By Lauren Tjaden
Where: From Fernandina Beach in Amelia Island, just south of the Georgia-Florida state line, along Florida’s Atlantic Coast through Atlantic Beach and down to Jacksonville Beach, ending at the southern gateway near J. Turner Butler Boulevard.
Length: 39.7 Miles
How to get around: Car
Best time to visit: Springtime is hard to beat, with perfect temperatures averaging in the high 70s, crowd-free beaches and events like Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival on Amelia Island, a tradition for over 50 years.
Fun fact: You can raise a mug of suds with the ghosts from ten decades past at The Palace Saloon in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, the oldest bar in Florida.
A1A Ocean Islands Trail promises a stunning drive. It jogs through downtown Fernandina Beach, winds through maritime forests and arcs over waterways, weaving a colorful tapestry of history, recreation and ecological wonders.
At the northern gateway to this byway, the cobbled streets of Fernandina Beach beg to explored on foot. Beyond quaint, this Victorian seaport village boasts over 400 historic sites and a colorful past populated by Gilded Age millionaires, pirates, bootleggers and shrimpers. Discover eclectic shops, refuel at one of dozens of restaurants and bars, and make sure to indulge your sweet tooth at Fantastic Fudge, which lives up to its name.
A splash south of Amelia Island, you’ll find Boneyard Beach on Big Talbot Island. This utterly unique beach is a photographer’s dream, famed for the bleached-white skeletons of live oak and cedar trees that tumbled from the bluffs near the shore.
The route includes the Mayport Ferry, linking Fort George Island to the historic, commercial fishing village of Mayport across the St. Johns River. Be sure to stop and chow down on locally caught fresh shrimp while you’re in the neighborhood.