Captain Brooks Mitchell has devoted his life to exploring the U.S. coastline's natural splendor. His 35- and 45-foot pontoons cruise the Intracoastal Waterway, indulging guests with 360-degree views of manatees, dolphins, and eagles. Captain Mitchell fosters a congenial atmosphere, stocking his pontoon with beverages and snacks, and, on some cruises, even inviting local musicians aboard to serenade passengers and drown out the mating call of passing tugboats.
The Amelia Island Museum of History is the fortuitous result of circumstance. In 1975, a committee from the Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society gathered to found a history museum for Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island. Meanwhile, local collector William Decker was studiously acquiring historical documents and artifacts from the area—a lot whose pieces numbered in the thousands. When Decker died, the collection passed on to his son, a noted altruist, and just like that the Amelia Island Museum had its bones.
Today, the museum's exhibits examine local culture of the Timucua Native American tribe, Spanish and French explorers, pirates, and Victorian-era residents. Curators have assembled the Women of the Port photography display to highlight women working in the local maritime industry.
Museum guides are not restricted to the grounds, and often helm tours of the island's haunted locales, historic Centre Street, and Fernandina Beach's north end—with a focus on history from the mid-18th to 19th centuries.
Fresh Spirit Adventures offers hiking and kayaking excursions in five tranquil locations: Lofton Creek, Eagans Creek, Edwards Creek, Eagans Greenway, and Cumberland Island. Expert guides lead participants through watery channels and wetlands abounding with birds, fish, and even the occasional dolphin.
The specialists at Mr. Frame It take pride in preserving and enhancing memories in all of their physical embodiments—from artworks and photographs to prized sports souvenirs. They draw on more than 1,000 samples from brands such as Larson-Juhl to create custom frames that either serve as focal points or blend in with room decor. In addition to encasing children’s artwork and family portraits, the staff stretches canvases, mounts mirrors, and builds shadow boxes to house awards and first-edition time-share brochures.
Captain Kevin and Cecilia McCarthy have always been fond of the sea. Born and raised in the port town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Kevin sojourned south in 1968 before meeting his wife Cecilia, whose family had arrived on the marshy shores of Fernandina nine generations ago. After Kevin worked as a building contractor for nearly 30 years, he and Cecilia opted to embrace their shared love for being on the water, and founded Amelia River Cruises in the summer of 2000. Twelve years later, their fleet is three U.S. Coast Guard–inspected boats strong, and each cruises steadily along myriad tours of Cumberland Island, Beach Creek, and the shores of Amelia Island. History buffs rejoice in narrated jaunts down the Intracoastal Waterway that lead to the Kingsley Plantation—whose 1797 establishment makes it the oldest surviving plantation house in Florida—before traveling to the historic Fort Caroline National Memorial, one of the first permanent settlements in North America. Two-hour eco tours journey through state parks and aquatic preserves, where hands-on shrimping experiences let guests identify their captured creatures before asking them the current exchange rate of a sand dollar and releasing them back into the wild. The local and surrounding ecosystem, with diverse wildlife that appears most prominently during the summer months, boasts playful pods of dolphins, an abundance of shore birds, and sea turtles who visit to nest on nearby island shores.
Aboard the Emerald Princess II cruise ship, two gaming decks host bingo, roulette, craps, and slot machines. Dealers also facilitate card games including blackjack, Texas hold'em, and stud poker—which is always played between two layers of drywall. A bistro grants a restorative break from the gambling, also attainable on the Emerald Princess II's open-air observation deck. Here, scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean abound as the 200-foot vessel cuts through the water. The staff approximates the dress code to that of a nice restaurant, so guests should refrain from wearing cut-off shorts or beachwear.