Kristi Dosh is a travel blogger and contemporary romance novelist who goes by her pen name: @SavannahCarlisle, and finds herself lucky to call Amelia Island home. She frequently “visits” Amelia Island as a professional stay-cationer and would like to share her personal experiences of the island from a different view: the water.
The sparkling blue expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. A historic Victorian downtown. Saltmarshes rich with bird life reflecting every hue of green on the spectrum. The sights on Amelia Island will take your breath away.
The view from the water though may be even better.
So much of the focus is on what to do while on Amelia Island that we forget all there is to do out on the water. In fact, one of my favorite things to do with my dad is head out on his boat to get a different perspective of Amelia Island. Whether we’re on a sunset cruise, watching a dolphin swim by, or even steering clear of a passing submarine (seriously, see below!), Mother Nature always seems to have something in store for us out on the water.
Here’s seven things we’ve rounded up for you to get out on the water and see, some of which will surprise you!
The North Atlantic right whale is the most endangered whale species in the world. Just over 400 remain in the wild. Whatever hope the species has for survival rests on the waters of the Southeastern U.S. coast, including those off Amelia Island, where females travel each winter to give birth and nurse their young.
Learn more about these spectacular creatures each fall during the annual “Right Whale Month” in Fernandina Beach and each fall Amelia Island hosts the Right Whale Festival.
Should you spot one of these magnificent creatures you will have experienced one of the most rare and treasured wildlife sightings available anywhere in the world. If you go looking, stay at least 500 yards away so as not to agitate the animals. That’s a long distance, so grab your binoculars and keep an eye out from December to March each year.
Just north of Amelia Island, the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay serves as the home port for Navy ballistic missile subs belonging to U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In order to reach the open water of the Atlantic Ocean, the Ohio-Class Trident submarines and guided missile submarines, which call Kings Bay home, travel through the St. Mary’s river which borders Amelia Island to the north, separating it from Georgia.
You’ll never forget sharing the water with a 560-foot, $2-plus billion, nuclear-powered, Ohio-Class Trident submarine, the largest submarine ever built for the U.S. Navy.
You won’t be able to get very close to these vessels on the water either. Each receives a Coast Guard escort to and from the ocean. However, you can often spot these beauties as they cruise by Fort Clinch on the north end of the island. The Amelia River is dredged on a regular schedule to allow for these submarines to pass through with the added benefit of nourishing our beaches. This also makes for great shark tooth and shell hunting on the north end of the island.
Less than one mile from the northern end of Amelia Island across the St. Mary’s River – and the Florida/Georgia state line – sits Cumberland Island National Seashore. Historical accounts show horses lived on the island as early as 1742 and island landowners—including families like the Carnegies—continued to bring additional horses to the island through the mid-1900s. By the time the park was established in 1972, feral horses roamed the island freely.
The horses of Cumberland Island can regularly be seen roaming along the beaches. A zoom lens will capture pictures which will be the envy of your social media feed. Horses on the beach! A sure-fire “like.”
Check out the Cumberland Island Tour offered by Amelia River Cruises or enjoy a boat rental from Amelia Island Marina. Want to ride a horse on the beach? While you can’t ride the ones over on Cumberland, you can ride on the beach on Amelia Island through Kelly’s Seahorse Ranch.
The gentle Florida manatee congregates around boat docks looking for freshwater. As a warm-blooded mammal which doesn’t take well to cold, you’re more likely to observe a “sea cow” in summer.
Boaters are reminded to go slow through inland waters where manatee are more likely to be found as boat strikes remain their greatest threat to the species.
One spot they’re often spotted is where 14th Street crosses Egans Creek. Set your GPS to take you to Leaders & Sinkers (1620 N 14th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034) and go down on the docks. Even if you don’t see a manatee, there are often wading birds in the area at low tide you can observe catching their dinner along the shore.
If you’d prefer to get out on the water, kayaking the inland waterways can also be a good way to spot these gentle giants.
Dolphins are a far more common site on the waters around Amelia Island than right whales, submarines or manatee. You’ll see them in pods year-round, surfacing for air and pursuing bait fish along the coast, in the inlet between Amelia Island and Cumberland, and down the Amelia River which hugs the island’s western edge.
Look for isolated, frantic disturbances of water at the surface. This could be a signal that scared bait fish are trying to escape pursuing dolphins.
It’s not uncommon to see dolphins while walking or playing on the beach but getting out on the water with Amelia Adventures or Kayak Amelia might increase your odds.
Even if you’ve never seen one before, you’ll identify shrimp boats straight away by two distinct features: the outriggers which reach out on either side offering the boat stability in the water and a place for shrimpers to attach their nets , and the trail of seagulls and pelicans following in its wake looking for snacks.
Amelia Island is the birthplace of the modern-day shrimping industry with a few stalwarts continuing to search the waters here to find their catch. You can learn more about the island’s history with shrimping at the Shrimping Museum or go out on a Shrimping Eco Tour with Amelia Island River Cruises to see a shrimp net in action.
With a newly updated marina in downtown Fernandina Beach, luxury yachts have again begun stopping over. You’ll note registries from around the world on these opulent vessels, and a favorite sunset activity is to walk the docks and observe the clever names and wave hello to the folks lounging on the decks while snapping photos of the setting sun. Selfies with sleek and sexy mega-yachts will make you the envy of your hometown crew.
There are so many amazing things to see in the waters around Amelia Island, we encourage you to get out there and get a new perspective. Keep reading about wildlife and more from Savannah Carlisle in her blog: Things To Do on Amelia Island: Egans Creek Greenway or start planning your next getaway with the help of our Nature Travel Guide and discover even more of our favorite island moments!