Fernandina Historic District

With lovely Victorian-era architecture, step back in time to the simpler days of yesteryear. Amelia Island is a unique Florida historic destination with plenty of posh perks for those seeking five star amenities and a dose of history.

Victorian Vibe & Foot Friendly

Explore Amelia Island’s riverfront city, Fernandina Beach, Florida. Wander around this historic district dubbed “downtown,” that branches out from the Amelia River with central business corridor of Centre Street.

Palace Saloon, Fernandina Beach, Florida. Photo by Amelia Island Living eMagazine.
Palace Saloon, Photo by AmeliaIslandLiving.com

With historic district of 50-plus blocks on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s plenty to discover downtown. Fernandina features 400-plus historic structures on the National Register of Historic Places. Gaze at historic homes, churches, and commercial buildings.

Lesesne House, Fernandina Beach, Centre Street. Photo by Amelia Island Living magazine.
Historic Lesesne House, circa 1860. “Shrimp plant” blooming along picket fence on Centre Street in Fernandina Beach, the birthplace of modern shrimping industry in America.

Historic Landmarks

Fernandina Beach holds claim to Florida’s oldest existing lighthouse (Amelia Island Lighthouse c. 1838), the state’s oldest continually-operated drinking establishment (The Palace Saloon c. 1903), and the oldest hotel in the state of Florida (Florida House Inn c. 1857). Other key landmark buildings downtown include Centre Street’s Nassau County Courthouse c. 1891, the old train depot c. 1899, and the old post office c. 1912. Amelia Island’s historic city of Fernandina is also home to Fort Clinch, said to be “one of the most well-preserved 19th-century forts in America.”

Eat Shrimp!

Fernandina is also known as the “birthplace of the modern shrimping industry in America.” Ask about availability of sweet Atlantic wild-caught shrimp when dining out locally. The riverfront city of Fernandina Beach also celebrates its shrimping heritage with the “Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival,” an annual tradition for more than half a century (held the first weekend in May each year).

Old Post Office, Centre Street

With “Old Florida” ambiance and small-town feel, downtown Fernandina features pubs, restaurants, gift shops, art galleries, antiques and consignment purveyors. Enjoy a meal, coastal cocktail or craft beer and spend some time browsing around downtown. Fernandina is also the hub of tour departures. Take a trolley ride while hearing local history highlights. History buffs will also like to explore the Amelia Island Museum of History downtown.

On The River

Amelia River Cruises Tour Boats Fernandina Harbor Marina
Amelia River Cruises At Fernandina Harbor Marina
Get Out On The Water

Depart Fernandina’s downtown docks on a fishing charter or take a relaxing cruise on surrounding waterways. Amelia River Cruises has a ticket booth on the riverfront at the city’s marina. Daily tours are offered with narrative of local history, spotting wildlife, an adult BYOB sunset cruise, and more. Or just go to the downtown riverfront to watch a serene sunset, a popular pastime.

Watching Sunset From Dock, Fernandina Harbor Marina. Photo by AmeliaIslandLiving.com Magazine.
Watching Sunset From Dock, Fernandina Harbor Marina

Fernandina Beach, Florida, with its historic architecture, laid-back pace, and Southern hospitality is a reminder of a bygone era. And just two miles to the east across the island from Fernandina’s downtown is the lovely Atlantic ocean coastline, 13 miles of beaches. Browse details of the top Amelia Island beach parks.

Amelia Island Lighthouse Tour, Fernandina Beach, FL. Oldest lighthouse in Florida, circa 1838. Photo by AmeliaIslandLiving.com eMagazine.
Amelia Island Lighthouse Tour, Fernandina Beach, Florida

Also, learn about Florida’s oldest lighthouse circa 1838 located in Fernandina Beach. See Amelia Island Lighthouse tours.

Self-Guided Tours

Prefer to explore the downtown historic district at your own pace? Take a self-guided walking tour assisted by information/maps that can be picked up at the Visitor’s Welcome Center located in the Old Train Depot on Centre Street.

Fernandina Beach Old Train Depot Downtown Riverfront
Fernandina’s Old Train Depot Circa 1899

Representatives of the Smithsonian Institute previously described local life in Fernandina Beach as “one of the best examples of small town living in the U.S.” The National Trust for Historic Preservation has honored Fernandina Beach for its historic preservation. In fact, the Victorian-era seaport made the National Trust’s list of “12 top vacation destinations in the United States for historic preservation.”

Centre Street Christmas lights courthouse downtown Fernandina Beach
Nassau County Courthouse. Circa 1891
Spanish Old Town Fernandina

Another historic district on Amelia Island is Old Town Fernandina, located about a mile north of the downtown historic district (off North 14th Street). Old Town’s Fernandina Plaza is also an outstanding spot to watch the sunset over the Amelia River, with its elevated setting on a bluff above the Intracoastal Waterway.

Captain’s House, Circa 1888, Old Town Fernandina, FL

Old Town Fernandina has the distinction of being the last Spanish city platted in the Western Hemisphere (retaining the 1811 plat). The small Old Town community (up river about a mile from the tourist corridor of Centre Street), is actually the original site of the city of Fernandina which was later moved a bit down river to its present location.

The most well-known historic home located in Old Town at the Fernandina Plaza, pictured above, is the Captain’s House. This lovely home with a high tower and gabled dormers is impossible to miss when passing through Old Town. Besides being admired for its wonderful architecture, this home has earned other notoriety. Built in 1888 by harbor pilot, James Bell, 100 years later, in 1988, the home became a movie set.

A.K.A. — Pippi Longstocking House

The Captain’s House was the location where scenes in the “New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” movie were filmed. Learn more about Old Town Fernandina.