By  Mike Miller  Updated March 24, 2024

Fernandina Beach, Florida Things To Do, Lodging, Dining, & Real Estate At End Of Article

Fernandina Beach, Florida is on the coast of Northeast Florida as far north on the Atlantic Coast as you can get in the Sunshine State.  The city is a natural deep water seaport 26 miles north of Jacksonville.

It is on the south bank of the St. Marys River that divides Florida and Georgia.  Perched on the north end of Amelia Island, the northernmost barrier island of Florida's Atlantic Coast.

Downtown Fernandina BeachDowntown Fernandina Beach

Amelia Island Florida is part of Nassau County, which is included in the Jacksonville metropolitan area.  Fernandina Beach is the county seat.

Amelia City and American Beach are also two historic communities on the small island.

Fernandina Beach was one of Florida's first major cities.  The downtown area of the town preserves and displays many of the old historic buildings.  


The history of Fernandina Beach is so confusing that only a history professor can understand it fully.

It is the only United States location to have been under eight different flags.

Jean Ribault Plants the Flag of FranceJean Ribault Plants the Flag of France

Its fortunes rose and fell with the fate of Spain, France, England, The Confederate States of America, the English American Colonies and the United States of America.

Fernandina thrived in the years just before and after the U.S. Civil War, and up until just after 1900.

Postcard of the Beach at FernandinaPostcard of the Beach at Fernandina

Fort Clinch was built in 1847, and in the 1850's Fernandina became the eastern terminus of Florida's first cross-state railroad. 

The railroad was built by Senator David Levy Yulee who planned the eastern and western terminals at deep water ports to facilitate ocean shipping. The railroad ran from Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico.

He was also prominent as a United States Senator.  He was elected as Florida was admitted as a state in 1845, holding that position until 1851.

He was then re-elected in 1855, working until he resigned in 1861 to support the Confederacy. He was briefly imprisoned after the war and then later pardoned.

U.S. Post Office, Fernandina BeachU.S. Post Office, Fernandina Beach

Tourists came by steamboat from New York and other northern cities down to the state of Florida and Fernandina became a popular destination.

Visitors loved to stay in the city's beautiful hotels and enjoy the pristine beaches, much like today.

Vintage Postcard Keystone Hotel, Fernandina BeachVintage Postcard Keystone Hotel, Fernandina Beach

The shipping industry boomed with outgoing cargoes of lumber, naval stores and phosphate, and incoming loads of tourists.

Old Town in Fernandina BeachOld Town in Fernandina Beach

By the early 1900's, however, the tourism trade had moved south to St. Augustine, and Fernandina became somewhat isolated. 


Today Fernandina Beach it is a bustling little city of about 13,052 people living within the city limits. 

Probably at least that many more live on that part of Amelia Island not within the city limits.

It is a self sufficient place with a solid paper industry, a shrimp fleet, and plenty of service industry jobs generated by the affluent retirement and second home communities of southern Amelia Island.

Victorian Home in Fernandina BeachVictorian Home in Fernandina Beach


The historic district of Fernandina has been carefully preserved.  Many houses and buildings remain as proof that this was a very prosperous town.

Centre Street, Fernandina Beach
Centre Street, Fernandina Beach
Photographic Destinations by Bob Kyle

There are dozens of unique shops along with good restaurants and cafes, live music and horse-drawn carriage and trolley tours. 

You can enjoy a leisurely sunny day or warm evening strolling along the main artery, Centre Street.

One spot you may want to stop in is a place called The Palace Saloon, which bills itself as the oldest continuously running bar in Florida, opening in 1903.

It even remained open during prohibition, where the owner made money selling gasoline, ice cream, cigars, and according to local lore, a bit of his own whiskey.

After prohibition it returned to its full glory, welcoming locals, élite visitors including the Rockefellers and Carnegies, along with passing ship captains.

Episcopal Church, Fernandina Beach
Episcopal Church, Fernandina Beach
Photographic Destinations by Bob Kyle

Several of the large Victorian houses, along with the entire "Old Town" district, the now downtown district, the "jail" (now the historic museum) and the lighthouse are all registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fernandina Beach has managed to keep its charm as a quiet beach community and still offer many things to do.

The island is also known for having some of the best golf courses in north Florida.

These range from nice public municipal courses to Arnold Palmer-designed courses at the Golf Club of North Hampton to the Pete Dye course and golf vacation packages offered at the Omni Amelia Island Resort.

The island has 13 miles of beautiful beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and Fernandina has over 40 public beach access points. Although many do not have parking facilities they are generally walkable from where you are staying.

