Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island is in the running to be one of America's Happiest Seaside Towns, and we need your vote (you can vote every 15 minutes through October 29th.) To choose the finalists, Coastal Living evaluated destinations they'd covered and nominated via social media, reviewed the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and assesed each town's “coastal vibe.”
We went for a walk and came up with these 10 reasons why we think Fernandina Beach should be crowned America's Happiest Seaside Town.
1) We are literally just happy to be here. Hurricane Matthew’s course and our island’s beaches and dunes meant that Amelia Island came through the storm with little impact and is open for business. When the main bridge to the island was cleared ready for re-opening the day after the hurricane moved off our shores, people returning home saw the Fernandina Beach Police Department - standing alongside the road waving and shouting "Welcome Home!"
2) Fernandina Beach has a 50-block National Historic District and we have ghosts, but, even they are happy - they reputedly stay around their old 'haunts' because it’s so much fun. Take a look here at the many "spirited" sides of Amelia Island.
3) Every Saturday, a local farmers market and arts market takes place on south 7th street. The Fernandina Beach Market Place is pet-friendly and features live music, spirited promotions, and some of the most delicious treats to be had on Amelia Island. It has been proven nearly impossible to walk the market without smiling at least once.
4) Celebrated chef Jacques Pépin enjoyed the market so much during his visit to Amelia Island that he offered to do a book signing there (and ended up meeting several hundred fans.)
5) Amelia Island was a favorite stopping (and hiding) spot for pirates, and they're still around today - but they now spread happiness instead of plundering treasure. The Fernandina Pirates Club has been serving as goodwill ambassadors since the early 1970s and they are a beloved addition to community events, the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, and the downtown streetscape. And we have a Pirate Playground that is accessible for children of all abilities.
6) Independent restaurants are everywhere on Amelia Island, and downtown Fernandina Beach is home to an eclectic mix of eateries, many of which are chef-owned and feature local seafood and regional ingredients.
7) Two products proven to enhance happiness are made in Fernandina: Fantastic Fudge and the spirits (vodka, rum, and now orangecello) distilled at Marlin and Barrel. Plus, ice cream in season here all year long, and you are never far away from a place to enjoy some: the Cinnamon Bear Country Store, DeNucci’s Soft Serve, as well as Island Time Premium Frozen Yogurt.
8) Our beautiful beaches draw all kinds of visitors, including endangered sea turtles who nest on the island every spring and summer. We dare you to resist these baby turtles.
9) The Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest bar, has been a purveyor of happiness since 1903. Their Pirates’ Punch and Bloody Marys are considered legendary. Take a look.
10) On New Year’s Eve, Fernandina Beach drops a lighted shrimp to celebrate our history as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, and we do it when it’s midnight in the UK and 7pm here so families can come out and enjoy it.