I have spent quite a bit of time on Hilton Head Island over the last eight years or so, ever since our friend moved there with her kids and opened a business back in ’99 or 2000. It’s a pretty beautiful place but one thing I have noticed over the last few years is the amount of growth the area has had. The traffic is horrendous during the summer months. While she lives in Bluffton, only a few miles from the island, it can take more than an hour to get from her house to her work or anywhere else interesting on the island. That whole area north of Savannah has been experiencing tremendous growth over the last few years I guess, which is good for the local economy but it is starting to make vacations seem as crowded as going to Disney World.
Since I enjoy going to coastal areas so much it is a wonder I had forgotten about Amelia Island, in the northeast corner of Florida. It’s only about fifty miles farther for me to drive from west of Atlanta than Hilton Head and it’s also a really nice area. I wasn’t aware until recently that they welcomed tourists as much as they do. Back in the seventies and eighties my mother was responsible for setting up company retreats for her boss and quite often they used Amelia Island. At the time they would fly down to Folkston (where my grandfather’s family is from) in a little plane and then drive the rest of the way to the Island, which is just northeast of Jacksonville. Now you can fly into Jacksonville International Airport and rent a car, or just drive to the island. It’s probably about five and a half hours for me, which isn’t bad at all.
While I will be at work on New Years Eve, there are several things going on down there and it would certainly be a blast to open the new year on Amelia Island. One cool thing that’s going on right now is that several different hotels as well as bed and breakfasts are participating in a lodging special which gives a third night free if you book two nights. Condé Nast readers voted Amelia Island one of the ten best islands in America and they are right. Plenty of restaurants and cool things to do, as well as some really nice golf courses.
Golf really isn’t my thing but checking out old places and taking pictures is. Sometimes I drive the girls (and the wife) crazy with just wanting to tour neighborhoods and walk around. One of the really sad things about historic places like Amelia Island is that over the last 120 years so many areas have lost their charm with the commercialization but Amelia Island escaped that. The Fernandina Beach area has a 50 block historic district with many of the structures dating back to the 19th century, including many old mansions and cottages in the Victorian style.
One thing that lends to it’s charm is the fact that since 1562 Amelia Island has flown under eight different flags, which may be the reason it’s sometimes known as the Isle of Eight Flags
France, Spain, Great Britain, Spain again, the Patriots of Amelia Island, the Green Cross of Florida, Mexico, the Confederate States of America and the United States have all claimed Amelia Island at one time or another. Wiki has some pretty cool stuff about what is known as the Amelia Island affair,
The Amelia Island Affair was an episode in the history of colonial Florida.
The Embargo Act (1807) and the abolishment of the American slave trade (1805) made Amelia Island, on the coast of Spanish Florida, a resort for smugglers with sometimes as many as 300 square-rigged vessels in its harbor. To Amelia in June, 1817, came Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish adventurer styling himself the “brigadier general” of the United Provinces of the New Granada and Venezuela and general-in-chief of the armies of the two Floridas. A peripatetic military adventurer, McGregor raised funds and troops for a full-scale invasion of Florida throughout the United States, but he squandered the money on luxuries in the United States and as word of his conduct in South American wars reached the United States, much of his invasion force deserted. Nonetheless, he overran the island with a small force, but left for Nassau in September.
His followers were soon joined by Louis-Michel Aury, formerly associated with McGregor in South American adventures, and previously leader of a pirates’ gang on Galveston Island, Texas. Aury assumed control of Amelia, got a legislature elected, set a committee to drawing a constitution, and invited all Florida to unite in throwing off the Spanish yoke. The United States, which had plans to annexe the peninsula, sent a naval force which captured Amelia Island on December 23, 1817, and put an end to the republic. The island was returned to the Spanish prior to 1821.
I would love to go check out Fort Glinch. The fort itself was built prior to the Civil War and the area is now a state park comprising just under 1100 acres. The fishing pier at Fort Glinch goes out 1500 feet into Cumberland Sound. There are a couple of campgrounds and there are also day use areas as well.