Guest blogger, Charlotte Simpson, aka the Traveling Black Widow, allowed us to come along with her and her daughter on a special mother-daughter getaway to Amelia Island this past February. Here's an inside peek at their memorable trip:
Amelia Island was the last trip I took with my husband, so when I had the chance to visit again, I jumped on it. This time my daughter went with me. What would my feelings be as I revisited this place that holds such a special place in my heart?
Visit Amelia Island planned an itinerary that was nothing short of marvelous. Our first morning started with a partially cloudy sunrise which we would see from the balcony of our hotel room at the Springhill Suites Amelia Island. We headed to downtown Fernandina Beach where we joined other tourists on the Cumberland Island tour with Amelia River Cruises and Charters. Although a chilly morning, seeing the sites of this northern end of Amelia Island was a pleasure (with blankets provided). We headed out past paper mills that still function today and employ many of the island’s residents, past former shrimp boat docks, past the house used to film The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, and out towards the Atlantic Ocean as our guide told us the history of the Island. Along the way we were delighted to see dolphins surfacing along the side of the boat!
As we cruised back towards the Florida/Georgia line, with dolphins all around, we headed towards Cumberland Island which is the most restricted national park in the US. Only 300 visitors are allowed a day. It is widely known for its, not wild, but feral horses that are descendants of the Spanish [conquistadors] who brought them over from Europe hundreds of years ago. As we made our way along the coast, we were able to see some of the horses grazing over on the island, all the while learning the history of the island from our guide, and catching glimpses of more surfacing dolphins, pelicans floating and diving for fish, loons, and, to the surprise delight of everyone, we even saw a alligator laying completely still on the shore of the island. Whether you like history, nature, or just cruising, the Cumberland Island tour has something for everyone!
After the cruise we had some of the best Cuban food this side of Cuba at Hola! Cuban Cafe. Sampling a little of everything on the menu from beef empanadas to the ubiquitous Cuban Sandwich to yuca fried, it was impossible to pick a favorite! Owner Marisol was a gem and even if it weren’t for the food, I could go back just to chat with her!
Stuffed, we picked up our “Island Hopper” from Roadshark Power Sports, and after a little driving tutorial, went to the Amelia Island Light House which has been functioning since before Florida was a state, but was turned over to the City of Fernandina by the US Coast Guard in 2001.
Our evening was spent strolling around the shops downtown Fernandina. Our final stop of the day was dinner at the Boat House where we each had meals with shrimp from local waters, my daughter shrimp and lobster risotto and mine was fried shrimp. We could really taste the different between local shrimp from the waters around Amelia Island and shrimp from anywhere else!
Full and satisfied we headed back to our hotel to rest up for the next day!
Our second day started out rainy, but quickly dried up as we headed across the street from our hotel to Fort Clinch State Park. Named after the Union Soldier, there are beaches for the beach goers (keep your eyes peeled for sharks’ teeth!), spectacular Florida flora and fauna for the nature lovers (our best siting was an armadillo and a white crane), history to be discovered at the actual fort itself, which you can tour for $2.
Lunch of course was more local shrimp at The Beech Street Grill, and we walked off all that shrimpy goodness back downtown Fernandina, enjoying the variety of charming shops, seizing photo ops and strolling through the marina past lots of lounging pelicans.
Amazingly we still had room for dinner which was back out by our hotel on North Beach, in an area more known for the locals. At Salt Life Food Shack we had an amazing seafood bowl with local shrimp, crab legs, sausage, corn and potatoes.
What better way to start Valentine’s Day, which was the day of our departure, than horseback riding on the beach?! A longtime bucket list dream. Happy Trails Walking Horses had the sweetest mares, Coin and her baby Bri, for us to ride on our hour long guided tour. I had some moments of panic once up on my horse, but our guide, Peri, explained everything thoroughly, patiently and put me at ease. The sun was glistening on the Atlantic Ocean, as we walked along the beach, over sand and shells and a few washed up jellyfish and horseshoe crabs. One hour was definitely not enough!
Our final hours on Amelia Island were spent with Ron Miller and his lovely wife, Avis, as they took us on the American Beach Tour with Coast One Tours. Ron, a lifelong resident of American Beach, gave a tour that only a native who loves and is passionate about their home, could give. Not only did he give historical information but he also gave personal anecdotes along the way, even introducing us to the author of “American Beach: An American Beach for African Americans,” Marsha Dean Phelts, who was kind enough to sign my daughter’s copy of her book!
I had so much to say about the American Beach tour, that I wrote a blog just about that! Check it out!
A perfect end to a perfect Valentine’s Day was a simple but tasty lunch at Omni Amelia Island Resort’s Marché Burette market and deli, just a couple blocks away from where we ended our American Beach tour. While our getaway was chock full of activities, we were able to enjoy frequent strolls on the beach which was just a block from our ideally located hotel.
If you’re looking for a place with something for every interest or just to relax in beautiful surroundings look no further than Amelia Island. I KNOW I’ll be back!
NOTE: To see more of Charlotte's Amelia Island visit, follow her on Instagram.
Charlotte, we can't wait to see you back here soon!