Friday, August 17, 2012

Amelia Island Escapes

"Long before we saw the sea, its spray was on our lips, and showered salt rain upon us."  ~ Charles Dickens

I hope you have enjoyed our escape to Amelia Island, Fla. This quaint little island beckons with historic homes, unique shops and delicious eateries. Historic Fernandina Beach draws visitors downtown, but we can't leave without dipping our toes in the sand, taking in some water views, and breathing deeply some salty sea air.

Amelia Island boasts Atlantic Ocean views, with beaches so wide and flat that many visitors park their vehicles on the sand. Along with gathering shells and playing in the surf, beach goers can enjoy bicycling or horseback riding on the beach. We enjoyed visiting this lesser-known Florida destination because even when we visited in peak-season July, the beaches were not crowded.

We visited Amelia Island during a pretty rainy week. One afternoon, storm clouds rolled in just as we made it to the beach. We were a little crestfallen to leave the sand, but after the thunderstorm passed, all was forgotten when we caught glimpses of one of the most beautiful ocean views we have ever seen. 

We were piddling along the road that runs parallel to the beach when the sun came out. Passing beach houses along the edge of the sand, we caught glimpses of a rainbow so lovely we had to pull over so I could take photos of the ocean vista. What could be lovelier than this stunning view?

How about a double rainbow that spans the entire ocean view? I hopped out of the car and slipped between two houses under construction to capture photos of the prettiest rainbow I have ever seen. Can you imagine looking out your living room window at such a view? (The rainbow, that is -- not me lurking on the patio with camera in hand.)

The downtown area of Fernandina Beach sits on the banks of the Amelia River. Tourists can take in sunset views with a cruise on the deck of the boat pictured above on the right. Mary Ashley and I opted for a morning cruise to nearby Cumberland Island, Ga.. We saw some amazing views and learned some interesting tidbits about the area.

Mary Ashley thought it was neat that we would pass in and out of Georgia on our Amelia River excursion.

Amelia Island is known as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. Sadly, our tour guide explained that imported shrimp has hurt the domestic shrimping industry as more consumers choose cheaper, farm-raised shrimp.


Our Amelia Island River Cruise introduced us to some area attractions I hope to explore on future trips to Amelia Island.

Cumberland Island, Georgia


Tops on my list is a visit to Cumberland Island, Ga. Cumberland Island is the largest sea island of the Southeastern United States, in terms of continuously exposed land. Most of the 40-square-mile island's natural habitat has been preserved and is maintained by the National Park Service. In generations past, the Carnegies fell in love with Cumberland Island and built impressive mansions there, where they entertained many of the world's wealthiest and most influential people. Sadly, a couple of the island's mansions have burned, but their remains intrigue visitors to the island. Greyfield still stands -- built as a private home by Thomas and Lucy Carnegie in 1900, and converted into an inn by their daughter Lucy R. Ferguson in 1962.

From the river boat, we caught glimpses of the beautiful white Greyfield Inn. Find out more about this luxury hotel here. Cumberland Island became a popular wedding destination when John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Carolyn Bessette secretly wed on the island. According to our tour guide, JFK Jr. spent many carefree summer days exploring Cumberland Island as a boy. Greyfield Inn played host to the Kennedy family during the wedding festivities. You can read more about the wedding here.

Greyfield Inn is still owned and managed by Carnegie descendants. Above, this Carnegie grandchild's home is visible from the water.

Greyfield Inn offers luxury accommodations, but travellers looking for a more rustic experience can camp on Cumberland Island through the National Park Service. Find more information here. Our guide says campers can explore miles and miles of the island's beaches without encountering another human footprint in the sand.

More likely, they will discover hoof prints, as Cumberland Island is home to wild horses. We were thrilled to spy several from the boat.

We were on the lookout for manatees on our cruise. We did not spot any, but noticed lots of birds along the way.

Fort Clinch

Another destination worth an excursion is Fort Clinch. We ran out of time to visit this trip, but I think the whole family would enjoy exploring this 19th Century fort. Find out more here.

Now preserved and maintained as a Florida state park, visitors can play and picnic on the beach or tour the fort.


With surf fishing, nature-trail hiking and camping, Fort Clinch offers fun for the whole family.

The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Joe's conference was held at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Above, you see a view of the pool area at the Ritz. This hotel was so beautiful! Find out more here. Joe and I joined Faulkner's JSL faculty and spouses for a delicious dinner at Salt, the premier restaurant at The Ritz. We stayed off-site during the conference, but enjoyed spending an evening roaming the hotel and grounds.

Sweet Escapes
Too soon, our getaway to Amelia Island drew to a close. But as the sun set on our last family vacation of the summer, we were left with warm memories of sand, sea and sites.

And more than one rainbow to tuck into our hearts.

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