Fort Clinch State Park Fall 2020 Update

Fall is the perfect season for being outside on Amelia Island. Time is well spent at Fort Clinch, the largest, most natural area on this barrier island.

Fort Clinch State Park offers something for everyone and fall is the perfect season for being outside at the Florida-Georgia border.

Fort Clinch State Park is the largest area of Amelia Island least touched by development. It’s a pleasant, peaceful place to explore, wander around outdoors, and enjoy coastal nature on this northeast Florida barrier island.

The COVID-19 pandemic adds another layer of appreciation for places like Fort Clinch where people can be outdoors in nature and spread out.

Deer at the shore, Fort Clinch State Park. Photo by Amelia Island Living magazine.
Deer At The Shore, Fort Clinch State Park

Besides touring the historic fortress, the park is one of the best places to take a bike ride and a favorite place to go shore fishing. For birders, it’s the gateway to the Great Florida Birding Trail on the east coast.

Limited Visitation During Pandemic

Throughout Florida, as of early October 2020, daily visitor capacity limits continue at the state’s 175 parks. Fort Clinch has been operating with 50% capacity limit. The daily visitor limitations are for social distancing during the pandemic, to reduce crowds and density.

Like elsewhere around Amelia Island, special events at Fort Clinch have also been canceled due to COVID-19. (More info is further below about specific Fort Clinch fall 2020 events).

Fort Clinch State Park, Florida, view near jetty. Photo by Amelia Island Living magazine, October 2020.
Fort Clinch View Near Jetty (October 2, 2020)
Where History & Nature Meet

The scenery is beautiful around the park with panoramic waterfront views, extensive sand dunes, and lovely oak trees covered in Spanish moss. The historic fortress is recognized as one of the “most well-preserved 19th century forts in America.” One doesn’t need to be a history buff to enjoy this fantastic coastal park with its beaches, maritime forest, wooded hiking and biking trails and campgrounds, besides the historic fortress itself.

Self-Guided Fortress Tours
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Fort Clinch State Park (Photo: AmeliaIslandLiving.com)

The Civil-War era fortress is open daily for self-guided tours and there’s usually at least one soldier reenactor active on the grounds. The monthly garrisons (first weekend each month), a time when the fortress normally comes alive with many reenactors for “living history” weekends, are not being held during the pandemic. Also, the candlelight tours at Fort Clinch have been canceled.

Fort Clinch Fall 2020 Event Cancellations

The Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, “to protect the health and safety of visitors, staff, volunteers and concessions,” according to the Fort Clinch State Park website, canceled two popular annual events normally held in autumn, “to support safe social distancing.” Hopefully, both of these annual events (detailed below) will be back next fall in 2021.

Fort Clinch Vintage Cars and Cannons, Amelia Island Living magazine photo. Fernandina Beach, Florida.
Vintage Cars & Cannons, Fort Clinch (Photo: 2019 Show)
Cars & Cannons — Canceled

A fundraising event for the Friends of Fort Clinch, the fortress setting is an ideal venue to walk around admiring beautifully restored classic cars. Pictured above, last year’s 2nd annual Cars & Cannons event in 2019.

History Of The American Soldier — Canceled

Another excellent fall event is Fort Clinch’s annual Veterans tribute. This year, “The History of the American Soldier,” initially scheduled for November 14, 2020, is also canceled. It’s the biggest production each year at the fort, a wonderful living history presentation.

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A Look Back — “History of the American Soldier”
Fernandina’s Veterans Day Parade Nov. 7, 2020

Separately, we note that the annual Veteran’s Day Parade in downtown Fernandina Beach has recently gotten the green light to go ahead in November 2020. Hosted by American Legion Post 54, the Veterans Day Parade will be held in Fernandina November 7, 2020 at 11 a.m.

Veterans Day Parade Fernandina American Legion Post 54
Veterans Parade In Fernandina Beach

The Fort Clinch gates have been closing earlier than normal at 5 p.m. (instead of the usual pre-pandemic closing time at sundown). The state park also continues to note on its website, “Due to local orders, facial coverings or masks are required inside buildings for staff and visitor safety. Visitors are expected to maintain distances of at least six feet apart.”

Riding Bikes At Fort Clinch
Lovely tree canopy, bike riding in Fort Clinch State Park on main road. Photo by Amelia Island Living magazine.
Lovely Tree Canopy Along Bike Ride, Fort Clinch

An excellent place for bike riding, it’s a 3-mile pedal from the park’s entry gate to the fortress parking lot (at the far end of the park), staying on the main paved road. This route is heavily tree-lined (and shaded with overhead tree canopy as well), perfect for biking, running or walking.

Fort Clinch State Park Jetty, photo by Amelia Island Living magazine.
At The Fort Clinch Jetty
Four Years Later, No Pier

October 2020 marks four years since Hurricane Matthew passed by Amelia Island out to sea on October 7, 2016, damaging the Fort Clinch fishing pier. Unfortunately, the pier was removed and has not been replaced. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection previously indicated it will replace the pier “as funding becomes available.” The pier replacement is an item in the “approved” Fort Clinch 10-year Unit Management Plan (2017).

Fort Clinch jetty, former site of fishing pier. Photo by Amelia Island Living magazine.
Former Site Of Fort Clinch Fishing Pier

The Fort Clinch pier had been the longest in the state of Florida and is sorely missed by many local residents and visitors alike. Before its demise, the Fort Clinch pier was 2,409 feet long, nearly half a mile. That was 864 feet longer than second longest pier in Florida at Navarre Beach (1,545).

Friends of Fort Clinch

There’s an easy way to show support for this gem of a park on Amelia Island. Join the “Friends of Fort Clinch,” a non-profit Citizen Support Organization. Money raised by “Friends” goes directly to fund projects at the Fort not funded by the State of Florida. An annual “Friends” membership is $30. Members receive an annual pass for 12 free entries into the park. Funds go toward restoration projects, special events, educational programming and more. Learn more, sign up online at the “Friends of Fort Clinch.”

Fort Clinch State Park Admission

Fort Clinch is one of the best bargains in northeast Florida for a day-cation. Fort Clinch State Park entry fees are $6 per vehicle (2 to 8 passengers or $4 for a single driver), and $2.50 per person to tour the fortress itself. If you ride a bike into the park, the fee is reduced to $2. The grounds are currently open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. (closing earlier during the pandemic than the usual sundown time). The historic fortress is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the Visitor’s Center 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

Fort Clinch State Park is located at 2601 Atlantic Avenue, Fernandina Beach (entrance is near Fernandina’s Main Beach). Have a question? For more information, call Fort Clinch at 904-277-7274.

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