Sandy beach pads the Atlantic shores of Amelia Island, a sea swirled barrier island just off Florida’s northeast coast that attracts paddlers, anglers, nature enthusiasts, beach lovers and in swashbuckling centuries past, a pack of pirates. Peg-legged corsairs no longer sail this stretch of warm sea, though there are glimpse of them here and there to be found around this pleasant coastal spot. Importantly, Amelia Island is also the spot where “shrimping” as we know it today, began, which equates in tourist terms to plenty of fresh seafood and a lively annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, amongst other things.
At a mere 13 miles in length and four miles at its widest, Amelia Island’s expanse can be easily explored on foot, on a bike, or on horseback, with beach-side gallops ranking a top-pick for area activity. Avid golfers will find no fewer than five good greens around this Atlantic isle, while those less interested in making par can swing instead on to cultural attractions like Amelia Island Museum of History, housed in the island’s old gaol, or Fort Clinch State Park, named for its 19th-century brick fort. Ferdinanda Beach, the former haunt of pirates, is a small town that now boasts an atmospheric downtown district endowed with assorted historic buildings, including quaint estates dating back to the heyday salty sea captains (and is also home to the region’s oldest saloon still in service).
Within easy reach of Ferdinanda Beach is actual beach, including sandy stretches like Main Beach or those at Fort Clinch State Park; there are also designated drive-on beach areas, though steer for soft sand at your own risk. In addition to leisurely strolls along the shore, look for several miles of hiking and biking trails around Fort Clinch State Park.
Amelia Island is linked by a short ferry ride to Jacksonville and by bridge to the Florida mainland.