When locals tell you that Amelia Island typifies Old Florida, they aren't kidding. Located in North Florida, the barrier is the southernmost of the Sea Islands that stretch from South Carolina to Florida.
First inhabited by the Timucua Native Americans in 1000 A.D., Amelia Island -- and the associated town of Fernandina Beach -- has been occupied by several nations. In fact, residents have lived under "Eight Flags," starting with the arrival of the French in 1562. Just a year later the Spanish flag was flying, but Britain pushed them out in the early 1700s. Spain rallied and by 1783 controlled Amelia Island once again. In 1817, a band of Scotsmen brazenly took the territory and raised the Green Cross of Florida flag. Then came the Republic of Mexico before Fernandina Beach became part of the United States in 1821. Conflict between the North and South during the American Civil War meant the people of the region had a choice to make, and that's why the Confederate flag soon flew overhead.
Today you'll find a quaint and quirky island with a well-preserved historic district near the Fernandina Harbor Marina; a legacy of shrimping off the coast; miles and miles of lush marsh, gorgeous beaches and a dune ecosystem; and plenty of ways to interact with nature -- from fishing trips to picnics at state parks to a hike along Egans Creek Greenway, which runs down the spine of the island.
Time ticks a little slower on Fernandina Beach, and you won't find chain restaurants or flashy shopping centers. Instead, this tight-knit community is all about the stewardship of its beaches and wildlife, locally owned mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, and the quest to keep the old ways alive.