8 Reasons Amelia Island is Florida’s Best Place to Bike
Veronica and Ted Lane live in Orange Park and they ride all over northeast Florida. But if you ask Veronica why she drives an hour each way to ride on Amelia Island, she will tell you the reasons are simple: “Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach are some of the best riding in Florida. The scenery is gorgeous, traffic is very manageable, and the locals are friendly and respectful. It really doesn’t get much better than riding on Amelia Island.” Here are eight great reasons why:
- You can ride the Amelia Island Trail,runs from Peters Point Beachfront Park to Amelia Island State Park in the city of Fernandina Beach. Much of the paved, tree-lined route parallels Highway A1A, a scenic byway, and the trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, a growing trail network stretching from Florida to Maine.
- Historic Fernandina Beach offers tree-lined streets holding 50 blocks of Victorian buildings, many on the National Historic Register.
- A courteous relationship between riders and the community. Fernandina Beach is a small southern city and locals know they will see their neighbors in and around town. Cyclists follow traffic laws and thank motorists with the “courtesy wave” as they are waved through four-way stops on the island. Contractors give wide berth and try to stay outside the numerous bike lanes crossing the island.
- Plus, water is never far from sight on Amelia Island. With the St. Mary’s River to the north, the Amelia River to the west, Nassau Sound to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean touching 14 miles of beaches, all rides include a water view.
- Natural beauty is abundant. A favorite ride includes crossing Egan’s Creek twice where it is common to see egrets, herons, ospreys and eagles fishing. Boats come and go from the Port of Fernandina and the shrimp docks in downtown Fernandina Beach. The Endless Summer Watermelon Ride follows The Great Florida Birding Trail, which includes Fort Clinch, Egan’s Creek, Amelia Island Plantation, Big & Little Talbot islands, Huguenot Park, Fort George and Cedar Point.
- Ride south just off Amelia Island over the Nassau Sound Bridge and onto Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks. Almost completely undeveloped, these parks remind us of a time when Florida was largely wild and inhabited by Native Americans. Crossing the Fort George Bridge provides magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean, Huguenot Park and the ships at Mayport Naval Base in the distance.
- Some riders eat to ride. On Amelia Island, we ride to eat. Mayport and Fernandina shrimp are available in many restaurants, and locals swear it’s the best shrimp available anywhere. (The New York Times agrees and said so in an August 2014 article about the quality of the sustainable product pulled from waters off of northeast Florida.) One favorite island spot for cyclists is the Salty Pelican on Front Street across from the shrimp docks in Fernandina Beach.
- If you're out for a longer ride, you can visit Fort George Island and the Ribault Club. This 1000 acre island of oak, hickory, and high hammock land surrounded by salt marshes was granted to Richard Hazard on June 20, 1765 by the British. It became an indigo plantation before the region was ceded to Spain. Over 150 years later, in 1928, the Ribault Club was established as a playground for Gatsby-era millionaires. Some of the forests were once fairways and greens for the club’s golf course. The restored clubhouse was the site of many memorable parties hosting foreign dignitaries, captains of industry and society mavens.
- Rent a bike at Bike Scoot or Yak, Beach Rentals and More, Kelly Seahorse Ranch, or Kayak Amelia.
- The 2015 Endless Summer Watermelon Ride gears up to go off on Sunday, September 13. Ride Director Jim Smith indicates that about one-third of the riders come from outside northeast Florida. North Florida Bicycle Club Ride Director Jonathan Tomassetti will tell you that there are interesting rides all over the state. Jonathan and Travel Team Captain, Jim Ingham point to the Suwanee Sweetheart Ride in White Springs as a beautiful venue of rolling hills and farm country. But they won’t say it is nicer than riding on Amelia Island. Register at www.nfbc.us. Bike club members get a $5 discount. Hotel packages are available.
- The North Florida Bike Club's calendar has rides around the First Coast, and they also offer an Amelia Island Trail Social Ride of up to 18 miles, suitable for beginners and any type of bike.
- Looking out further ahead into Spring, the Katie Ride is a perennially popular event to support the worthy cause of organ donor education.
Thanks to contributing guest blogger Mike Spino