America’s commemoration of 100 years of the National Park Service (NPS) featured centennial celebrations and public awareness campaigns to refocus attention on what’s been called “America’s Best Idea,” the National Parks. This is an effort to reintroduce the USA’s amazing park system, especially to the younger generation.
Two Sensational National Parks To Discover Nearby
Just north and south of Amelia Island here at the Florida-Georgia border are two exceptional National Parks to visit, Cumberland Island, Georgia and the Timucuan Ecological Historic Preserve.
A trip to Cumberland Island will likely be one of the most unique, natural locations you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit, and is highly recommended.
Cumberland will have considerable appeal if you’re interested in both a natural setting and history. Picture in your mind for a moment, no stores, no street lights (no paved roads for that matter), no public transportation, and restricted public access daily. To put this into perspective, only 300 people a day are allowed on this 17-mile-long island that’s bigger than New York’s Manhattan Island.
Cumberland’s wild horses are a tourist favorite and attract much attention, but there’s so much more to learn about and explore on this unique Georgia island, see more at Cumberland Island page.
American Beach & Florida’s Tallest DuneRight here on Amelia Island is a spot that was actually annexed into the National Park System, thanks to the efforts of “The Beach Lady,” MaVynee Betsch, the most vocal advocate for the area’s preservation. This area of about 8.5 acres is the tallest dune system in the state of Florida, dubbed “Nana,” (pictured here), located within historic American Beach on Amelia Island’s southend. “Nana” is the most northern spot of the Timucuan Ecological Historic Preserve, a vast National Park of 46,000 acres to the south of Amelia Island located within neighboring counties of Duval and Saint Johns, Florida. Comprised of hardwood hammocks, salt marshes and coastal dunes, the Timucuan Preserve is described by the NPS as “one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast.”
The American Beach Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, recognizing the beach enclave for its African American cultural heritage. American Beach was a vacation spot for African Americans back when beaches in America were segregated. During the 1930s to 1950s, famous musicians such as Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, James Brown And Billie Daniels performed at American Beach. Learn much more about Amelia Island’s historic American Beach community by visiting the American Beach Museum located at 1600 Julia Street (hours Fri. & Sat. 10-2 and Sun. 2-5), and drive by the beautiful, natural centerpiece of this seaside enclave, “Nana,” on Ocean Blvd.
Kingsley PlantationAnother historic site within the Timucuan Preserve is located just 20 minutes south of Amelia Island along Heckscher Drive, Kingsley Plantation.
According to the National Park Service, the Kingsley Plantation house, constructed in 1798, “is the oldest planter’s residence still standing in Florida.” Roam the grounds and step through the ruins of 25 tabby slave cabins. Tour the main house itself on the Fort George River plus adjacent kitchen house and a large barn. The Kingsley property offers an amazing riverfront vista. Key plantation crops were sea island cotton, indigo (for making dye), and sugar cane. There’s an interpretive history garden on the property where cotton and indigo are planted and harvested each year.
Wander along the riverbank and walk upon the Kingsley dock. Two special reenactments take place each year at Kingsley in February and October, a time when visitors can watch and learn about processing indigo, weaving, churning butter and more (call for the exact dates). Featuring FREE daily admission, Kingsley Plantation is a beautiful property to explore with fascinating history (read more about Kingsley Plantation). The entry road itself takes visitors through about two miles of maritime forest to reach the plantation house. An easy ride from Amelia Island, Kingsley is well worth visiting for a few hours to explore this historic site nearby.
Guardians of the Parks For 100 Years
According to the NPS, “Congress passed what is often known as the Organic Act, which established the National Park Service in 1916 and placed all the existing parks under its management.” The NPS “includes 413 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state” … and “includes national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.”
Mentioned here are just a few local gems of the spectacular National Park System, “America’s Best Idea,” waiting to be explored, within easy reach of Amelia Island/Nassau County, Florida.
Happy 100th birthday to the park guardians, the National Park Service, 1916-2016.