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August 31, 2018 What's New at TIPS

“My Amelia Island” : TIPS Fall Leadership Meeting, October 10–14, 2018

By Madeline Meacham

How can I, a Yankee, write an article about “My Amelia Island”? I like to think I was a pirate in a previous life. I love the island and its rich history of occupation by Indians; French, Spanish, and English missionaries; colonists; raiders; soldiers; and enslaved African Americans, as well as privateers. The island is part of a chain of barrier islands, the southernmost of the Sea Islands. There’s a low-key vibe compared to other resorts in Florida. And the beaches are spectacular.

First things first: Rent a car. Mind you, you can happily remain on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton for your visit. The pool area is gorgeous. Hotel guests have direct beach access. It is the site of the Golf Club of Amelia Island and oceanside tennis. My favorite eatery at the hotel is Salt, a farm-to-table restaurant with a sophisticated menu. It was my first experience with black salt.

But there is so much more to explore. Check out Big Talbot Island State Park for hiking, bird watching, or exploring Boneyard Beach, which is famous for skeletons of oak and cedar trees. If you want to kayak, you need to make reservations. Amelia Island State Park has beautiful beaches, salt marshes, and maritime forests, and allows horseback riding on the beach. The George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier is a state park that offers access to one of the best fishing areas in Florida. And four other state parks nearby are also worth a visit.

I can’t resist sharing just a little of the history of Amelia Island. Originally, the island was occupied by the Timucua people. It has been claimed by eight countries at various times. The first recorded European to visit the island was a French Huguenot explorer in 1565. In the early 1700s, it was named Amelia Island in honor of the daughter of George II of Great Britain. The island was held by British loyalists during the Revolutionary War. After their evacuation, Mary Mattair, her children, and one African American worker were the sole occupants left on the Island. The Spanish regained control of Florida and granted Mattair 150 acres, the site of today’s Old Town Fernandina.

Amelia Island was held by a French-born pirate, Louis Michel Aury, on behalf of the revolutionary Republic of Mexico in the early 1800s. Spain finally ceded the island to the United States in 1821. During the Civil War, the island was held briefly by the Confederacy, but Union forces gained control in 1862. The island attracted hundreds of enslaved African Americans, and by 1863, there were 1200 freedmen and their children living on the island with 200 white people. Visit Fernandina Old Town, the Amelia Island Museum of History, and Fort Clinch. I hope you will take some time to explore the natural coastal habitats and history of the island.

Local food is wonderful. Fernandina Beach has many options, including Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen, Timoti’s Seafood Shak, or Lulu’s at the Thompson House. If you prefer something really casual, try Tasty’s Fresh Burgers and Fries, Pi Infinite Combinations, or the Patio Place. DeNucci’s Soft Serve is classic. Try the pineapple soft serve.

So, welcome to Amelia Island! Argh, Matey!!

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By Madeline Meacham

Madeline Meacham is of counsel at Halpern Meacham LLC in Boulder, Colorado, and a member of the TortSource editorial board. She may be reached at [email protected].