HAPPY TRAILS: Bike Between Amelia & Big Talbot Island

Bike riders, hikers, and bird watchers have an excellent trail to explore!

Big Talbot Island Shoreline, Nassau Sound
Big Talbot Island Shoreline, Nassau Sound

Timucuan Trail Segment 3

Bike riders, hikers and nature enthusiasts have an excellent trail to explore at Amelia Island’s southern doorstep. This newer “segment 3” of the Timucuan Trail links two northeast Florida barrier islands via an off road boardwalk adjacent to Amelia Island’s southend bridge.

Island Hopping

Not familiar with local geography? For newcomers or visitors to the Amelia Island area, Big Talbot is Amelia’s immediate neighbor to the south, an undeveloped barrier island (Florida state park land).

Bike riding has become one of the most popular activities on Amelia Island enjoyed by visitors and local residents alike. Ideal for outdoorsy types who enjoy nature and exercise, this third segment of the Timucuan Trail opens an off road walking or pedaling pathway on Big Talbot Island State Park featuring a natural environment and the uniquely lovely “Boneyard Beach.”

Spoonbill Pond, Nassau Sound
Spoonbill Pond at Amelia Island’s southern doorstep

Pedestrian Crossing

The boardwalk that hugs Spoonbill Pond has finally opened after years of development, with a new pedestrian crossing on Heckscher Drive (just off the southern end of the Nassau Sound bridge). The half-mile-long wooden pedestrian/bike boardwalk (Segment 3), located on the most northern area of Big Talbot Island, is slightly elevated above Spoonbill Pond (and connects to the existing paved trail on Big Talbot).

Spoonbill Pond Half Mile Boardwalk
Spoonbill Pond Half Mile Boardwalk

Bird Watching Platform

For bird watchers, Spoonbill Pond is a wonderful spot to observe wading birds and migratory waterfowl (the new boardwalk also includes a bird watching platform).

The Timucuan Trail is part of a far bigger trail, the East Coast Greenway, a massive off road trail project that will eventually connect Florida to Maine.

Trail Highlight: “Boneyard Beach”

Big Talbot Island's Boneyard Beach
Big Talbot Island’s Boneyard Beach

The Big Talbot bluffs above the Nassau Sound have been eroding over time, causing the trees to eventually fall to the beach below. The longer the trees have been there, the more worn and bleached they become, taking on the appearance of a fallen driftwood forest, dubbed “Boneyard Beach”. Landscape and nature photographers love to capture images of the beachscape here at Big Talbot. If biking from Amelia Island State Park, it’s a 3-plus mile ride to the trailhead, then a 15 minute walk through woods on a sandy trail to reach the Nassau Sound beachfront.

Visit “Boneyard Beach” at Low Tide

Note that the optimal time to see this natural phenomenon is around low tide, when the dead trees are fully visible on the beach and there’s more room to roam around along the shoreline. Also unique to this beach are the layers of “hardpan soil” exposed during low tide, giving the area its name Blackrock Trail.

Picnic Area, Parking, Restrooms, Trailheads

For those transporting bicycles via vehicle to a departure point (or spot to begin a walk/hike) and seeking parking on Amelia Island nearest to the Timucuan Trail, the lot on this side of the Nassau Sound is located at Amelia Island State Park (fee $2 per person to park), with restrooms at George Crady pedestrian bridge). The distance from Amelia Island heading south across the Nassau Sound is about 1.25 miles. Once over the bridge, Sawpit Creek Public Boat Ramp is across the road from the boardwalk (with a smaller parking lot for vehicles without boat trailers, also $2 fee and public restrooms). About a mile south from Sawpit Creek boat ramp is Big Talbot Bluffs Picnic Area (with the Shoreline Trail to access the beachfront). The Bluff’s Overlook picnic pavilion area costs $3 to park and offers panoramic view of Nassau Sound looking across to Amelia Island (no permanent restroom at this spot, but a Porta-Potty is stationed here). Travel about a mile further south along the Timucuan Trail to reach the parking area for Blackrock trailhead to the shoreline ($3 parking fee). From here, it’s about a half mile trek on a sandy path cutting through maritime hammock to reach the waterfront and Boneyard Beach. There is an additional spot to park vehicles about another 1.5 miles further south at the Big Pine trailhead (leading to the marsh), also $3 fee. Parking here, for Jacksonville area residents, may be a good spot for a biking or hiking departure heading north to Amelia Island.

Amelia Island Trail

Trail travelers can tack on more mileage for a longer excursion by starting (or ending) at Peter’s Point beach park (free parking lot with public restrooms and outdoor showers at this Nassau County oceanfront public park). This 10-foot wide, off-road trail connects to Amelia Island State Park at the other end near the southend bridge. The Amelia Island Trail is also a segment of the East Coast Greenway Trail. Places to grab a bite or drink along the Amelia Island Trail include the Harris Teeter shopping center plaza, Palmetto Walk shopping village, and the Shops at Omni Amelia Island Plantation.

Trail Expansion

Big Talbot’s sibling, Little Talbot Island, is also preserved in its natural state, another Florida State Park located next door to Big Talbot. More trail is planned that will eventually connect Big and Little Talbot Islands. Already completed, a few miles of paved trail exists on Little Talbot. Peering into the future, eventually the Timucuan Trail will continue all the way to the Mayport Ferry crossing. Thus, there’s more trail to look forward to down the road in northeast Florida.

ABOUT THE TRAIL’S NAME: Recognizing and honoring the first people who lived in this area, the Timucua Indians of south Georgia and north Florida.