Fernandina knows how to be a beach town. It’s been doing so for almost 500 years, since its first French colonization. Today the historic downtown includes the Southern Touch gift shop, O’Kane’s Irish Pub and Eatery, Café Karibo, and Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro. The quaint downtown bustles with locals moving between the library, offices, and the growing foodie scene. Plus, river cruises leave from downtown for Cumberland Island. Fernandina Beach (population 11,610) takes up the north end of the 13-mile-long Amelia Island.
Jan Smith oversees the Saturday farmers’ market and notes that people who live here want to be involved. “We’re a bunch of self-starters, and the size and interests of this community foster that energy,” she says.
2 of 6Photographer Reena Bammi
Your View Is:
Toward the Amelia River and its vast marshlands or the Atlantic Ocean.
3 of 6Photographer Reena Bammi
Your Main Street Has:
Art and antiques shops, galleries, and the Beech Street Grill.
Your favorite restaurant could be: 29 South, where the ingredients come from local farms and fishermen. Don’t pass up the lobster corn dogs with vodka-spiked horseradish ketchup.
4 of 6Photographer Reena Bammi
Your Best Beach Is:
North Beach, the quieter, local’s choice instead of the more popular, touristy Main Beach.
5 of 6Photographer Reena Bammi
Your Neighbors Are:
Mostly retired. With plenty of free time and an income stream on average higher than the rest of the state, they’ll likely be found golfing at the island’s resorts or the Fernandina Beach public course or riding bikes and spotting birds on the Egans Creek Greenway.
On the weekend you might: kayak to Little Talbot Island State Park or take the kids camping near the beach five miles away in Fort Clinch State Park.
6 of 6Photographer Reena Bammi
Visiting Fernandina Beach:
Stay a week: The Addison on Amelia is a bed-and-breakfast downtown. Rates start at $175; 800/943-1604 or addisononamelia.com.
Stay a month: Simple beach cottage with two bedrooms, two baths. Monthly rates start at $2,500; 904/ 277-4625 or vrbo.com/279247.