Visiting Amelia Island, Florida

This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on May 23, 2012.  To see a slideshow of photos I took while visiting Amelia Island, click here to go to my photography blog.

In May I had the pleasure of going on vacation to Amelia Island, Florida with my favorite three boys and in-laws. Amelia Island is located in northeast Florida just below Cumberland Island and the Georgia border. It has 13 miles of beaches, lots of attractions, and all the amenities that we’re used to at home, but I’m afraid I can’t speak about many of those because we spent almost all our time on the beach!

We were lucky enough to be able to walk from our accommodation to the beach.  I have always been a mountain person, but after visiting the ocean with my boys, I have found a second love at the ocean.  What I especially loved about Amelia Island was how quiet it was on the beach.  There were very few other people, though I have a feeling part of the reason for that was going in early May.  I also noticed that on Saturday there were quite a few more people.

Mid-day was hot and the tide was in, so there was less beach, but in the evening around six o’clock, the tide was low.  The beach was wide and full of tidal pools.  This is what my boys loved the most – they are still a little wary of going into the ocean waves.

My five-year-old explored the tidal pools and searched for all the treasures to be had there. We saw three large horseshoe crabs – only one was still alive.  My son was delighted to find a beautiful purple and orange starfish, and we also found little fish and several kinds of crabs, including hermit crabs. We took pictures of everything we couldn’t keep.

My two-year-old loved sitting in the sand, digging with a small shovel and tossing the sand as far as it could go – something he’s not allowed to do with the dirt in our yard. He also liked for me to pick him up and swing him over the ocean waves.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget his laughter and expression of pure joy.

The highlights of our beach combing were daddy’s mission to find shark teeth, and together we found over 10 teeth. And on our last day, my five-year-old and I took a long trek down the beach in search of a leatherback sea turtle’s nest, and though I feared my son might crash on such a long walk, we accomplished our mission, saw the protected nest, and made it back.

We explored the quaint downtown area of Fernandina Beach.  According to the Nassau County’s visitor’s guide, it’s the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, and the 50-block downtown district is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Fernandina Beach is also the only place in the United States to have been under eight flags starting with the French occupation in 1564, Spanish occupation from 1565-1763, and the British occupation from 1763-1784.

Next came the Patriots flag in 1812.  The Patriots consisted of 70 Georgians and 9 Floridians who tried to establish the “Territory of East Florida,” but President James Madison refused to acknowledge their claim.  After this, the Green Cross Flag rose briefly in 1817 when American citizens desired the independence of Florida, but after only four months, they were forced to leave.   The Mexican Revolutionary Flag was raised right after that, but U.S. troops occupied the island in December 1817 and held it “in trust for Spain.”

In 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States of America.  From 1861-1862, the National Flag of the Confederacy was raised, but Federal troops regained the island on March 3, 1862 and stayed there for the rest of war.

If you want a place to get away and relax that offers plenty of sights, historical locations, and pristine beaches, I highly recommend Amelia Island.  We had a vacation we’ll never forget, and I hope we can return someday.

To see a slideshow of photos I took while visiting Amelia Island, click here to go to my photography blog.

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