Among the many charms of Amelia Island is the extraordinary environmental beauty both on land and in the surrounding bodies of water. History is also a special attraction, as the area has flown eight different flags. Amelia Island River Cruises specializes in combining natural excursions while retelling the unique history of this northernmost point of Florida.
From their dock in Fernandina’s Old Town, Amelia Island River Cruises sets off to discover dolphins in the ocean, manatees in the harbor and rare or endangered birds in the hammocks. Tour options include a river exploration and a sunset cruise on pontoon-style vessels that accommodate 49 and a ferry that holds 80 passengers. For an idea of what you might see on one of these cruises, watch this video.
Captain Kevin McCarthy, a knowledgeable and jolly guide, narrated the island’s history under the French, Spanish and Confederate flags. The French Hugenot leader Jean Ribault recognized the area's gifts, particularly its deep water channel, when he arrived in 1562. The impressive Fort Clinch, a Civil War-era military installation that sits at the mouth of the harbor, is appreciable from the water too.
The Sunset Tour also featured Captain Kevin's lovely wife, Cecilia Bennett McCarthy, as First Mate. Both of them are connected to the land and the sea. Kevin has lived here for decades, while his wife is a ninth-generation descendant of John Clubb, who came to nearby Cumberland Island in 1736 with British General James Oglethorpe.
One of Cecilia's ancestors, Rachel Clubb Church, was married to the first lighthouse keeper on Cumberland in the early 1800s. Cecilia is also the great-granddaughter of Thomas O'Hagan, the Amelia Island Lighthouse keeper who first arrived in 1905.
Between the two of them, they identified every bird that flew by, to the delight of the passengers. On our cruise, Capt. Kevin deftly took us near a flock of roseate spoonbills, which then spread out in a hammock! It seemed that they, too, were enjoying the glorious, multicolor sky as the sun descended in a fiery red ball.
An outing on Amelia River Cruises & Charters is a "don't miss event" on any visit to Fernandina Beach.