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FERNANDINA BEACH,  FLORIDA

Fernandina Beach, Florida is as far northeast as you can get in the Sunshine State.  

It is on the south bank of the St. Marys River that divides Florida and Georgia.

Perched on the north end of Amelia Island, it is a natural deep water seaport.

It was one of Florida's first major cities.

The downtown area of the town preserves and displays many of the old historic buildings.  

FERNANDINA BEACH HISTORY

Postcard of the Beach at FernandinaPostcard of the Beach at Fernandina

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.

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.

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

France

The first recorded visitor to Amelia Island was the French admiral and explorer, Jean Ribault. He arrived in May of 1562 and found the area populated by Timucuan Indians.

He claimed the island "Isle de Mai" for the month of May, and claimed it for France.


Spain

The Spanish came along 5 years later and claimed it for Spain.  The Spaniards stuck around for almost 200 years, and in 1686 they built Fort San Fernando located in the area of Fernandina Beach now called Old Town.  They called the island Santa Maria.


England

Then the English came along and wiped out the Spanish and renamed the island for Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II.  For a few years they called it Egmont after the Earl of Egmont's big indigo plantation.  After the Revolutionary War, the victorious Americans took the island from the English and gave it back to Spain.


Patriots of Amelia Island

In 1812 a group called "Patriots of Amelia Island" kicked the Spanish out and raised their own flag.  The next day they raised the U.S. flag, but Spain demanded the island be returned, so it became Spanish again.


Green Cross Standard

In 1817 an adventurer named Sir Gregor MacGregor captured the Spanish Fort San Carlos, and he raised his own flag, the Green Cross standard.


Mexican Rebel Flag

Then a couple of rebels and a pirate gained control from Sir Gregor and raised the Mexican Rebel flag.The United States quickly booted these guys out and held Amelia Island in trust for Spain.


Confederate States of America

Amelia Island finally became United States soil in 1821 when Florida became a territory.

During the first year of the civil war, however, the island was under the Confederate flag.


United States of America

Old Glory was raised again in 1862, and the last time I checked,  Amelia Island is still under the flag of 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.

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. It's western terminus was Cedar Key.

Downtown Fernandina BeachDowntown 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.Tourists came by steamboat from New York and other northern cities to stay in the city's beautiful hotels.

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 it is a bustling little town of about 11,000 souls.

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.

FERNANDINA BEACH FLORIDA MOTELS

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:

  • 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. 


Fernandina Beach Florida Palace SaloonPalace Saloon

FERNANDINA BEACH FLORIDA ATTRACTIONS

  • 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, 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. The museum has articles from the Timucuan tribe, the Spanish and French explorers, and mementoes 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 1 pm-4 pm. Telephone 904-261-7378.

Fort Clinch 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. Tel: 904-277-7274.

Fernandina Beach Florida Fort ClinchFort Clinch, Fernandina Beach, Florida

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.

Recommended Fernandina Beach Restaurant

The Crab Trap
31 North 2nd Street
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
Tel: 904-261-4749

The Crab Trap in downtown Fernandina has been family owned and operated for more than 30 years.  It is located in The Seydel Building,  a historic structure built in the 1870s.

The restaurant began operations in this building during Shrimp Festival Weekend in 1979.  The operation is owned by Richard Germano and his daughter, Holly, and many crew members have been on board for years.

The menu has a large selection of seafood and steak specials, including an interesting appetizer menu featuring colossal onion rings, fried cheese sticks, and fresh Florida gator tail.  In addition to the soup of the day, you can try their excellent fresh blue crab soup.  It features blue crab claw meat in a buttery milky broth.

They have a huge selection of seafood specialties including what they call "crabs, crabs, & more crabs".  These are typically Alaskan snow crab, Dungeness Crab, and King Crab.  Some of the seafood entrees are shrimp and grits, shrimp creole, and a seafood medley casserole that includes bay scallops and blue crab claw meat.

There is a large selection of fish, including Mahi Mahi and their fresh catch of the day.  The menu features many oyster dishes, including raw oysters on the half shell.  All entrees include side orders like salads, hush puppies, sweet potatoes, green beans, and steamed vegetables.

Land lubbers are not forgotten and can enjoy rib eye and New York strip steaks, or hand cut chicken tenders.  The senior and children's menu even includes pizza, hamburger and chicken fingers.  

This restaurant has a full bar with a wide selection of cocktails and wine.  Locals and tourists alike enjoy going to the upstairs bar to sip a few and watch the sun set over the marina.  It's one of the best sunsets in Florida.

The Crab Trap does not accept reservations, and is open for dinner 7 days a week from 4:30 pm to 9:00 pm.  Check with them before you go because sometimes they open earlier for special events and popular weekends.



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