Numbered north to south, starting at Main Beach Park. This popular beach park has 2 sand volleyball courts, outdoor showers, a playground and a skateboard facility.

It is ADA accessible, with a special matted ramp to allow easier travel for wheelchairs and strollers over sand, a floating beach wheelchair and 3 upright beach wheelchairs that can be rented.


The City of Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island are blessed with a variety of lodging places.  Accomodations range from the simplest of Mom and Pop motels to the Ritz Carlton (which is fantastic!), and prices vary accordingly.

I have a few suggestions to make:

  • Amelia Schoolhouse Inn was originally built in 1886 and was completely restored in 2018 and is now a 17 room boutique inn in the heart of downtown Fernandina.  Many of the original wood floors, brick, windows and more have been meticulously renovated. Tel: 904-320-0918.  
  • Holiday Inn Express, Days Inn, Comfort Inn and other national low cost chains have locations at the I-95 exit.

  • The Amelia Island Williams House is one of several wonderful bed and breakfast inns located in the historic downtown area of Fernandina Beach. The rooms are large, and feature whirlpool tubs. A southern breakfast is served, and wine is served on the verandah at sunset. Tel: 800-414-9258. 
Palace Saloon in Fernandina BeachPalace Saloon in Fernandina Beach
Flickr/Steven Martin


  • Amelia Island's annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is Fernandina Beach's biggest event. It is held every year the first weekend in May, attracting more than 100,000 visitors. The art show is well attended and has over 300 booths. The Festival features live musical entertainment at the riverfront stage, shrimp dishes cooked in many different ways, a decorated shrimp boat contest, and plenty for kids to do. Friday night has fireworks, and the harbor is invaded by a pirate ship.

  • The Amelia Island Museum of History is well worth a visit. Located in the former Nassau County jail, the museum has articles from the Timucuan tribe, the Spanish and French explorers, and mementos from the other diverse cultures that are the heritage of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach. 233 South Third Street, Fernandina Beach. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 am-4 pm, and Sunday has afternoon hours from 1 pm-4 pm. Telephone 904-261-7378.

  • Amelia Island Lighthouse, the oldest working lighthouse in the state, was built in 1838 and first used before Florida was officially a state, lighting the way for countless ships. Tours are limited and visitors are not permitted to climb the stairs inside but you can learn more about the area's history.
Fernandina Harbor MarinaFernandina Harbor Marina
  • Fort Clinch State Park is one of the best preserved 19th century forts in the United States. It is part of the Florida State Park system. It was used during both the Civil and Spanish-American wars, although it never saw combat.

    You will enjoy the daily tours of the fort. Re-enactors dressed in period uniforms will chat you up and you will feel like you took a time machine back in years. 

    The family-friendly park also has a wonderful campground, picnic shelters, and plenty of trails to hike and bike among historic oaks and abundant plants.

    Wildlife you may see include deer, armadillos, gopher tortoises, and many species of birds. The park also offers many water activities including swimming, fishing, shelling and shark tooth hunting along the beaches.
  • The Amelia River offers a variety of popular activities, from river tours and private charters to watch for dolphins, manatees and other wildlife to evening cruises to watch the beautiful red hued sunsets.
Fernandina Beach Florida Fort ClinchFort Clinch, Fernandina Beach, Florida


  1. Visit Fort Clinch State Park: a historical site with a museum and living history demonstrations.

  2. Stroll down Centre Street: a charming street lined with local shops and restaurants.

  3. Amelia Island Historic District: a historic district featuring beautiful 19th-century homes and buildings.

  4. Take a boat tour: explore the waterways and wildlife of Amelia Island on a guided boat tour.

  5. Go beachcombing: Fernandina Beach is known for its miles of pristine beaches, perfect for shelling and relaxing.

  6. Visit the Amelia Island Lighthouse: one of the oldest lighthouses in Florida, now a museum.

  7. Play Golf: Amelia Island is home to several golf courses, including the Golf Club of Amelia Island.

  8. Shop for local arts and crafts: find unique gifts and souvenirs at the Fernandina Beach Market Place.

  9. Visit historic American Beach and its museum.  An early resort for African Americans in the Jim Crow era.

Fernandina Beach Florida is about 11 miles east of I-95 Exit 373. This exit is about 10 miles south of the Georgia-Florida border.

Travel east through Yulee on SR-A1A, also known as The Buccaneer Trail, and shown as Highway 1A on this Google map.

Continue on SR-A1A east to Amelia Island, then follow the road as it bends north into Fernandina's historic downtown section.


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