The best way to make this trip is north via Route A1A, which involves taking a car ferry across the mouth of the St. Johns River at the naval town of Mayport.
Before you reach Mayport, the family may want to slop at lovely Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, where you can play in the ocean, picnic, kayak, go lake fishing, and camp.
Past Mayport about 2 miles on Route A1A, turn off at Fort George Island to see Kingsley Plantation Historic Site. Learn how cotton was farmed and tabby homes were built. Little Talbot Island State Park lies a few miles to the north if you are looking for a place on the beach away from crowds.
There are also hiking trails that were once followed by early explorers and colonists.
Up A1A about 6 miles, cross the bridge to Amelia Island, known for its bluff-height dunes and white, wide beaches.
Fort Clinch State Park, at the island’s north end along Route A1A, is a good place to go beaching and learn some history at the same time. Civil War soldier reenactors bring history to life, and weekend candlelight tours are a hit with kids and couples.
From the fort’s embankments, you can see long sweeps of beach and Georgia’s Cumberland Island. Dunes rise dramatically and seashells carpet the high-tide line.
Fishing from a pier, camping, and picnicking provide other pastimes.
To reach downtown Fernandina Beach, head west a few miles on Atlantic Avenue, which turns into Centre Street, the heart of the historic district. This well-preserved pirate sea port and erstwhile playground of the rich is all dressed Victorian and known for its wonderful bed-and-breakfast inns.
Learn the history on a visit or specialty tour from Amelia Island Museum of History in the old jail. Stop at historic Palace Saloon for a toast to the past. Shop in the unique boutiques. Fill up on white shrimp, a local specialty. Hook up with a local kayak tour of the salt marshes on the island’s leeward side, or hire a fishing captain for some exciting catches.
This tour: approximately 55 miles
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