It may not look it on Google Maps, but Florida’s Interstate 10 is one of the straightest highways I’ve ever driven. At times I felt that I could just let go of the steering wheel and drive that way for miles (no, I didn’t actually do it). Although more scenic than our long, boring drive across Alabama days earlier on our Epic Road Trip of the Great American Southeast, the poker-straightness of I-10 made the 6-hour drive across the Panhandle seem even longer.
Luckily, Amelia Island – our destination – lived up to our lofty expectations. Its Fernandina Beach is a little-known vacation spot in the northeastern corner of Florida. Let those other people have the touristy and overcrowded Nags Heads and Myrtle Beach. Spend a week here and you might just decide to stay indefinitely.
The Good Stuff
Miles of Beautiful Beaches
On Amelia Island, you can collect shells, see baby turtles, horseback ride and even take a family cruise to look for other critters. But after a long day in the car, we were happy to walk along the sand and cool off in the ocean breeze. We loved watching a bunch of dolphins swimming past about 100 yards offshore as I had a blast teaching my kids how to belly-surf the waves.
Historic Downtown Fernandina
We followed signs to the Fernandina Historic Downtown District later that night. Cruising through neighborhood streets lined with stunning Victorian-era homes, we knew this place was gonna be right up our alley. First we stopped for a bite to eat at Timoti’s Seafood Shak, where I enjoyed an amazing crab burger and washed it down with a Mad Manatee IPA from Bold City Brewery in nearby Jacksonville. Meanwhile the kiddos climbed around on the restaurant’s pirate-ship-shaped wooden playground.
After dinner we strolled up to the town’s scenic, tree-lined main avenue, Centre Street, which was buzzing with people on this humid but lovely June evening. After a brief stop-off in the town’s charming independent book store, The Book Loft, we followed the horde of people being drawn into Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge to cool off with some homemade gourmet ice cream.
We spent the rest of the evening strolling the charming downtown district and stopping by the harbor along the Amelia River for a nice family photo opp.
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