** BEACH NEWS UPDATE MARCH 21, 2020, amid coronavirus public health emergency **
The status of Amelia Island beaches (new restrictions and closures), have been changing rapidly the last few days in the new reality of COVID-19. See the latest articles published about Amelia Island beach access and restrictions.
Looking for an Amelia Island beach access with lots of amenities and a boardwalk to stroll? Then head to Fernandina’s Main Beach Park located at Atlantic and South Fletcher (free beach parking at city’s largest lot).
Fernandina’s Main Beach
Main Beach Park offers public restrooms, outdoor showers, picnic tables, barbecues, gazebos, volleyball courts, children’s playground, two ocean view restaurants, mini-golf, outdoor skate park, and outdoor multi-purpose courts (basketball and inline hockey). Main Beach has four lifeguard towers manned daily Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Enjoyed by generations at Main Beach is Fernandina’s Putt-Putt. This mini-golf location oceanfront has been here for more than 60 years (open seasonally). The newest option for casual beach dining and coastal cocktails is Fernandina’s Salt Life Food Shack, with roof top bar/lounge offering elevated view looking across Main Beach Park to the sea. The Sandbar and Kitchen is also located at Main Beach, oceanfront right on the beach.
ACCESSIBILITY: Wheelchairs, walkers and strollers can utilize a “Mobi-Mat,” semi-permanently installed at Main Beach.
The City of Fernandina Beach Parks & Recreation Department also offers three beach wheelchairs available for reservation (refundable deposit of $100 per chair required, paid via major credit card and driver’s license required). Call Atlantic Recreation Center at 904-310-3350.
Take A Moment To Learn Beach Laws
Amelia Island’s other biggest beach parks and amenities are listed further below, but first take a moment to learn beach laws. Nassau County’s growth — both population and Amelia Island tourism growth — means more crowds around the island and more people on the beaches. Thus, Fernandina Beach has implemented a “Beach Ranger” program and Nassau County Sheriffs patrol the beaches as well. Here’s a summary of important beach ordinances (also read signs at the beach when entering):
Dog Leash Law
Amelia Island is known for its dog-friendly beaches. However, not all dogs are friendly, and some people are afraid of them, so please be considerate. Dogs must be under a leash at all times in control of the owner. Owners not complying with Fernandina’s leash law, or not carrying a waste disposal bag or pooper scooper device while walking a dog on city beaches, can receive an expensive citation. NO DOGS are allowed on beach at Fort Clinch and Amelia Island State Park.
NO GLASS is allowed on Amelia Island’s beaches, and NO LITTERING!
Please throw away trash properly in garbage cans! “It shall be unlawful and a violation for any person to throw, drop, discharge, deposit, or otherwise place trash, garbage, refuse, debris, or rubbish in or upon any park, playground, beach, or public recreational area.”
NO ALCOHOL — Possession of any open container holding an alcoholic beverage is prohibited. Violations are punishable by a fine and/or incarceration.
“Carry On, Carry Off” Rule
Per local beach ordinance, nothing should be left on the beachfront after 8 pm. Any beach gear left behind (chairs, umbrellas, tents, beach shelters, towels, buckets, boogie boards, etc.), can be picked up nightly by patrols and discarded. Please follow the “carry on, carry off” rule or risk losing your stuff. Each morning, it’s OK to place beach gear at on the beach starting at 6 am. Leaving “only your footprints” is especially important since the beach is busiest during warmer months when it’s sea turtle nesting time (May to Oct.).
Seaside Park/Sadler Rd.
There is a small public parking lot at Seaside Park (free) with dune walkovers and public restrooms. Seaside Park has lifeguard towers with Ocean Rescue personnel daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Seaside Park/Sadler Road is the city of Fernandina’s only beach access allowing beach driving onto the sand to park right on the beach (non-residents require a permit). It’s a hot spot for people getting their vehicles stuck in the sand, needing to be towed. Sliders Seaside Grill is located at this beach access with tiki bar by the dunes. See article (May 24, 2019) with additional photos of Sadler/Seaside Park plus info in the aftermath of two unfortunate beach driving accidents.
Peters Point Park
Peters Point, located off South Fletcher Ave. offers large, free parking area, restrooms, outdoor showers, picnic tables and barbecues. This park’s beachfront has four lifeguard towers with Ocean Rescue personnel daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. For cyclists, the Amelia Island Trail, a 6.2 mile path for biking (and hiking), is available from Peters Point. This is a Nassau County beach access allowing beach driving onto the sand and parking on the beach (non-residents require a permit).
Burney Park at American Beach is located in between Summer Beach and Omni Amelia Island Plantation. There is a large free parking lot, restrooms, outdoor showers, one gazebo, a few picnic tables and lifeguard towers manned daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. American Beach is a Nassau County beach access allowing beach driving onto the sand and parking on the beach (non-residents require a permit).
Fort Clinch State Park
Fort Clinch State Park offers over 1,400 acres, historic fort tours, picnic areas, hiking and biking trails and campgrounds. The entry fee is $4 for one driver, $6 per vehicle (2 to 8 people), and $2 per person if pedaling into the park on a bicycle. Tour the historic fort itself for an additional $2.50 per person. Fort Clinch State Park is open daily from 8 am until sunset. While Fort Clinch offers beautiful beachfront, note there are no lifeguard towers within this state park (“swim at your own risk,” states the park’s website). Dogs are not allowed on the beach.
Many people fish from the shore at Fort Clinch and currents can be strong and dangerous. The half-mile-long fishing pier, damaged during Hurricane Matthew, has been removed. The Fort Clinch entrance is located at 2601 Atlantic Avenue (close to Main Beach Park in Fernandina Beach). For more info call Fort Clinch State Park at (904)277-7274.
Amelia Island State Park
Amelia Island State Park is favored for fishing, open daily (admission $2 per person). Located at the southern tip of the island (near the south end bridge off First Coast Highway/A1A). Realize there is limited access to much of this park without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. The are no restrooms along the beachfront, dogs are not allowed on the beach here. Also, beware of dangerous currents (there are no lifeguard towers within the State Park). Next to the park’s entrance is George Crady dedicated fishing bridge (restrooms located here). Kelly Seashore Ranch at the park offers horseback riding on the beach.
Much of Amelia Island State Park is designated a “Critical Wildlife Area,” and is a nesting ground for shorebirds. Large areas of this park are off limits seasonally during bird nesting (closure dates March 1st to Sept. 1st), see more info and aerial map marking closed areas.
When at the beach, pay careful attention to signs and flags warning ocean conditions (i.e. red flag, yellow flag, purple flag). You will never see a green flag flying at the seashore, since the ocean is inherently dangerous. Sometimes dangerous rip currents are present and people drown, while many others have to be rescued. According to U.S. Life Saving Association, 80% of lifeguard rescues are due to rip currents. Learn about the danger:
Also see more info about rip currents at the city of Fernandina’s website.
Amelia Island’s beaches and dunes are critical habitat and nesting areas for shorebirds (Least Terns and Wilson Plovers), plus sea turtles and gopher tortoises. Please note signs posted and seasonally roped off areas. Respect boundaries and don’t disturb nesting or “resting” wildlife.
If you find a dead, sick, or injured sea turtle, gopher tortoise (or see anyone disturbing turtles or shorebirds), call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert number 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), call #FWC or *FWC on your cell phone, or text [email protected]