful vantage points. The road forks and you can choose to head toward the fort itself or to the beautiful beach and incredibly long fishing pier. I recommend starting at the fort and then make time for the beach.
Fort Clinch has an interesting history and one of the coolest set ups I’ve encountered at a state park. After paying a nominal entrance fee you can head into a small museum to get an idea of the history of this site. From here you can then head to the fort. You first walk briefly through a small wooded area before coming to a clearing. A sign beckoning you to imagine yourself in the Civil War area awaits at the start of the clearing, the impressive brick fortress just a short distance ahead.
After crossing the drawbridge you walk through a short tunnel only to emerge in the bright Florida sunshine, in the center of the fort. Like many fortresses, a wall of earth surrounds the buildings and cannons line along the top. We explored the many buildings, peering inside and walking through the rooms, imagining life in such rugged conditions.
After traveling throughout the fort and taking in the breathtaking views from up top. We gazed at the panoramic view of the water and shoreline. The waves beckoned. We heeded the call by driving back to the fork in the road and heading to the fishing pier and beach. I love how this Florida State Park can offer such a historically significant site and then a great beach and fishing pier. If you prefer to have a quieter visit to the beach then I recommend spending time at the Fort Clinch beach.
Visit Downtown Amelia Island
Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach are essentially one destination, at least from my perspective. The historic downtown area is the epicenter of dining and shopping in the area. In the Central Florida area we are fortunate enough to enjoy a variety of historic downtown areas bursting at the seams with unique shops and incredible dining. Winter Park’s Park Avenue, historic Winter Garden, and historic downtown Deland are just a few of our historic downtown treasures. A visit to downtown Fernandina rivaled my beloved Central Florida historic downtown areas.
About four full blocks of shopping and dining are ready to be enjoyed. The main street is very busy and receives the most attention, but we find our two favorite dining experiences on side streets, so be sure to take time to really explore. Some of the shops can be a little pricey, but we took advantage of the sales that were happening because of the transition from winter clothing into spring and summer selections. I got such a sale at Go Fish Clothing and Jewelry, and even snagged a good deal on sundress so I’m already ready for summer!
The weather was spectacular so we opted to dine al fresco at Café Karibu. We had a lovely lunch! Later on in the evening we ventured to 29 South and had an unforgettable meal. Both restaurants were so great that they require their own post, which I’ll have published in just a few days.
Amelia Island has been on my must do Florida list for quite some time, it’s kind of a shame that it took this long to get there. There is history, there is charm, there is beauty, and most of all there is life lived on island time.