Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach
Amelia island is just a bit away from Jacksonville FL but it feels farther. It reminds me a little bit of Vail, CO when I lived out there. Amelia Island is One of those little resort towns that has all the luxuries but also has a small town feel among the locals.
If you’ve seen the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you’ll know the experience of seeing the service industry employees in a more casual setting. That’s not just Hollywood reality, that’s the way things are in resort areas. The locals all congregate with each other and have a wild party mentality. And most of the local characters you recognize, you can’t remember exactly when or where you saw them, but you immediately and positively know them.
So it is that I find myself at a bar called the Green Turtle (not to be confused with the Greene Turtle in Maryland). This is a little beach hippie dive bar that feels like you’re in a friend’s backyard at a party. The patrons mostly know one another, local band is rocking out, there’s a great patio and porch and there’s a 1960s VW camper van painted in psychedelic colors – painted by a local artist, lovingly referred to as Scramble Campbell – in the yard.
The city of Fernandina Beach is designed and built like any Southern Atlantic Coastal city, which is to say it’s planning and construction seems independent of any single philosophy or guiding principle. Key West is an extreme example of this sort of place, by you get a better idea if you compare it to Savannah or Charleston.
And cities like these all seem to have a common history in proportion to their distinguishing characteristics. Most of them have an antebellum downtown area (look up the history of Charleston’s market street for reference) and reveres it’s history and preserves its tradition in it’s culture. The residents tend to live slowly and be deliberate in manner and avoid intentional offense at all costs.
Jacksonville, for instance, is home to the Palace Saloon – oldest saloon in the state with a history stretching back to “seventeen-something,” according to an authoritative-sounding (though incorrect) local. It may have operated as a speak-easy during prohibition just like the Blind Tiger in Chucktown. There is, I am told, a distinction between a tavern and a bar and the oldest bar in the state is somewhere else. When you go, make sure you sip your Pirate Punch from one of the captain’s chairs at the far side of the Charlie’s Bar room.
There is only one cab company on the island – VIP Taxi. The company began six years ago as a limousine service and then branched out into taxi cabs. Two companies already served the island, but they apparently didn’t do a very good job. The company is small and all of the drivers I met were friendly and sociable. But this small size means that they can be overwhelmed on busy nights – so call early.