IT IS ALWAYS A GREAT TIME TO VISIT Amelia Island
Rich in natural beauty, history and state-of-the-art amenities, northeast Florida’s Amelia Island offers 13 miles of pristine beaches, abundant wildlife and clear, calm waters. Upscale resorts, world-class spas, championship golf courses and exclusive restaurants combine with charming bed and breakfasts and historic sites for a memorable experience that is uniquely Floridian. This is why Amelia Island has been voted among the Top 10 North American Islands by Condé Nast Traveler's Reader's Choice Awards for seven consecutive years.
Walking around historic Fernandina Beach, the seaside village nestled between the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway, is a must-do for visitors. Many of the village’s buildings are on the National Register, which encompasses a 50-block Historic District, and several Victorian-era historic homes now operate as bed and breakfasts. An evening stroll down Centre Street will sweep you away to a different century.
It is easy to dig deep into Amelia Island's past thanks to a treasure trove of history, heritage, and attractions. With over 400 years of recorded history under eight flags, this island is an especially historical place that “the French visited…the Spanish developed…the English named…and the Americans tamed." And did we mention pirates? And Fort Clinch, the oldest masonry fort in the nation?
The Timucuan Indians already called Amelia Island home when Frenchman Jean Ribault visited in 1562. Following Ribault’s French flag came those of Spain (various periods); England; the Patriots of Amelia Island; the Green Cross (raised by a self-proclaimed ruler); Mexico (the Mexican Rebel flag); the Confederate States of America; and the United States (from 1821 to present, with the exception of about a year during the Civil War when the Confederate flag flew over the island). This is a tremendous amount of history for an island about 12 miles long and two miles wide.
The Amelia Island Museum of History is a great place to start an exploration of the island's intriguing history. It is located in the heart of town in Nassau County's old jail, showcasing more than 4,000 years of natural and human history with artifacts plus an array of displays and photography.
Traveling to Amelia Island is easy. The island is located 12 miles west of Interstate 95 and is a 25 minute drive from Jacksonville International Airport.
THE ISLE OF 8 FLAGS
The Island’s first recorded European visitor was the French Jean Ribault on May 3, 1562. He named the island “Isle De Mai.” Two years later, Rene de Laudonniere founded Fort Caroline nearby.
The Spanish under Pedro Menendez defeated the French and founded St. Augustine in 1565. During their long dominion, the Spanish concentrated on educating and converting the Indians, and the Island name of “Santa Maria” was derived from a mission here. The mission and settlement were destroyed in 1702 by the
English. Oglethorpe renamed the Island “Amelia” after the daughter of George II.
The Island became known
as “Egmont” from Earl of Egmont’s large indigo plantation. Revolutionary forces invaded in 1777 and 1778.
Spanish 1783-1821 (with 3 interruptions)
After the Revolution, Britain ceded Florida back to Spain. Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807, which closed U.S. ports to foreign shipping, made the border town of Fernandina a center of smuggling and piracy.
With secret U.S. blessings, the so- called “Patriots of Amelia Island” overthrew the Spanish and hoisted their own flag on March 17, 1812. They replaced it with the U.S. flag the next day but Spain demanded return of the island. The Spanish completed Fort San Carlos in 1816.
Green Cross of Florida
To liberate Florida from Spanish control, Sir Gregor MacGregor seized Fort San Carlos in June 1817 and hoisted his Green Cross standard. After his withdrawal, the Spanish attempted to regain control but were repelled by forces led by Jared Irwin and Ruggies Hubbard.
Mexican Rebel Flag
Irwin and Hubbard were joined by the pirate Luis Aury, who gained control and raised the Mexican rebel flag. U.S. troops occupied the island in December 1817 and held it “in trust for Spain.”
United States 1821 to present (with one interruption)
Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821. Work began on
Fort Clinch in 1847. In the 1850s, Fernandina moved from Old Town to become the terminus for Florida’s first cross-state railroad. Organized by Senator David Yulee, the railroad ran from Fernandina to Cedar Key.
Confederates took over Fort Clinch in April 1861, but Federal troops regained it March 3, 1862, occupying Fernandina for the duration of the War.
The Golden Years 1875-1900
Fernandina’s Historic District retains evidence of the town’s greatest period of prosperity. Tourists flocked here via steamboats direct from New York to stay in two elegant hotels. Shipping boomed with lumber, phosphate and naval stores. The Spanish-American War fostered gun running from the local port, and troops again occupied Fort Clinch. After the turn of the century, tourism surged southward.
Information provided by the Amelia Island Museum of History
WHERE TO STAY*
Choose from hotels, motels, and B & Bs; from elegant beachside hotels made with the sophisticated traveler in mind to affordable motels, and intimate bed and breakfasts, Amelia Island is home to a wide array of accommodations to suit any traveling style.
* The Festival is pleased to offer a 50% discount on tickets to a concert when you provide us with your confirmation number for at least a one night stay on Amelia Island. Phone the office at (904) 261-1779 to ask about the offer.
*Does not include our "Headliner Concerts."