This time of year many people are lucky enough to be heading to Florida as an escape from cold weather. Here is part of a travel article I wrote about a magical place that is not in Orlando. It was helpful to visit the place to become stimulated with ideas and details about what to include in the article. I could hardly wait to get home and start writing. This not only gave me a boost, but seeing everything up close added depth and believability to my descriptions.
The photo is one of my favorites because the colors jump at you. Enjoy!
Stroll across Amelia Island’s brick-laden Ninth Street in Fernandina Beach, Florida, and feel the warmth of the afternoon sun and the coolness of an ocean breeze. Walk up wide, wooden steps to The Williams House, a restored antebellum mansion, adorned with a 1,000-square-foot porch and a spindle work frieze. On a spring day, the scent of jasmine fills the air and the gentle tapping of a woodpecker echoes from the 500-year-old oak that stands beside the house like a dowager guarding her charge. White wicker chairs tempt visitors to sit a spell, and as you sit, you wonder why it took so long to find this place.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Chain found the island. Their luxurious resort, located on the southern end of Amelia Island, just 30 minutes from Jacksonville International Airport, has one of only six AAA Five Diamond restaurants in the state of Florida.
Years before, the Carnegies, Duponts, and Morgans found the island. After the Civil War, visitors traveled by steamboat to the docks of Fernandina Beach, attracted by the island’s balmy climate. Once settled, they built magnificent buildings, 50 blocks of which are now listed on the National Historic Register.
French explorers found the island – the first Europeans to do so—in 1562. But it was James Oglethorpe, governor of Georgia in 1735, who named the island “Amelia” in honor of Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II of England.
Most importantly, the Timucuan Indians found the island before it was “Amelia,” more than 3,000 years ago. They called the island “Napoyca” and set the example of how to maintain a harmonious lifestyle with nature.
Amelia Island Plantation, a resort located on the sound end of Amelia Island, continues the Timucuan tradition. Hiking and biking trails tread through 1,300 acres of ancient live oak forests, golden marshes, lagoons, and four miles of beaches that are so clean the shells look hand polished.
During the second period of Spanish rule in the late 1700’s, the seaport town of Fernandina was born and named in honor of Spain’s King Ferdinand VII. A century later, it had become a bustling Victorian harbor town adorned with multi-colored brick buildings, gas lanterns, and cobblestone walkways. Today, these auspicious surroundings, amidst a fetching clutch of shops featuring antiques, fashions and collectibles, lead to the shrimp boat-anchored marina at the end of Centre Street.
Though less ceremonial than other restaurants in the area, The Palace Saloon on Centre Street is a must-see stop since it’s Florida’s oldest watering hole. Built in 1878 and frequented in its heyday by the Cumberland Elite, the taproom features a 40-foot bar with hand-carved mahogany caryatids, red velvet draperies, and refined murals of Shakespeare’s comic character Falstaff, and Dickens’ Mr. Pickwick, and others. Menu items include deep-fried shrimp, burgers, and onion rings at moderate prices.
During its golden era between 1868 and 1900, wealthy businessmen built magnificent “cottages” and adorned them with opulent turrets, gables, bays, and gingerbread rick-rack and fish scale decorations. Today, many of these homes, including The Williams House, operate as bed and breakfast inns.
For more information on Amelia Island, log on to www.Ameliaisland.com