Located on the northernmost section of Florida’s Atlantic coast in Nassau County, Fernandina Beach is part of the greater Jacksonville metropolitan area, and is just a stone’s throw south of the border with Georgia.
Fernandina Beach and its sister city Amelia Island are often thought of interchangeably, though they’re each their own municipality.
Fernandina Beach’s nickname is ‘The Isle of 8 Flags,’ which refers to the interesting mix of historic national and international flags it’s been associated with for centuries.
With a variety of historical, cultural, and natural attractions nearby, keeping busy and engaged shouldn’t be an issue.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Fernandina Beach, Florida.
1. Main Street Fernandina Beach
Main Street Fernandina is probably the best place for new visitors to go to spend a few hours getting acclimated to their new surroundings.
The city’s Main Street is located in the historic downtown district and has undergone quite a revitalization in recent years.
In addition to a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, and historic attractions, the Main Street area hosts live entertainment events and a number of yearly fairs and festivals, one of which is the Independence Day festival on the 4th of July.
The area is quaint, historic, and great for walkers, and there’s no charge to explore.
2. Fort Clinch State Park
Fort Clinch State Park is located on the northern tip of nearby Amelia Island, and its main attraction is the historic 19th-century fort that has played significant roles in the areas settling.
The park is open every day of the year from 8 AM until sunset. In addition to its historical attractions, there are many distinct and pristine environments, like beaches, dunes, tidal areas, and coastal hammocks.
The cannon-ringed fort is open daily as well but has slightly different hours; visitors can show up between 9 AM and 5 PM.
The cost of admission is inexpensive, and it’s usually not very crowded.
3. Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival
For more than five decades, the city of Fernandina Beach has been hosting the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. Though its beginnings were humble, it has grown into one of the area’s most popular yearly events.
Of course, seafood and shrimp are the stars of the show, but there’s also live entertainment, arts and crafts, pageants, fireworks, and a parade.
It’s a truly one-of-a-kind event that’s a big hit with those of nearly every age and interest, and it all takes place every year over the first weekend in May.
For those staying in Jacksonville, it’s an easy day-trip option too.
4. Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course
Though Florida boasts more activity options than most other states, for many visitors, their vacations are all about beaches, golf, and theme parks.
Fernandina Beach isn’t a big theme park destination like the Orlando area, but for beach lovers and golfers, it’s a popular spot.
The Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course features 27 holes divided into three distinct nine-hole courses that can be mixed and matched, making for a truly unique experience.
The north-west course is particularly popular and plays about 6,700 yards, offering a number of tee box options to accommodate players of most ages and skill levels.
5. Maritime Museum and Welcome Center
If pirates, shipwrecks, and legends of long-submerged gold pique your interest, then a trip to the Maritime Museum and Welcome Center on South 2nd Street would be a perfect place to spend a few morning or afternoon hours.
The coastal waters around Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island are rich with maritime history, and previous guests have noted that their experience at the museum far exceeded their expectations.
The museum’s exhibits include historic photographs, recovered gold and silver, and first-hand accounts of those involved in the area’s nautical past.
Admission is just a few bucks, and most guests spend an hour or two in the museum and welcome center.
6. Sounds on Centre
Sounds on Centre is a concert series produced by a Fernandina Beach business and historic association, and events are held on the first Fridays of every month from April through October.
Concerts are free and include performances in a variety of musical genres; they’re usually accompanied by lots of great food and family-friendly activities, and often coincide with festivals and parades.
Sounds on Center is located at the junction of Second and Center Streets near downtown. Generally, concerts start at 6 PM and end at around 8 PM.
A portion of proceeds from food and arts and crafts sales go to support civic organizations and scholarships.
7. The Amelia Island Museum of History
The Amelia Island Museum of History has the distinction of being housed in a historic Nassau County Jail. It’s also unique in that it’s largely a spoken museum, and was the first of its kind in the state.
There are still exhibits and artifacts on display, though most information is garnered through the insights offered by the experienced docents that offer facility tours.
Appropriate for most ages, many visitors find them a singular experience, and a nice change of pace from more traditional history museums.
Most of what you’ll learn centers on the pre-settlement Native Americans who lived in the area, and the French and Spanish who first explored the region.
8. Russo and Steele Auto Auction
From March 4th to 6th in 2020, Amelia Island will host one of the country’s most elite auto auctions; for those who’ve never experienced a similar event, it’s quite a show.
