|Beautiful, peaceful, scenic and I want to go back are my thoughts on Amelia Island. Needless to say, Amelia Island and the Fernandina Historic District deserves much more than just a day of your time. But since this is what we had, we made the most of it on our trip to Northern Florida. My daughter-in-law Stacy booked a boat ride and that is what brought us to beach that is the only place on US soil to have been under the control of 8 flags.
The original settlers to the area were the Native Americans associated with the Timucuan mound-building culture. They settled on Amelia Island about 1000. The first Europeans to arrive were the French. Jean Ribault, the French explorer, landed in 1562 and named the island Isle de Mar
The French established Fort Caroline. I stopped at the Fort ruins on a previous trip. The French colony though was short-lived because Spanish forces led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles drove out the French in 1565. It was a violent take over, the Spanish killed Ribault and 350 French colonists. In1573, Spanish Franciscans established the Santa Maria mission on the island and renamed it Isla de Santa Maria. Fernandina was settled in 1685 and flourished until British raiders destroyed the town in 1702. After that, the area was deserted for many years. A familiar name to history buffs may be that of James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, who arrived and scouted the area. According to Florida Historic Places, “He found peach trees, orange groves, and deserted fields. He renamed the island “Amelia Island” in honor of princess Amelia, the daughter of King George II of England. Florida and Fernandina came under British rule. The English flag was raised as the third flag in 1763. During the American Revolution, Fernandina became home for English Loyalists fleeing the colonies.”
Rule on Amelia Island switched in 1783 when Spain again controlled Florida. This opened up a huge smuggling harbor for slaves, liquor and other items. For a day the Patriots of Amelia Island attempted to transfer Amelia Island to control of the United States. They flew the US flag, however, their plan failed and Spain regained control. In 1817, Scotsman Sir Gregor MacGregor and 55 men captured Amelia from its Spanish defenders. Historic Places in Florida states, “They raised their own Green Cross of Florida flag, which became the fifth flag. Smuggling and slave trading were still thriving. That same year after MacGregor had already gone, pirate Luis Aury sailed with his armada of three ships into the harbor. Three days later he hoisted the Republic of Mexico flag, the sixth flag. He declared himself ruler of the island. Fernandina became a pirate haven and location for buried treasure. Aury was run out of Fernandina by a United States Naval force.”
In 1821, the United States took control of the territory from Spain and it remained in US hands until a brief time during the Civil War when the harbor fell into Confederate hands. There is the whole American history which is also quite fascinating and was covered a bit on our boat ride.
Before we boarded for Stacy’s first ocean voyage, we took in the little shops and tried lunch at the Florida Inn which is Florida’s oldest surviving hotel. I would love to stay sometime in this beautiful place where they served up true southern cooking with biscuits and corn bread that could melt in your mouth.
It wasn’t long after we were out to see before we saw dolphins. It was a cool ride and the sights and the stories we heard made the cruise go by quickly with us hanging on every word. We learned about the island filled with rattle snakes, about Cumberland, Island and the amazing history of this barrier island
Cumberland Island has an amazing history of Spanish, Revolutionary War and then mansions built by the Carnegie family. Wild horses roam the island and it is now a National Park. While visits are restricted to so many, visitors can stay at the lovely Greyfield Inn.
During our ride we passed through the breeding ground for hammer head sharks and passed by Fort Clinch where construction began in 1847. The Fort was occupied by both the Confederate and Union armies during the Civil War and during the Spanish-American War soldiers were camped at Fort Clinch.
There is much to see and do in Amelia Island and I want to go back!