Whether you’re a new resident or visitor spending several days in the Amelia Island area, what interesting places nearby are worth exploring?
Big Talbot Island
Not familiar with local geography? For newcomers to the Amelia Island area, Big Talbot is Amelia’s immediate neighbor to the south, an undeveloped barrier island (Florida State Park land). Just drive over Amelia Island’s south end bridge that crosses over the Nassau Sound, to land on Big Talbot. So close, it’s an ideal bike ride for outdoorsy types who enjoy nature and exercise.
One can ride a bike along the Amelia Island Trail (off road pathway), go over the south end bridge, then get on the wooden boardwalk along Spoonbill Pond, that connects to the off road, paved trail located on Big Talbot Island State Park. The most popular attraction on Big Talbot is the unique “Boneyard Beach.” Find out more info, see photos of Big Talbot Island State Park, FL.
An absolutely gorgeous setting on the Fort George River, tour Florida’s oldest existing Plantation house (circa 1798) plus barn, the ruins of 25 slave cabins, history garden with crops of the era, and even walk out on dock on the waterfront. This federal park is free admission, plus self-guided tours are easy and interesting with signs/displays. This plantation property has a fascinating history, crops included indigo, sugar cane and sea island cotton. The plantation bears the name of a planter and slave trader, Zephaniah Kingsley, who married one of his slaves and set her free. Anna Kingsley was an African woman who became a plantation manager and business woman, an intriguing individual of the plantation era. See full article with Kingsley Plantation photos.
Visit White Oak
People are usually amazed to learn that right here in our area (nearby in Yulee, FL), some of the world’s most endangered species are living within a very special animal sanctuary. White Oak features a conservation center with global recognition, staffed with team of experts hoping to help save rare animals and birds from disappearing from the planet. Touring White Oak has to be planned ahead, reservations required.
Hosted by wildlife experts, White Oak conservation tours are two hours long, and offered Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 am (June through September) and 10 am October Through May. Hop aboard a trolley or van to see White Oak facilities and some of the 35 species living at the conservation center. (For those with ten or more people, schedule group tours during other times/days.) Fees are $100 per adult, kids aged 3-10 are $50 (free aged 2 and under). Also read in-depth article about White Oak.
Take a one day road trip and hop between Amelia Island, Big Talbot Island, Little Talbot Island, Fort George Island, and hop aboard the Mayport Ferry (drive your vehicle onto the ferry) to reach another barrier island/Jacksonville’s beach communities. Enjoy a coastal cruise along the A1A Ocean Islands Trail Scenic Byway, and stop along the way at your leisure. Featuring scenic waterfront views while meandering through five fabulous barrier islands, take this drive along a 40-mile stretch of northeast Florida. Linking natural and historic attractions along the Atlantic coastline, this route crosses marshland and waterways, over a few bridges (no tolls), plus one short ferry ride at Mayport. See recommended stops to make along the A1A Oceans Islands Trail, full article, map and photos.
Highly recommended is visiting Amelia’s next door neighbor to the north, Cumberland Island National Seashore. This is a fantastic place for any nature lover seeking tranquility in a superb natural setting, but also fascinating for history buffs.
However, there are some caveats and required planning ahead for a day trip over. Most will do lots of walking around, so it may not be ideal for seniors with health issues, or young children who may get overheated, especially during summer’s heat and humidity. Visitors must also bring and carry around their day’s supply of food and beverages plus tote all garbage back off the island with them (sandwich and snack packaging, beverage containers, etc.) However, there are some water fountains at a few locations near restrooms.
Cost to visit Cumberland Island: The cost in 2019 for round trip ferry ticket with tax (departs from St. Marys, GA) plus National Park Service entry fee is approximately $40 per adult. This is cost for exploring the barrier island by foot, without renting bikes (extra $16) and without taking the “Lands and Legacies” van tour (extra $48 with tax). Drive north from Amelia Island to St. Mary’s, Georgia to catch the official National Park Service ferry (plan on about an hour’s drive). Buy ferry tickets online, learn more about visiting Cumberland Island, see photos, recent news.