Tuesday, August 08, 2006

FAVORITE PLACES #1 - AMELIA ISLAND

Amelia Island, Florida: A barrier island, the southern-most of the Sea Islands, on the east coast of Florida, just below the Georgia border. I love this place. I have family there, which is the only readon why I know about it. It is 13 miles long and about 4 miles wide. The beaches on the eastern, ocean side are spectacular. Thirteen miles of white sand bordered by Dunes and sea oats. At the north end of the island is Fort Clinch State Park, and at the southern end is Amelia Island State Park.

One of my favorite pastimes is to walk the beach looking for fossilized shark's teeth. Bits of black mussel shells can fool you into thinking you've found one, but when you finally do find one, the shells will never fool you again. The best times to find the teeth are after a big storm or after the northern channel is dredged for the boomers. When I'm on the island I like to be on the beach at any time during the day or night. Morning walks with my cup of coffee, days swimming and sunning, evenings just sitting and watching the pelicans fly inches from the water, looking for an easy meal. Midnight swims with my cousins after playing pool at the Palace Saloon - the oldest bar in the United States...

...Which brings me to the town of Fernandina Beach. A historic place with a quaint walking/shopping area that goes right down to the docks on the western, river side of the island. This district is full
of historic victorian homes, many of which have been turned into charming Bed & Breakfast establish-ments. Take an early morning walk and see the homes while it's still cool out and then head over to T-Rays and have a great breakfast - it's a small place but it gives you the chance to share a table with the locals.
Afternoon and early evening kayaking or canoeing on the river and into the wetlands gives one an entirely different experience of the island. To see what the island looked like before it was settled, take a hike through Fort Clinch. I was astonished at how densely the palms and brush could grow! If golf is your bag, there are several courses on the island. I've played the public course and it was great, but then, I'm biased - that was the day that I realized after years of competing against my older brother, and never winning, golf was the one sport that I was finally better at than he was - He has a wicked slice, and all the water hazards were on the right!

There are beach houses and vacation condos to rent as well as resonable hotels. If you like a resort style vacation, there's always the Ritz Carlton. One of the best times I've ever had on Amelia was in a beach house with a screened in back porch overlooking the sand and water. One night there was a thunder storm off-shore, and I sat out on the porch with my brother till 4 AM, watching the lightning on the horizon. It was magical. The wine probably helped!

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