Nassau County, Florida Beach Update
Local Nassau County residents who frequent the beaches are well aware of changes implemented since beach ordinance updates were adopted last fall.
However, travelers from around the nation, and day trippers from nearby Camden County, GA or Duval, may not be familiar. With the busier warm weather beach season upon us, read more about what’s new since last summer.
Beach Driving, Nassau Residents
Driving on Nassau County’s beachfront has become reserved for Nassau County, Florida residents (or non-residents who own property here, i.e., taxpayers). Those who own property in Nassau County but live elsewhere can apply for a “Property Owner Identification Card” from Nassau County Tax Collector’s office (call for appointment at 904-491-7400).
County Ordinance 2020-31 describes the need for new beach regulations. “The current population, projected growth and limited space for driving and parking on the beach creates issues for safe local vehicular use of the beaches and warrants the restrictions to Nassau County residents and property owners…”
Can Amelia Island Visitors Drive On Beach?
NO — tourists/day trippers can no longer drive onto the beach at Nassau County’s Atlantic seashore (with a few exceptions — military members and the disabled, as further detailed below). All visitors to County beaches can park for free at the paved beach parking lots.
Free Beach Parking Paved Lots
Nassau County’s largest beach parking areas for beach access (paved lots), are located at Peters Point and Burney Park at American Beach. Two smaller lots are at Scott Rd., and the Southend beach access. Nassau County’s section of beachfront starts at Peters Point then goes southward to the northern border of Amelia Island State Park.
The free, paved parking lots adjacent to Nassau County’s beach access are open to the public for parking vehicles as follows, according to the County’s website:
“Ordinance No. 2020-31 states that Campers, recreational vehicles, fifth wheels, tractor trailers, truck tractors or trucks with trailers shall not be allowed in the parking lot areas after 9:00 pm and before 6:00am. Aforementioned vehicles shall not occupy more than one parking space. Failure to adhere to this ordinance shall result in civil citation and removal, by towing, of vehicle and the owner operator shall be liable for all associated cost of towing and impoundment. All other vehicles may park in beachfront parking areas twenty-four hours per day, except during the hours of 3:00 am and 4:00 am for cleaning or other official duties.”
Security At Beach Access Entries
A company has been contracted by the County to check IDs of those wanting to drive onto the beach to park. Entrances to Amelia Island’s county beach parks at Peters Point, American Beach, and Scott Rd., have beach entry booths with stationed security guards. Identification is checked for residency or to confirm others meet criteria of an exception.
Exceptions For Nassau Beach Driving
Driving onto the beach in Nassau County, FL beach is also allowed for military members and the handicapped/disabled, as follows:
- Those who can show a U.S. Military ID card — a “valid United States Department of Defense United States Uniformed Services Privilege and Identification Card.”
- “Operators or occupants of the motor vehicle that have a valid Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles disability parking placard that hangs on the rear-view mirror shall produce said placard to the kiosk operator who will record the name and license plate information and issue a pass.“
The County’s beach ordinance changes were implemented after about a two year process of discussion that included Beach Committee workshops and public hearings. Amelia Island’s beaches have become more crowded with increased tourism and new residents moving into Nassau County. The federal Endangered Species Act also factors in when making local decisions about beach regulations. Sea turtles nest along Amelia Island’s beachfront (nesting season is May through October).
Camping On Amelia Island’s Beaches
On-beach camping is currently prohibited through October 31st, 2021. The Endangered Species Act also impacts camping on the beaches. Nassau County’s Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on or before Oct. 31, 2021 to determine future beach camping rules and regulations for months Nov. 1st through April 30th of each year (when it’s not sea turtle nesting season at the beach).
Growth, Development, Visitation Numbers
There’s been exploding development and new construction projects in the eastern side of Nassau County, especially in the past five years. Thousands more are anticipated to move into the County in the coming decade. Besides population growth, the number of visitors to Amelia Island has nearly doubled in the past 20 years.
Nearly 1.5 Million Visitors
Nearly one and a half million visitors came to Amelia Island in 2019, an estimate published in reports by the Amelia Island TDC. (This includes overnight stays, day trippers and those visiting friends and family). The number of visitors to Amelia Island was estimated at 755,400 back in the year 2000, vs. 1,458,100 in 2019.
History Of Vehicles On The Beach
This northeast Florida barrier island has a very long history of driving on the beaches. Nassau County, FL has continued to protect beach driving access for its residents (plus exceptions as noted). However, in more recent decades, the beach driving area has been diminished in size. Thirty-plus years ago, larger stretches of the beachfront had been accessible to vehicles.
Making changes to beach access and regulations always becomes a controversial issue. There are plenty of proponents for beach driving, as well as those against it. No doubt beach issues will again be addressed and local ordinances tweaked, as Nassau County continues to grow. With time comes change, whether people like it, or not.
Amelia Island State Park
Note that on this barrier island’s sound end, Amelia Island State Park is part of the Florida park system, and does not fall under Nassau County beach ordinances. Beach driving at Amelia Island State Park (AISP), is regulated by the state government. This park is especially popular for fishing. Entry fee is $2 per person. There are no lifeguards stationed at this park and posted signs warn of dangerous currents. No dogs are allowed on state park beaches. Beach driving requires 4 x 4 vehicle, and daily number of vehicles allowed to enter the state park is being capped at 150 per day (as of this writing in early April 2021). Once daily limit is reached, no more vehicles can enter. A location on the Great Florida Birding Trail, Amelia Island State Park is designated a “Critical Wildlife Area,” (CWA) and is a nesting ground for least terns and Wilson’s Plover. Thus, a large area is off limits seasonally — March 1st to Sept. 1st. For more info call Amelia Island State Park at 904-251-2320.
Read Nassau County Ordinances
- See also 22-page Nassau County Ordinance 2020-31 adopted October 12, 2020, for further details. Also Ordinance 2021-001 (that amended ordinance 2020-31).
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