Before I traveled to Amelia Island with my friends, I had a lot of questions about Fernandina Beach’s historic district, like (1) in a 50-block historic district, where’s all the action at? (2) How old are the buildings? (3) What’s there to do during the day? And (4) what’s open late? My goal was to plan one day’s worth of activities in the historical district, but I didn’t know where to start. I had to answer all of these questions for myself, and now I am passing the answers down to you.
Where’s the action?
Despite the relatively large size of the historic district, most of the publicly-accessible buildings (not private residences) are all clustered together in the 6 blocks surrounding Centre Street near the water. This is the area with most of the shops, restaurants, and bars.
How old are the buildings?
Most of the buildings in Amelia Island’s historic district were built after the Civil War, around 1878. Before the war, the town of Fernandina was established by the Spanish, and was located about 2 miles north of here in the area presently known as Old Town. When Union troops came to occupy Amelia Island during the Civil War, the vast majority of Fernandina residents fled town. They destroyed much of the town on their way out, making sure that little was left for Union troops to take advantage of. But there was a downside: once Union troops left the area and the residents returned, the town of Fernandina had to be rebuilt. And so the Spanish Colonial was replaced with the American Vernacular.
What’s there to do during the day?
There’s a lot of stuff to do during the day in the historic district. Here are my favorites:
- Take a docent-led walking tour of the historic district, such as those offered by the Amelia Island Museum of History: http://ameliamuseum.org/tours-2/. I chose the pub tour. In case you missed it, the photos from that tour are here: http://flillustrated.com/2016/06/17/a-pub-crawl-with-history-fernandina-beach/
- Cruise down the Amelia River. These cruises take off from the marina at the intersection of Front and Centre. No pun intended. There are a lot of great options via Amelia River Cruises, including a sunset cruise and a tour of Cumberland Island: http://ameliarivercruises.com/. I took so many photos on the sunset cruise that I will have to devote a separate blog post just to this cruise.
- Eat shrimp. Amelia Island is considered the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, and there are a lot of great restaurants in the historic district that are serving local shrimp. Stay tuned for my friend Anne Tsang’s guest post on dining in Amelia Island.
- Shop (and Sounds on Centre). We piggy-backed our shopping onto the city event “Sounds on Centre.” “Sounds on Centre” is a free monthly concert held on Centre Street on the first Friday of each month, from April through October (excluding May). Everyone sets up their lawn chairs on Centre Street to listen to the concert. We drove into the historic district early and did some shopping while we waited for the band to set up. The Fernandina Beach historic district is full of great galleries and gift shops, including The Book Loft, Corner Copia, Christmas on the River, and La Torre’s Gallery and Gifts on Centre Street. There is also a cluster of art galleries on Ash & Third.
- Tour the Marlin & Barrel Distillery. Technically, I skipped this one, but I know it was one of my friends’ favorite things in this area. They spoke very highly of their orangecello and vodka.
What’s open late?
Bars, bars, and more bars. I already mentioned The Palace Saloon (open until 2am) in my June 17th post, A Pub Crawl with History, but here are few more bars to try:
- Green Turtle Tavern, 14 S 3rd Street-open until 1am
- Amelia Tavern Restaurant & Bar, 318 Centre St. – open until 11pm
- Dog Star Tavern, 10 N 2nd St – open until 2am
Where do I start?
If you have no idea where you’re going, then the welcome center is a good place to start. You can pick up a visitor’s guide to Amelia Island and a pamphlet containing a self-directed walking tour of the historic district. Afterwards, you can walk across Front Street to the marina and make a reservation for an Amelia Island River cruise.
Are there any hotels in the historic district?
Yes, but they are mostly historical inns and bed & breakfasts.
Here’s a list of them:
- The Florida House Inn on 3rd
- The Fairbanks House on 7th
- The Addison House on Ash St.
- The Hoyt House on Atlantic Avenue
- The Blue Heron Inn on 7th
Not only can you eat, drink, and shop in Fernandina Beach’s historic district, but you can also stay there. If you’re not big into the beach, and prefer to stay at a place with lots of restaurants and bars in walking distance, then you may want to consider staying in the historic district instead of staying on one of the island’s beaches.