Leg four of our yearlong journey by boat from Key West to Norfolk is full of island exploration. The adventure begins on Amelia Island, the northern Florida home of historic and colorful Fernandina Beach, and meanders north into Georgia’s magical barrier islands, including Cumberland, Jekyll, and St. Simons.

By Jani Parker
May 23, 2017
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

All year, we're collaborating with Waterway Guide Media to bring you the best segments of the 1,243-mile-long Intracoastal Waterway on a journey from Key West, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia, at the end of the (watery) trail. This month: exploring the natural wonders of the islands of north Florida and Georgia. See leg one, Key West to Key Largo, here, and leg two, Stuart to Port Canaveral, here. See leg three, Titusville to St. Augustine, here.

Mile 717 | Fernandina Beach: Legendary Bar

The Palace Saloon is Florida’s oldest bar and the heart of this spirited little town. Order a Pirate’s Punch and check out the mahogany bar and hand-painted murals. TIE UP: Leave the boat at anchor and dinghy to Fernandina Harbor Marina. Walk to Florida House Inn, a former boardinghouse dating from 1857. Rates start at $120.

Related: Perfect Weekend in Amelia Island, Florida:

Mile 710 | Cumberland Island: Nature Break

Crossing into Georgia waters, drop anchor at wild, wonderful Cumberland Island to explore 50 miles of trails through maritime forest, undeveloped beaches, and wide marshes. The island is home to about 150 wild horses.

Photo: Courtesy of Jekyll Island Club Resort
Photo: Courtesy of Jekyll Island Club Resort

Mile 684 | Jekyll Island: History Lesson

Savor the social refinement that’s held sway on this island gem by breakfasting at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, a once exclusive club from the late 19th century. TIE UP: Jekyll Harbor Marina’s dockage rates start at $2.25 per foot per day and include complimentary golf carts and bikes.

Photo: Courtesy of Goldenisle.com
Photo: Courtesy of Goldenisle.com

Mile 680 (5 nautical miles west) | Brunswick: Culture Alert

Built in 1899 as the Grand Opera House, the three-story Historic Ritz Theatre is a year-round cultural center that features films (including summer classics), live theater, concerts, and more. There’s not a bad seat in the house!

Photo: Courtesy of King and Prince Resort
Photo: Courtesy of King and Prince Resort

Mile 677 | St. Simons Island: Tee Time

You can’t always see the golf courses from the Intracoastal Waterway, but those who carry clubs on board could spend days course-hopping here, and the weather is golf-glorious year-round. TIE UP: Take a slip at Morningstar Marinas/Golden Isles for $2.25 per foot per day.


To order guidebooks and begin planning your boating adventures, visit waterwayguide.com.


Sail the Golden Isles aboard a Catalina Yacht with your own skipper from Dunbar Yachts. Half-day, full-day, and sunset charters depart from St. Simons Island’s Morningstar Marinas. Or step it up with Taylor’d Yacht Charters, which offers luxury yacht charters worldwide, including the East Coast.


40 Miles covered

8 Flags that have flown over Fernandina Beach

400+ Species of birds

1 Kennedy wedding on Cumberland Island

Photos: Wynn Myers; Peter Frank Edwards; Courtesy of Jekyll Island Club Resort; Courtesy of Goldenisle.com; Courtesy of King and Prince Resort