Amelia Island is a barrier island on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The historic island is situated northeast of Jacksonville, on the edge of the Florida-Georgia border. You might hear Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach used interchangeably – Amelia Island is not a city, it’s just the name of the island. Fernandina Beach is the main city on the island.
Amelia Island has an incredibly rich history. The area was first inhabited by Native Americans thousands of years ago. But the island changed rule a number of times, and earned the nickname “Isle of 8 Flags” for each country that claimed it: French, Spanish, British, Floridian/Patriot, Green Cross, Mexican, Confederate, and United States.
Now, the island is known for it’s beautiful beaches, history and architecture, and world-class resorts. Amelia Island makes a great vacation destination, a long weekend trip, or even a day trip!
State Parks In and Around Amelia Island
There’s a significant concentration of state parks in this area! We visited nine during our 3-day trip, and it’s easy to get around between them. There are four parks on the island itself. Another three parks are to the south that are easy to access via the main highway, A1A. Two more parks can be found just outside Amelia Island, slightly farther away, but still easy to visit if you’re in the area. At the bottom of the post, I’ll share my itinerary of how we were able to fit everything into just 3 days!
Fort Clinch State Park
Fort Clinch is a historic civil war-era fort. Visitors to the park can explore the fort’s many rooms, galleries, and grounds, as well as learn about the history of the fort. Visit on the first weekend of every month for a living history reenactment where soldiers fire cannons and demonstrate other battlefield skills. Besides the fort, the park also offers hiking trails, camping, fishing, shelling, and more across 1400 acres.
Fernandina Plaza State Park
This is the smallest Florida State Park measuring at about 0.8 acres! The park is a grassy lot nestled in a historic neighborhood overlooking the Amelia River. It’s perfect for a picnic and sunset views!
Amelia Island State Park
Amelia Island State Park is most known for being the only Florida state park where you can ride horses along the beach! It’s also great for fishing, and you can drive 4×4 vehicles onto the beach.
George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park
Right next to Amelia Island State Park you’ll find the fishing pier. Of course, it’s perfect for fishing and getting a great view of the surrounding water and islands.
Big Talbot Island State Park
Big Talbot Island is home to the famous bluffs of Boneyard Beach, where sun-bleached trees line the shore. The park has a couple different entrances with hiking trails and pavilions. Additionally, you can kayak around the island’s salt marshes and see the trees from the water.
Little Talbot Island State Park
A gorgeous beach with plenty of parking, and a campground! Whether you like relaxing at the beach, or hiking through diverse ecosystems, this park has something for everyone. Other activities include biking, hiking, fishing, birding, and more.
Fort George Island Cultural State Park
One of the best known features of the park is the historic Ribault Club building, which is a beautiful example of 1920s architecture. The visitor center, located within the Ribault Club, has interpretive exhibits depicting the rich natural and cultural history of the area and the island. And don’t miss the Virtual Ranger Tour of the Saturiwa Trail. The drive through the old oak trees is breathtaking.
Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park
This is a small park within a neighborhood and an industrial area. Located near the mouth of the St. Johns River, this site was an important military position during the Civil War, allowing access to the inland areas of Florida’s east coast. You only need a few minutes here to look around and read the plaques.
Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park
Although this park is not quite in Amelia Island, it’s worth a visit anyway. Hike through the pine flatwoods and 15 miles of multi-use trails, or enjoy a shady picnic. Bring kayaks if you have them, as this is a great place to access the paddling trail that winds around multiple creeks and rivers, collectively known as the 7 Creeks Recreation Area.
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Other Things to Do in Amelia Island
Amelia Island Museum of History
Housed inside a historic jailhouse, the museum is the perfect place to learn about the history of Amelia Island. The museum covers over 4,000 years of history, from the Timucua Native American tribe to Spanish and French explorers, from the lawless spirit of pirates to the dignified air of Victorian-era residents. The museum is full of interesting and engaging exhibits and activities for kids.
Amelia Island Lighthouse
Visiting the lighthouse is a quick but worthwhile stop on the island. It is the state’s oldest standing lighthouse, build in 1838. The lighthouse grounds are only open to the public from 12pm-2pm on Saturdays. In order to climb inside the lighthouse, you’ll have to sign up for a guided tour.
Shopping & Dining in Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach
Downtown Fernandina Beach is full of gorgeous historic buildings, and plenty of shopping, dining, and activities. It leans a little touristy, but you can certainly find great local shops and restaurants.
Horseback Riding on the Beach
There are several companies in Amelia Island which offer horseback riding on the beach. This is an amazing bucket list experience. Amelia Island State Park is the only state park in Florida which allows horseback riding along the shore.
Kingsley Plantation, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Tucked back in Fort George Island, this important historic site showcases life on a plantation in the early 1800s. You can explore the grounds at Kingsley Plantation, which include the slave quarters, barn, waterfront, plantation house, kitchen house, and interpretive garden. While you walk around the site, listen to the audio tour for an immersive experience of the past.
All the parks and activities are fairly close together, but I’ve outlined the most efficient way to see everything within 3 days (assuming you’re staying in Amelia Island). This is what I personally followed when I visited. The dining options outside of downtown Fernandina Beach are somewhat limited, so I’d recommend grabbing groceries for your trip and packing picnic lunches for the parks each day. You can reduce this itinerary down to just two days if your trip is shorter. I’d cut most things from Day 1, but add Fort George Island to another day. Or, you could probably skip Amelia Island State Park or George Crady Fishing Pier unless you are going horseback riding or plan to fish there.
You can view all the parks and historic sites on this map:
Pumpkin Hill Creek [kayaking & hiking]
Yellow Bluff Fort
Fort George Island
Fort Clinch [fort tour & hiking]
Amelia Island Lighthouse [Saturdays only]
Amelia Island Museum of History
Downtown Fernandina Beach [shopping & dining]
Fernandina Plaza [sunset picnic is perfect]
Amelia Island [horseback riding]
George Crady Fishing Pier
Big Talbot Island & Boneyard Beach [hiking & kayaking]
Little Talbot Island
The information in this post was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. If you are planning to visit any of the sites mentioned in this post, we recommend checking the most up-to-date information on their respective websites.