Florida A1A Trail: Six Special Places
in Sunshine State
My friend Patty Morrison and I enjoy discovery travel by car
and have engaged in a series of trail tours I call our Great American Road
Trips Series: Oregon, Washington State, Georgia’s Golden Isles and now
Florida’s State Road A1A. For more
information about our road trip series, please access www.arnoldheller.org.
From March 3 – 11, 2017, we visited six pretty and popular
pockets located on both the east and west coasts – Fernandina Beach, New Smyrna
Beach, Stuart, Deerfield Beach, Sanibel Island and St. Pete Beach.
Patty and Arnold stand alongside the famous Pirate statue
located at Fernandina Beach waterfront.
Florida A1A Trail Leg#1:
Fernandina Beach, Jewel of the First Coast
I first learned of sweet Fernandina Beach when I moved to
Atlanta in 1972 from New Jersey – many people vacationed there because it was
the first beach resort in Florida’s northeast corner just over the line from Georgia. The town’s relative accessibility to Metro Atlanta and the popularity
of the nearby Amelia Island Resort drew a growing stream of visitors to a cute
and comfortable village experience.
Fernandina Beach, similar to popular St. Augustine, has a
rich and long history.
Spain possessed Florida until 1819 and used it as a base to harass
colonial America and later the State of Georgia. The United States and President James Monroe in the Adams –
Onis Treaty purchased the territory to settle it. Florida though languished economically until the east coast
railroad that ended in Thomasville, Georgia, was routed to the growing port of Jacksonville. Henry Flagler, by 1914, extended the
line to a tiny south Florida port called Miami.
Fernandina Beach was a pirate’s haven before becoming a
working port and later a tourist magnet.
All visits to the town of approximately 12,000 should begin with the
waterfront and marina.
Front Street is bisected by railroad tracks that lead to the
port facility. The free standing building
houses next to the marina houses Brett’s Waterway Café and a gift shop.
The harbor side marina shelters craft of all sizes and a
working paper mill can be seen from the deck. Cross the railroad track and enter Centre Street, the town’s
main commercial corridor.
Centre Street, main
Map of central business
For hotel accommodations, we recommend either the Hampton
Inn or the Florida House Inn for both are located in the heart of
downtown. Both inns reflect the
town’s charm and ambience and are surrounded by numerous restaurants and bars –
29 South was our choice and a good one too.
Patty and I are fond of cities that heavily invest in public
art that enhances our urban environments – Fernandina Beach is rich
artistically as evidenced by the statue she is sharing the bench with.
We left Fernandina Beach for our next stop; New Smyrna Beach
located about 15 miles south of Daytona Beach. One particularly attractive area that we discovered during
our drive was the River Road stretch of Ormond Beach. Attractive and comfortable homes line the west side of the
median – the Tomoka River on the east side of River Road is a popular fishing
End of Florida A1A Trail Leg #1; go to Florida A1A Trail Leg
#2: New Smyrna Beach – Compact, Cute and Cool.