In 1562, (58 years before the Mayflower made landfall,) French explorer J
ean Ribault arrived on Amelia Island, raised the French flag, and named it "Isle de Mai." Today, the enchanted island offers visitors from around the world delicious and distinctive examples of the French flair for great food and good times.
1) The annual Pétanque Amelia Island Open is the largest pétanque event in the Americas, drawing World Champions and players from across the 50 states and more than 20 countries. Held at Fernandina Harbor marina, with plenty of restaurants and bars within walking distance, the breezy, sunny, setting is much like La Ciotat on the French Mediterranean coast, where pétanque started in 1907. The Amelia Island Boules Club
holds pickup games Saturdays at 9:30am and Wednesdays at 5:30pm on the Fernandina Beach pétanque
courts at the south end of the downtown marina. The public is always welcome to join in.
2) Challenge yourself to decide which chocolate croissants on offer on the island are your favorite: The Pecan Roll Bakery, Chez Lezan, and the Marché Burette deli draw fans for this sweet breakfast treat.
3) Combining the French influence with the food and culture of the American South, creole flavors are a specialty of Lulu's at the Thompson House
. Chef Brian and his wife Melanie Grimley are inspired by seasonal ingredients and their love of the cuisine of New Orleans and Charleston.
4) Have a perfectly French date night at Le Clos
in Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, which serves authentic French dishes by candlelight in a quaint 1906 cottage. Chef/Owner Katherine Ewing recieved full degrees in cusine and pastry from Le Cordon Bleu and L'École de Gastronomie Francaise Ritz-Escoffier, Paris.
5) The Patio Place
features sweet and savory crêpes, which the owners prefected preparing in France, plus a wine bar and an expansive outdoor space that provides a prime spot for meeting and people-watching.
6) Do your own "Tour de Amelia," at whichever pace you'd like, exploring shady paths through the maritime forest, the historic district, or the Atlantic coastline. Fernandina Beach has been recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, and the Amelia Island Cycling club offers free organized rides
every week throughout the year.
7) Inheritors of the grand French tradition of an exclusive car show paired with displays of fashion and luxury goods, the annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
provides premier people-watching. (It also utlizes the "French system" of show judging that prevailed in those first concours in the Bois de Boulogne.)
8) The Fernandina Beach Marketplace
is a Farmers' Market that would not be out of place in a French village. Every Saturday, it draws locals and visitors with a wide variety of fresh produce, breads, artisinal offerings, entertainment, and the addition of a biweekly arts market. This spring, the
renowned Chef Jacques Pépin made an appearance
to sign his books and enjoy meeting fans.