The Nassau County commission voted this month in favor of revising parking hours at Amelia Island’s county beachfront lots. The county’s two biggest beach parks are Peters Point and Burney Park at American Beach.
Beach Parking Hours 5 am to Midnight
The public can park at Nassau County beachfront parking lots from 5 am until midnight (new hours began July 10, 2018). The county commission decided to match the beach parking lot hours already in place at the city of Fernandina beach parks.
The previous “curfew” of no parking after 8 pm at the county beach parking lots had been in place for about two years. But lately, objection to the limited evening hours seemed to gain traction. Likely as a result of growing concern about public beach access since the confusion over the “beach bill,” HB 631.
Is Parking Free?
Beach parking is free on Amelia Island at both city and county beachfront parking lots. But please “only leave your footprints” while visiting (see county sign, litter bugs could be fined $500). However, read further below, there’s a committee looking at the possibility of charging fees to park at city of Fernandina beaches, something that might be implemented down the road.
City of Fernandina
The city’s biggest and most popular beach park is Fernandina’s Main Beach (Atlantic Ave. and S. Fletcher). The city’s only beachfront park that allows Nassau County residents to drive onto the beach and then park in the sand in a limited area (600 feet) is at Seaside Park (Sadler Rd. at South Fletcher Ave.). Visitors, on a limited basis, who have obtained permits in advance, can also drive onto the beach here.
Don’t Get Stuck!
Pictured above, the signs at Seaside Park, noting “4-wheel-drive required” are supersized. Yet, some will chance it anyway. You don’t want to be one of those people who get stuck in the sand and have to pay for a tow truck. Plus also get a citation from Fernandina Police.
Local Nassau County residents can also drive onto the beach at Peters Point (pictured below), American Beach and Scott Road (4-wheel-drive vehicle required). As noted above, non-residents (visitors/tourists) must get a special permit in advance.
Future Fees For Beach Parking?
The city of Fernandina Beach formed a new “Beach Committee” this year. The committee is looking at various beach issues, including the possible implementation of beach parking fees. Not a new idea, parking fees have been kicked around in past years, but were always punted, not implemented. The “Beach Committee” is expected to make recommendations by October 31, 2018.
Both Nassau County’s population and Amelia Island’s tourism numbers have grown by leaps and bounds during the past 25 years. This means more and more people using the beaches. It’s noticeably more crowded around the island and on the mainland nearby in booming Yulee. And more growth is coming.
Expect to see more officers patrolling Amelia Island beaches to educate and enforce compliance of beach laws. Their presence at the beaches has been increased in 2018, and is necessary.
Charging people to park at the beach is just a possibility being considered. Time will tell whether beach parking fees finally become a reality. It’s a contentious topic, to say the least.
State Park Beaches
Amelia Island’s Fort Clinch State Park on the island’s northern tip, and Amelia Island State Park on the southern tip, are regulated by the state of Florida (fees to enter). These parks are open daily from 8 am until sundown. The beautiful beachfront at these state parks is favored for shoreline fishing, birding, beach combing and coastal nature observation (not swimming). Fort Clinch has miles of shoreline, but there are no lifeguard towers within the park (and signs warn of dangerous currents). The fee to enter Fort Clinch is $6 per carload (2 to 8 people), $4 single driver, or $2 bucks on a bicycle at the Fort Clinch Ranger gate. It’s an extra $2.50 per person to tour the historic fortress itself.
At Amelia Island State Park, the cost is $2 per person to enter (but 4-wheel-drive required to access to most of this state park). There are no lifeguard towers within the park, and signs also warn of dangerous currents. A large part of this park is off limits during bird nesting season, see more info about Amelia Island State Park.