Russo and Steele hold exclusive, high-dollar auto auctions in ritzy places around the country, like Scottsdale, Arizona, and Monterey, California.
Along with Amelia Island, those two events are considered the three heavyweights of the vintage car auction world, and there are a variety of entertainment and activity options that go along with the event.
Lodging may become scarce and prohibitively expensive during the auction, so plan accordingly if you are attending.
9. Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is one of the region’s most pristine stretches of coastland and includes sections of marsh, estuary, dune, and hardwood hammock.
The preserve’s historic attractions include Kingsley Plantation and Fort Caroline, both of which offer interesting and educational insights into the area’s history, and the lifestyles of the sailors, soldiers, and settlers who lived there more than a century ago.
There’s also a rich Native American history that stretches back thousands of years before the area was first discovered by those of European descent; many visitors find that aspect of the preserve the most interesting.
10. Green Turtle Tavern
Amelia Island has a reputation as a chill, quirky, and Bohemian destination that’s characterized by its fantastic scenery, abundant bars and restaurants, and all-around cool vibe.
The Green Turtle Tavern welcomes those wearing everything from cut-off jeans and flip-flops to Armani suits and hardhats. It’s conveniently located in the historic downtown area that’s an excellent place for an afternoon stroll as the sun sets.
The tavern is known for its variety of local and regional brews, margaritas, mojitos, and rum cocktails, and they often host live music as well.
The Green Turtle attracts locals and visitors from all walks of life, so pretty much everybody fits in.
11. Cummer Museum of Art
Located on Riverside Avenue in nearby Jacksonville, Cummer Museum of Art is home to one of the most extensive permanent collections of art in the American Southeast.
The museum’s items number more than 5,000, span thousands of years, and come from nearly every corner of the globe.
The outdoor part of the museum includes amazing vistas of the St. John’s River and several distinct gardens set over nearly three scenic acres. The gardens include sculptures, fountains, reflective ponds, and a variety of shaded seating areas from which to take it all in.
Admission is relatively inexpensive, and it’s close to other Jacksonville attractions.
12. Southbank Riverwalk
The St. Johns River is one of Jacksonville’s natural wonders, and the Southbank Riverwalk is the best place from which to experience it without getting wet or dirty.
The Riverwalk gives visitors unique views of both the river and the city skyline, which go well together and make for amazing photographs – especially at sunset or when the horizon is full of storm clouds.
Previous guests have described the Riverwalk as vibrant, trendy, and relaxed. It’s a particularly popular destination during the late afternoon and early evening hours, when happy hours and live music are in full swing.
13. Riverside Arts Market
The Riverside Arts Market is one of Jacksonville’s top art attractions. It’s equal parts farmer’s market, arts and crafts center, and flea market, and for those who’ve got the time and patience to browse the vendors carefully, there’s not much you won’t find.
In addition to paintings, sculptures, and handmade jewelry, visitors will find natural health and body products and locally-made prepared food items and baked goods, like cheese, salsa, and artisan bread.
It’s as much a social event as a shopping one, and features eclectic entertainment like belly dancers, jugglers, and barbershop quartets that give it a noticeably theatric feel.
14. Little Talbot Island State Park
For those who are tired of the area’s more developed attractions, the beaches, forests, and dunes of Little Talbot Island State Park would be perfect places to lose yourself.
The waterways and barrier islands around the park are home to a variety of animals; many of them are easy to see along the trails. For gutsy and energetic types who prefer to take to the water in canoes and kayaks, there are even more spectacular sights in store.
Surfing, fishing, swimming, and shell collecting are all popular activities, and there are covered seating areas for those who’d like to bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
15. Fantastic Fudge
Located on Center Street in downtown Fernandina Beach, Fantastic Fudge features fresh, made-daily fudge that’s prepared the old-fashioned way, using natural ingredients and traditional methods.
Though their fudge usually steals the show, they also offer peanut brittle, jelly beans, salt water taffy, and caramel corn. For those prone to binge eating, it may be wise to arrive with an already-full stomach.
They also offer tasty coffee and decadent hot chocolate, and their products are available for takeaway; many come in economical bulk-size bags and packages.
Gluten-free options are available, and they’re open every day until 9 PM, and 10 on Friday and Saturday.