Ahoy Maties! It’s no secret that Amelia Island is known for its beautiful beaches, pristine waters, friendly locals, diverse foodie scene, and abundance of nature. But, did you know we were also once a safe haven for pirates, smugglers, and bootleggers that claimed the island as their own? Avast Ye! (listen up). Here are some interesting pirate facts, legends, and points of interest on Amelia Island.
The best documented pirate is Luis Aury, who arrived in Fernandina in 1817 to take over the island. Claiming to be an officer of Mexico, he raised the flag of the Mexican Republic and annexed Amelia Island to Mexico. Local inhabitants fled not wanting to join his motley crew. He was made to surrender to the Americans three months later and his ghost is said to still haunt the old jail house on Third Street (Museum of History).
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Amelia Island was a safe harbor for pirates. Yep. Because the water was so deep in the Port of Fernandina, it was easy for large sailing vessels, aka Pirate Ships, to sail into port on their way to or from the Caribbean.
Local legend has it that somewhere in historic downtown Fernandina Beach, there is unclaimed buried treasure marked by a chain hanging from a big oak tree (the "money tree"). The only problem is the tree and the chain vanish before folks can begin digging!
Not all pirates are bad. We have friendly pirates roaming the island to this day thanks to the Fernandina Beach Pirates Club, a civic and charitable organization made up of “Amelia Island’s Goodwill Ambassadors to the World".
A high point of the annual Isle of 8 Flags Shrimp Festival is the Pirate Invasion at the waterfront, accompanied by “cannon fire” and followed by a parade and fireworks. (May 1-3, 2020 - make your plans now!)
PIRATE POINTS OF INTEREST:
Pirate Playground – Set in a breezy, shaded area amongst the trees, little Pirates will love this playground that integrates exercise, art, nature, music, imagination, and local history for children of all physical and mental abilities. There are benches or picnic tables for parents to relax on.
Pirate’s Punch – Visit the Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest bar, for their signature rum drink, Pirate’s Punch. Don’t be surprised if the ghost of Uncle Charlie decides to join you at the bar! He’s been known to make an appearance.
Ye Ole Pirate Fishing Charter - Whether you're looking for a relaxing family adventure or a rod-bending, reel-screaming, adrenaline-pumping, good time, you'll find it on board 'Ye Ole Pirate' Fishing Charters.