Voted one of the best beaches in Florida, Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island is a stunning choice for a vacation. But a trip here doesn’t have to mean the usual parade of watersport activities, sunbaking and beach lounging. If you want to take a detour from the regular beach holiday, Fernandina has some surprising treasures to explore. Here are the best things to do for a unique and memorable family trip to Fernandina Beach, Fl!
1. Admire the quirky architecture
Take the time to venture off the beaten tourist trail and explore some of the stunning Victorian architecture of Old Town. Amelia Island has some wonderful old houses, with colorful histories and the Fernandina area is no exception. Arguably, the most notable Victorian house in Fernandina is one opposite the Plaza San Carlos. Captain’s House/Downes House, affectionately known by the locals as “Pippy Longstocking House” because it was used as the set for the popular 1988 film “The Adventures of Pippy Longstocking,” is a fantastic example of the eccentric Victorian style. While not open to the public, you are welcome to take photos and the enthusiastic folks at Amelia Island Museum of History will happily tell you about the house’s history. If you like a little more structure to your wanderings, you can take a guided walking tour of historic Fernandina Beach, or, for the more adventurous, a ghost tour!
Amelia Island Ghost Tours
Address: 96215 Light Wind Drive, 32034 Fernandina, FL
Website: Amelia Island Ghost Tours
Walking tours of historic Fernandina Beach
Address: 233 South Third Street, 32034 Fernandina Beach, FL
2. Visit Fort Clinch
Fort Clinch was built in 1846 and is essentially a living history museum. Staff re-enacts daily life at the fort, and if you time your visit to coincide with the first weekend of the month, a whole garrison of soldiers perform demonstrations of a cannon firing, small arms, carpentry, masonry, and cooking, to name a few. Open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., admission is 2 USD per person, in addition to the 6 USD entry fee to Fort Clinch State Park. The park itself is open until sunset and offers a range of activities including hiking and nature trails, cycling, surfing, bird watching, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing- so you are sure to find something to keep everybody happy. If you feel so inclined, there are camping and RV sites available in the state park from 33 USD a night.
Address: 2601 Atlantic Ave, 32034 Fernandina Beach, FL
Website: Fort Clinch
3. Watch sea turtles
Florida is famous for nesting sea turtles, including the endangered loggerhead, leatherback and green turtles. Nesting and hatching seasons run from March to October. Time your vacation right, and you will get to witness a truly remarkable and unique natural wonder. Fernandina Beach is one of only a few beaches in the entire world that make up these turtle’s nesting habitats, so if you get to see this event you are truly fortunate. To see the turtles, it is best to go with an organized walking tour group led by a guide who knows the State and Federal laws around what is and isn’t permissible.
You can find tours that are free, but some can cost up to 20 USD. You will need to be able to walk about two miles up the beach in the sand, so if you have very small children, a baby carrier might be a good idea. Turtle watching is a very popular activity as it is so unique, and tours fill up fast, so be sure to book in advance to avoid being disappointed. It’s worth pointing out that in the high nesting season you may only need to take a walk on the beach in the late evening to witness this event. If you choose not to go with a guide, make sure you read up on what you should and shouldn’t do, to avoid disturbing the mother turtle.
Amelia Island sea turtle watch
Website: Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch
4. Visit a festival
Throughout the year Amelia Island hosts many festivals, the two most famous being The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival and the Concours D’ Elegance. Visiting a festival here will mean you must plan your vacation to coincide with these events, but it is definitely worthwhile if you are seeking something a little bit different. The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is a celebration of Amelia Island’s local history, where visitors can eat delicious local food featuring lots of shrimp, and learn about the history of this unique part of Florida. Pirate enthusiasts can witness a pirate parade at the day before the festival begins. Usually held the first weekend of May, the next one takes place on May 4 to 6, 2018.
The Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance is held annually at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and is a veritable feast for classic car enthusiasts. A Classic car competition and Silent Auction, the Concours can be an interesting outing for families with children of all ages with opportunities to see some of the rarest and most beautiful cars in the country. The next scheduled date for this event is March 9 to 11, 2018.
Island of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival
Address: Historic Downtown Centre Street, 32034 Fernandina Beach, Florida
Website: Shrimp Festival
Address: 4750 Amelia Island Pkwy, 32034 Fernandina Beach, FL
Website: Amelia Concours D’ Elegance
5. Explore the Amelia Island Museum of History
Amelia Island has many museums that celebrate its’ rich and unique history, but the one that is going to give you the most bang for your buck is, without question, the Amelia Island Museum of History. As Florida’s first “Spoken History” museum, this is a great alternative if you have children who aren’t into reading long and wordy display plaques. The staff of this museum shares the local history via a series of stories. There are exhibits about the native tribes of the area, the civil war era, the Spanish influence on Florida, and an interactive exhibit designed especially for children called “The Discovery Ship”.
Admission is priced at 8 USD for adults, with 5 USD entry for children, active service members and students (valid ID is required). If you like your history a little more active, the museum offers a range of tours around the historic parts of the island for an added fee. Fees vary from tour to tour but are generally under 10 USD.
You can choose from walking tours lasting from 90 to 120 minutes, or for the less mobile, bus or van tours. If you don’t have minors with you, or just fancy some time away from the kids, the museum also offers a historic pub tour. If you’d like to take one of these tours, a little planning is needed as bookings are required 24 hours in advance.
Amelia Island Museum of History
Address: 233 South Third Street, 32034 Fernandina Beach, FL
Website: Amelia Island Museum of History
6. Take a tour of the Marlin and Barrel Distillery
Established in 2015, this distillery specializes in small batch, hand-crafted rum, vodka, and gin as well as some more local specialties like orangecello and grapefruitcello. Located on South 2nd street, Fernandina Beach, tours are free and, if you are 21 or over, so are the samples! The very knowledgeable staff and owners will happily answer any questions you have about the distilling process, the history of the building and the story of the company. If you are looking for a unique and memorable souvenir of your time in Fernandina, a bottle of your favorite tipple from this artisan company may be the very thing. The owner has been known to date and autograph bottles, a move sure to keep your vacation memories alive long after the bottle is empty!
Marlin and Barrel Disitllery
Address: 115 South 2nd Street, 32034 Fernandina Beach, FL
Website: Marlin and Barrel Distillery
Fantastic times await you in Fernandina Beach
If you’d like a change from all that relaxing on the beach, or maybe your children aren’t quite old enough to enjoy the more traditional beach activities that Florida offers, whatever your interests, Fernandina has some surprising and fascinating family-friendly alternatives to make your vacation truly memorable.
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