Northeast Florida heritage and history is unique and will be on your mind as you drive the beautiful beaches and old towns.
In addition to tourism, the area also has a solid industrial base and a lot of insurance company jobs.
Jacksonville is sometimes known as "The Hartford of The South" because so many insurance companies are headquartered here.
This diverse economy means that tourism is not the only game in town.
Northeast Florida is divided from Georgia by the St. Marys River. There are 7 counties in northeast Florida. The western counties are rural, but the region is crowned by Jacksonville, one of Florida's major cities.
Jacksonville is called by some the "Capital of South Georgia" because so many of its residents come from the pineywoods farms and towns around Waycross, Baxley, Valdosta and other south Georgia communities. The resulting Northeast Florida heritage is southern. Jacksonville, for example, has a Confederate Park and many memorials around town to the "Lost Cause".
Fernandina Beach is on the north end of Amelia Island. This town is the northernmost in Florida. It was booming long before Jacksonville was even on the map. Senator David Yulee built a railroad from Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key. This was years before Henry Flagler extended his railroad down the east coast changing St. Augustine history forever.
Fernandina and St. Marys across the river in Georgia each have thriving shrimping industries. Like the Floribama beaches, Fernandina Beach is also known as the "redneck riviera" for the multitudes of vacationing south Georgians. Summer is the tourist season in north Florida.
Amelia Island is one of the large barrier islands along the coast known as the Golden Isles. Cumberland Island and Jekyll Island to the north are in Georgia. They are part of this chain of isles noted for their beautiful beaches and forested sand dunes. State Road A1A is the main travel route from north to south on Amelia Island. You will get to take the car ferry from Ft. George Island across the St. Johns River to the fishing village of Mayport.
Amelia Island is unique in Florida history. It is the only place in the United States to have been under 8 different flags: French, Spanish, British, American Patriots, Green Cross of Florida, Mexican, Confederate and United States. Northeast Florida heritage includes touches of many of these cultures.
Amelia Island Plantation is a beautiful resort and residential community. It was one of the first modern developments to be designed in harmony with nature. Like many innovative projects, the original developer went broke.
The annual Florida-Georgia football game is played in Jacksonville each year. It was picked because it is about halfway between Athens, Georgia, and Gainesville, Florida. It is one of the most important pageants in Florida history.
Jacksonville offers some locational neutrality. University of Florida and University of Georgia fans get very emotional about their teams. It's like the Civil War: cousins against cousins. The annual gathering of the fans for this event is known as "the world's largest outdoor cocktail party".
Gator and Bulldog fans still use this moniker even though alcohol has been banned from the stadium itself in recent years. Once you're in the stadium it's hard to tell which Cracker fan is who without the school colors.
Gators wear orange and blue, Dawgs wear red and black.
No trip to Northeast Florida is complete without a visit to St. Augustine. America's oldest continually occupied city, it is an unbelievable mixture of past and present. In one sense, it is as Southern as any small north Florida town. It has always been the center of commerce for the little farms in St. Johns, Flagler, and southern Duval Counties.
On the other hand, it is loaded with an eclectic combination of gaudy tourist attractions standing side by side with authentic old Spanish structures nearly 450 years old. It is a unique place. I first visited it in 1960 while on weekend liberty from my ship in Jacksonville. I stayed in a small boarding house. That same boarding house is still there in 2018, but is now a trendy bed and breakfast. The thing about Northeast Florida heritage is that although it changes, it stays the same in many respects.