The benefits of being on an island are many. It’s easy to enjoy life’s simple pleasures on Amelia Island. High on the list is watching a beach sunrise and riverfront sunset. With two chances to make every day better, it’s the perfect way to start and/or end an Amelia Island day. And just like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. Moments in time when anticipation hangs in the air for those waiting to see the day’s unveiling, or when it slips into night.
Seen above, a couple awaits the sunrise at one of Amelia Island’s many beach walkways that cross over the dunes. Do arrive at least 15 minutes before sunrise to see nature’s lovely pre-dawn palette of pastels along the seashore.
Early Risers Rewarded
Water enhances the impact of sunrise or sunset. With Amelia Island only two or so miles across at its widest point, the waterfront is easily within reach. Especially inspiring are the days when sunrise coincides with low tide. A time when the sky lands on the beach in tidal pool reflections. Seen above, the seascape along the shoreline dotted with early risers at low tide.
In summertime at sunrise and soon after, the day’s heat is less harsh and the seashore peaceful as it quietly awakens. It’s a wonderful time to wander along the shore and do some beachcombing. But don’t miss the window of opportunity. The softer early light and deeper colors of sunrise dissipate quickly into a day’s bright morning by the seaside.
Sunset Along the Riverfront, Amelia Island
But then there’s another opportunity to see nature’s palette painted across the sky. Watch an island day slip into night in Fernandina Beach. With the sun setting to the west, head to Amelia Island’s riverfront. Seen below, an elevated view of Egans Creek looking out to the Amelia River near Old Town Fernandina.
When the sun rises, the color washes away with sunshine. However, linger after the sun sets, the colors often deepen, as seen here when orange clouds (above) turned to a purple haze (below).
Just after the sun sinks, a calm quiet covers the mellow marshfront, as night falls on Fernandina. Occasionally interrupted by a signature sound of the tidal marsh — the clacking of marsh hens. A secretive bird heard more than seen, their calls echo out from hiding places in the grass at water’s edge.
Best Viewing Spots?
WHERE TO WATCH A SUNRISE: With public access to the entire Atlantic Ocean shoreline, people can watch the day’s dawn at the beach anywhere along the eastern seashore. For those not staying at oceanfront lodging or within walkable distance, the largest parking lots on Amelia Island at the beach are Fernandina’s Main Beach (intersection of South Fletcher and Atlantic Ave.) and Nassau County’s Peter’s Point (1974 South Fletcher Ave.). Both beach parks offer free parking, restrooms, outdoor showers, and covered picnic pavilions. Bringing the kids? Main Beach also has playground equipment on a grassy lawn.
WHERE TO WATCH A SUNSET: Public access to the island’s western riverfront along the marsh is more limited than the beachfront. The best public viewing spots toward the island’s northend with largest available parking (free) are the historic downtown district of Fernandina by the marina near Front Street, and the Dee Dee Bartels Public Boat Ramp with picnic pavilion and restrooms (97177 Pogy Place). While offering an elevated view above the riverfront, there’s much more limited parking (and no restrooms) at Old Town’s Fernandina Plaza (Estrada and White Street), and near the 14th Street Bridge over Egans Creek (pictured above).
Fort Clinch State Park’s western riverbank shoreline offers amazing sunset views. The park’s entrance is at 2601 Atlantic Ave., entry fee is $6 per vehicle (with 2-8 people) and the park closes at sundown (unless you’re camping, the riverfront campground is a prime viewing spot).
On the island’s southend, watch sunset from Amelia Island State Park (A1A/1st Coast Highway, also closes at sundown, $2 per person parking) along with adjacent George Crady Fishing Pier, both overlooking the Nassau Sound at the southern tip of the island.
NOTE: Whenever visiting the seashore, be aware of Amelia Island’s beach ordinance to “carry on, carry off.” Please be respectful of wildlife at the shore, including birds, gopher tortoises and sea turtles. Interrupting the natural behavior of wildlife can impact feeding and reproduction and be detrimental to the species’ long-term existence. Learn more, see info published on city of Fernandina’s website: Be a “beach hero,” RESPECT COASTAL WILDLIFE.