Amelia Island

Amelia Island

We left Savannah, and drove to Amelia Island in Florida. We crossed a large river/swamp to reach the island, so I guess strictly speaking it’s an island, but it didn’t feel like one! The guide book said it had an historical town, with strong links to pirates in times gone by, so I hoped it would be interesting. In actual fact, it had some deeply naff elements.

We passed The Beach Diner on our way to the motel, so after we’d checked in, we went back for dinner (because diners are usually excellent places to eat). We started with clam chowder, which arrived with warm corn bread (not as sweet as yesterday) and was delicious. While we were still eating the chowder, our main courses arrived, which felt a bit rushed. We watched them getting cold on their plastic plates (what is it with this country and plastic plates!) while we finished our soup. I had meatloaf (huge—enough for a family of four) with mashed potato (very tasty) and some indefinable green/grey vegetable that tasted as bad as it looked. My dinner looked barely started by the time I had finished, so I asked for a box. This has become a tradition—after every meal, I ask for the remains to be boxed (which saves embarrassing questions about why I have eaten so little) and then I dispose of it later.

We walked to the beach. Everyone else had driven, right onto the beach, parked their cars, set up a chair less than a foot away, and was relaxing. Maybe they were too full of dinner.

The town is called Fernandina Beach, and it was full of pirate stuff—statues and toys and fridge magnets and books. . . However, I could find no evidence that the island had ever actually been used by pirates. There was no ancient prison, or gallows, or look-out tower. I began to wonder how true the pirate link was. The next day, I asked in the Tourist Office, and we were directed to the Maritime Museum. The Maritime Museum was certainly an experience.

We arrived at the modern building, which is shared with a wine museum, and we went to the counter to ask how much it cost for entry. I was trying to peer round the man, to try and assess what was there, but I could only see one room. We said we were interested in the pirate theme of the town. The man (who to be honest, looked a little like a pirate himself) beamed, and told us he was a ‘treasure hunter’. Unfortunately, Husband misheard, and thought he said ‘treasurer’ and then launched into a conversation about accountancy and was it easy to make the museum financially viable; while I got the giggles and pretended to be very interested in a map of shipwrecks. We paid and went inside—except there wasn’t really an ‘inside’ as the whole museum was the single room that I could see.

We walked along, looking at the displays, while the treasure-hunter-not treasurer watched us from his desk. It felt a little uncomfortable. The museum was basically a room crammed full with stuff the man had collected during his many diving expeditions around the island. The highlight was a canon, from an original pirate ship, which had to be kept in a tank of water (don’t ask me why). The tank of water (looked like a chest-freezer to me) was full of very murky water, due to all the minerals (again, don’t ask me why). It looked to me as if it was full of bath-oil to me, and all we could see was slick grey liquid. It was impossible to tell if anything was in the bottom, let alone a canon.

There were many maps on the walls, and display cases of ‘treasure’ which might, I suppose, have been genuine but they did look suspiciously like they might have been won at the fair. We left the museum, and I felt the whole pirate thing was something of a scam/tourist attraction (though I do think Mr Treasure-Hunter genuinely believed that one day he might discover a hoard of sunken gold).

I’m not sure I particularly like Amelia Island, though it did have some pelicans resting on the jetty. It is also the starting point for the first cross-state railway, built by David Yulee, and his name appears a lot around the island—should you be interested in railways.

We had dinner at Artes Pizza, which advertised as having real wood-burning pizza ovens. We had a view of the kitchen and the only ovens I could see were definitely gas-powered, but maybe I missed something. I was feeling I had had enough of Amelia Island. To be fair, the town was pretty, and at night they decorate all the trees with fairy-lights, and people seemed friendly. But it didn’t feel very ‘real’ to me, and I had no desire to stay.

We left the following morning, and set off for St. Petersburg. Before we left, we checked the weather, which had tornado warnings for the region. Not really sure what we were meant to do with that information—should we cancel our 4-hour drive to St Petersburg? We didn’t, and I’m so glad we didn’t, because our time in St Petersburg was the best 24 hours of the whole trip. But I’ll tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for reading. Have a great day, and take care.
Love, Anne x

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