From family-friendly beach rides to challenging off-road trails and long scenic stretches perfect for the avid cyclist, Amelia Island offers a variety of biking options for every type of rider! Guest blogger Mike Pikula, president of the Friends of the Amelia Island Trail
organization, shares his insider insights on bicycling on Amelia Island.
BIKE AMELIA ISLAND
By Mike Pikula
So, you’ve arrived at your dream destination, Amelia Island, and you’ve enjoyed the beach, Centre Street and the local seafood restaurants. Now you’re making plans for tomorrow. Have you thought about a bicycle ride? Certified by the League of American Bicyclists organization as a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” Amelia Island offers numerous riding options to consider.
PICK THE PERFECT RIDE
Where would you, your family or friends like to ride? Amelia Island offers unpaved trails, paved trails, bike lanes, lightly-traveled roads and 13 miles of white sand beach.
This is a great option for families, especially those with younger children. There are many public beach accesses along the island where you can park your car and take your bikes to the beach. But, if you want to ride on the beach, you’ll need to
consider the tide. Amelia Island has a significant tidal range with two high tides and two low tides each 24-hour period. You’ll enjoy the beach much more if you schedule your ride between the 2 hours before low tide and the 2 hours after low tide. That’s the period when you’ll find hard-packed sand near the water that makes riding fun. Around the high tide periods, the remaining beach sand will be too soft or “sugary” to ride. Here's a local tide chart
to help you plan. Of course, you’ll want to match your bike to the riding surface so you’ll want “fat tire” or “beach cruiser” style bikes.
There are two super off-road trail areas available to cyclists. Egans Creek Greenway
includes several miles of flat dirt paths that let you get close to nature, another great choice for families. You can access this area from three points: behind the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center (2500 Atlantic Ave), at the trail crossings on Jasmine Street, or from the access on Sadler Road near the Residence Inn. Again, bikes with wider tires are most suitable. This beautiful trail is a bit isolated with lots of shade, and it's great for wildlife viewing including native birds and even alligators! Be sure to bring along a cell phone, water, and bug repellant.
The second off-road trail area is within Fort Clinch State Park
(2601 Atlantic Ave; entry fee applies) which offers a more difficult trail with plenty of hills, dips and turns. This trail system is more challenging than Egans Creek Greenway and is a favorite for more experienced trail riders but is less suitable for families. Mountain bikes or wide-tire bikes are needed.
The Amelia Island Trail
(AIT) is a 6-mile paved, off-road, multi-use path suitable for all types of bicycles and riders. The AIT is a designated part of the National East Coast Greenway
, a long-term project to provide a paved, off-road cycling path connecting Calais, Maine all the way to Key West, Florida. The AIT runs along the south end of Amelia Island and can be accessed at numerous locations running parallel to South Fletcher Ave or A1A. The northern trailhead is at Peters Point Beachfront Park (4600 Peters Point Rd) and it terminates on the southern side of the Nassau River. This is Amelia Island’s premier casual riding venue and is extremely popular with visitors and locals alike. The trail is mostly shaded and flat and on its most southerly segment through the Amelia Island State Park (entry fee for cyclists is waived) it offers a traffic-free ride via the Crady Fishing Bridge over the Nassau River where you can watch for “catch of the day”! The ice cream shop at Marche Burette
in The Shops of Amelia Island Plantation adjacent to the trail is a local favorite. Trail rules about safety apply and are posted at several points along the trail. Use great caution at the numerous road-crossing points. You can view a photo tour of the AIT and learn more about bicycling on Amelia Island at www.ameliaislandtrail.org.
There are several Amelia Island roads with marked bicycle lanes making them very suitable for accomplished “road cyclists.” Remember, on-road cyclists must obey all traffic laws, rules and signals. The most popular routes are along South Fletcher Avenue or A1A from Atlantic Avenue south to the Nassau River and across the river to the Talbot Islands; and alongside the Amelia Island Parkway.
Lightly Traveled Roads
Depending on the time of day and subject to any special events in progress, many of the Island’s secondary roads offer safe cycling. Centre Street and Front Street in the historic downtown of Fernandina Beach, provide access to river views, restaurants and shops, but you must share the road with motorists (Note, City ordinance prohibits bicycles from riding on the sidewalks downtown alongside Centre St. between 8th and Front Streets). Connecting downtown to the beach, Atlantic Avenue is a wide boulevard with ample room to cycle safely on the road or on the sidewalks. Of course, another favorite of local cyclists is the paved road inside Fort Clinch State Park, which offers a great shaded ride on a warm day!
EQUIPMENT AND MAPS
If you’ve brought your own bikes, that’s great. If not, there are several places across the island to rent bikes that are suitable for your excursion
. If you’ll be riding on the beach, you’ll want “fat tire” bikes; if you’ll be on dirt trails you’ll want to be on a “trail bike” or “fat tire” bike. On the paved AIT and on the roads you can use any style bike. You’ll want to pick up one of the free “Bicycling on Amelia Island” brochures from the Amelia Island Welcome Center in the historic train depot (102 Centre Street) in downtown Fernandina Beach, or from the Chamber of Commerce office (961687 Gateway Blvd). That brochure includes a bike map of Amelia Island
and outlines various “casual” and more “advanced” cycling routes. For all riders, we recommend you wear a helmet (required by Florida law for riders age 16 and under).
If you’re looking to take your bike riding on Amelia Island to the next level, check out one of the many great rides that take place throughout the year!
Katie Ride for Life
Benefiting the Katie Caples Foundation’s organ donor education and awareness raising programs, the annual Katie Ride
in April includes routes covering 18 to 63 miles, off-road options, a walk and fun run, and even a fun triathlon!
Endless Summer Watermelon Ride
The North Florida Bicycle Club hosts an annual classic one-day bicycle event in September designed for all road cyclists, the annual Endless Summer Watermelon Ride, with five routes from 19 to 101 miles.
JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes
In the fall (October 2018), the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation hosts a Ride to Cure Diabetes
with lengths of 25, 60 or even 100 miles. The ride helps raise funds for research to deliver life-changing therapies and, one day, a cure for type 1 diabetes.
Local Group Rides
The North Florida Bicycle Club and Amelia Island Cycling also hold organized group rides on Amelia Island six days per week including a special social ride suitable for families every Wednesday morning on the AIT.
Learn more about cycling with a group on Amelia Island at www.AmeliaIslandCycling.com
Whether it's in May to celebrate National Bike Month or any day throughout the year, get out, ride a bike, and see another side of Amelia Island!