Amelia Island – Come for the History and Stay for the Shopping!
It is said that Amelia Island is where the French visited, the Spanish developed, the English named and the Americans tamed. This beautiful island, located just a thirty minute drive from Jacksonville, is quite the island to see. Fernandina Beach and Amelia City make up the island. Some say it is almost like falling into a time capsule when they visit. Rich in exciting history, Amelia Island has over 400 historic structures. There is so much to do here. Between its beautiful beaches, unique restaurants and its not to be missed shopping, Amelia Island is truly a place to be experienced.
History of the Amelia Island
Amelia Island has 400 years of recorded history and has waved eight different flags (French, British, Patriot, Green Cross, Mexican, Confederate and U.S.) over the course of its time. It was first called Napoyca by the Native Americans from the Timucua Tribe who lived on the island. Jean Ribault came over in 1562 and was the first ever recorded European visitor. Amelia Island received its name by honoring Princess Amelia who was the daughter of George III of Great Britain.
When visiting the island today, you will probably notice that the island holds a strong pirate theme. This is in tribute to Pirate Luis Aury who had proclaimed the island an independent island in 1817. It is then that this island became a pirate haven where other famous pirates such as Blackbeard used it as a center of operations. It is said that the island still keeps Aury’s treasure buried somewhere. When the US took control a few years later in 1821, he was only given a notice of 24 hours to evacuate. He didn’t have time to go back to claim his treasure. A $170,000 worth of treasure has already been found to date!
Island of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival
One of the must see events on the island is the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. This event has been going on for half a century. Fernandina Beach is where the modern shrimp industry began. In 1963 as a way to bless the shrimp fleet before the season began this festival that today attracts of 100,000 people. Every year, the festival starts out with a parade to kick off the event. During the weekend of festivities, a Miss Shrimp Festival is crowned, a pirate invasion by ship can be watched and a fireworks display draws end of the party. Throughout the weekend you can get a taste of little town America and really feel the community pride as everyone seems somehow involved in the festival. There is a top fine art shows which draws out amazing artists and there are numerous kid’s activities. The festival ambiance is truly unique as you can catch numerous pirates roaming the island and possibly even catch one dancing to some of the live concert music provided throughout the weekend.
Though there is so much to do on the island, the shopping is not one to be missed. You must visit the Historic Centre Street on Amelia Island. There are so many unique boutiques that carry amazing treasures.
One of the most unique boutiques is called Lemongrass. They call themselves vintage surf culture shop and carry quite the eclectic mix of merchandise. You can find almost anything thing in this shop. Between the beautiful clothes, vintage furniture and scarves, it will be hard to walk out of there empty handed.
There is also Plantation Shop that has been on the island for over 35 years. This boutique is actually made up of three buildings, each with their own style. The first building you will find beautiful English and French antiques. It is there you can also pick up a little something for the children in your life and some tasty treats. In the second building you will notice that many of their merchandise are inspired by the coast. Home furnishings as well as other antiques can be found in this building. In the last building, beautiful furniture can been seen to purchase as well as custom clip covers and upholstered furniture by Four Seasons. It is quite the shop to see.
To get the full experience of Amelia Island, you must visit Palace Saloon which is the oldest operating bar. First opened 1903, you can get your picture taken with a life size pirate that greets you in the front of their establishment. This bar has a rich history and is said to be the old stomping grounds for pirates. Rumor has it that “Uncle Charlie” a bartender who passed away upstairs above the bar, still haunts the building.
If you are looking for some tasty dessert treats to end the evening, don’t let others fool you but Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge truly does have the best fudge on the island. This is a family owned business where they get their fudge from an 1889 dated recipe. Their hand dipped chocolate is delightful and they even feature Working Cow Ice Cream. This wonderful candy shop will leave you feeling very satisfied.