Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Historic Fernandina Beach With a Top Notch Guide

Saturday November 22, 2014
Fort Clinch State Park
Fernandina Beach, Florida



This morning we walk over to the Willow Pond Nature Trail where at 10:30 they are having a guided walk.  It’s not a long trail but we think it might be interesting to see what a guide would have to say about the flora.  We don’t really expect to see any fauna but you never know.  We get there at 10:25 and are the only folks here when the guide comes up.  Cool!  Unfortunately we have forgotten our cameras.  What?  Both of us?  Yup.  But, David has his dumb phone so these pictures are that quality.




At 10:30 sharp, the cars started rolling in.  One, two, three…..ten.  All packed with cub scouts and their parents.  Well probably not.  They are definitely cute but we want an informative walk and I’m not sure we’ll be able to hear anything said other than the kids.   This is only a small part of the group.




We leave the group hike back one of the many bike trails in the park.   It’s going our direction so we take our chances.  The trail is through the maritime forest and has a number of big trees, both pines and live oaks, which need hugging.  Clearly this area has been protected for quite a while.  I know these look like the same picture, my best side but for those of you who are tree challenged, that’s the pine on the left and the live oak on the right.




When we reach the campground, we stop by to discuss the day with Nancy and Bill who are just across the circle from us.  We had planned to bike 5 miles from the campground with Nancy and Bill to take a tour of the historic area. Another of Nancy’s great ideas. BUT it is now clear that rain is imminent so instead they kindly agree to clear out their car so we can hitch a ride over.

Like many full timers, we both use our cars as a garage.  They keep their bikes, sea eagle and fishing gear in theirs.  We keep our beach chairs, bike gear, hiking gear and kayaking gear in ours.  So if we want to provide room for passengers, we have to empty the garage.

Walking in the rain a bit isn’t too bad but it’s much easier to get out of a downpour if you are walking than if you are on a bike We’ll meet after lunch for an afternoon outing.


Have you noticed that nearly every town now has an “historic area”. Pretty sure that has become synonymous with “tourist area” these days and is usually where the oldest buildings and homes are found IF they are still in use.


00 - Watch Closely Boys

On the way to the historic area, well not exactly on the way, Bill needs to get a windshield wiper for the car.  He finds an O’Reillys Auto Parts, goes in and comes back with the wiper in short order.  That’s when the fun starts.  He can’t  get the old wiper off.  

David gets out to help him.  They can’t get the old wiper off.  Bill goes in and gets someone who also can’t get the wiper off.

  In the meantime, Nancy gets out the manual which clearly tells how to turn the wiper to get it off.  Somehow the 3 of them manage to muscle it off and get the new ones on but it is seriously hilarious watching them struggle when all they have to do is read the manual – 2 minutes tops.   Thanks to Nancy for this picture and some others I’ve used.




Bill snags a great parking spot and we have 3 hours to explore.  They can’t read the car manual but they do start out here by setting up the three geocaches Bill wants to find. 

Then off we go down to the river.  Nancy and I are singing “Shall We Gather at the River”…..   As we get near, we come along a statue to Pegleg the Pirate.  Looks  like Pirates is going to be a theme here.  So I get a picture of the 4 pirates.  Three of them don’t look very threatening do they?







02 - Sherry's New Friend

I have a nice chat with David Yulee who is a very good looking man don’t you think?  It’s true I can’t resist a pretty face He’s a city father of course and seems to have some disconcerning things to tell me.







Although it’s a gray day, the bright colors of this beach town remind me of the tropics




As always Nancy is totally on top of this town and has prepared and printed out a 15 page guide to the Historic District.  I doubt that the visitor center has a better brochure than hers with color pictures of every site and an explanation of its history.





Quite a few boats are in the Amelia River harbor beyond this advertisement for “private” ferry service to the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island.  It is the only remaining property owned by the Carnegies on the Island.  No other island ferry service is available from Fernandina to Cumberland.  You have to go back to St. Mary’s Georgia if you want to visit the National Seashore.  I highly recommend the book Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses as a great read before you go there.  Don’t think Nancy is interested in the $425 to $635 a night American plan rooms with “free” ferry service.



Leaving the water, we leave the river and head back up Centre Street (notice the spelling) on the opposite side.  This intersection with the train tracks right next to the waterfront really does remind me of a small town of days gone by.



Florida’s Oldest Bar is The Palace Saloon on Centre Street.  It has a great history.  Built as a haberdashery in 1878 it became an “elegant gentleman’s saloon” in 1903 which was open until prohibition in 1918.  So it became an ice cream parlor from 1918 to 1933 and went back to being a saloon.  Not sure how they can say it’s been a saloon since 1878 or even 1903.  I’m sure Florida had a saloon before 1933.   Oh well, we find that Fernandina is in competition with St. Augustine for the oldest this and the oldest that.



We walk on through the business district with its interesting commercial architecture.  I spot the bookstore on the other side of the street.  I’ll catch that later when we walk down the other side.



The Three Star Saloon with the three large stars worked into the brickwork on the second floor level is no longer a saloon.  It was built in 1877 by William Marson whose daughter sold it after his death on the condition that alcoholic beverages would never be sold there again and they have not. Our information says Marson was known to enjoy sampling the merchandise.  His daughter might have been part of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement.


Nancy/Vanna points out the current merchandise in the store window.  It’s her new look.



Our tour guide points out the old post office.  Well it’s still the post office but it dates from 1910 and was designed in the style of the Medici Palace in Florence.  Boy those Early Floridians had pretentions.



This seems like a very sweet little town that, if I didn’t adore full timing, would be a nice place to live.  I’m even more convinced when I see this headline in the local paper. 





The town sports numerous lovely old houses complete with ancient trees whose roots have curved up the brick front walks in some places.   This first picture shows the Lesesne House which was built in 1860 by Dr. John Lesesne who left during the civil war.  The house was purchased by John Friend and is still occupied by descendents of the original family.  The house was constructed of hand hewn lumber and fastened with wooden pegs.  I’d sure love to see inside.





I love the rounded porch and the beautiful entry door here.






Like most small historic towns Fernandina is full of churches.  The Episcopal is my favorite here.  It was originally constructed in 1881-84.  I love the gothic architecture.





Notice that little bitty door on the right of the sacristy door.  I wonder what it’s for or where it goes.  No one is around to ask.  



04 - We need lots of prayers





The church also has a HUGE tree next to its parking lot.  Bill doesn’t get in on the hug but does tell us that our hands are about 5 feet apart which makes this tree about 15’ 10” in circumference.


06 - Bill won't hug


From the church we head to the cemetery of course.  There’s a geocache there.  On the way we pass the 9th Street Community Garden created on land donated by the church.  Great idea for all churches I think.  The garden is in need of harvesting.  I can’t believe they are going to let this yummy broccoli go to seed.  I help them a little bit by pruning some of their red butter crunch lettuce.  It’s delicious.  At first I only pinch one leaf but I keep going back for more.  YUM!!





On the edge of the garden are very very tall plumes.  David is 5’10” tall; they tower over him..  The stalks look like bamboo but none of us has ever seen bamboo with a plume like this.  Nancy and I put on our very best cockney accents and refer to it as “the bloomin’ bamboo”.








The really big old trees give great character to the town.  They create such a wonderful atmosphere.  They are all around including in and outside of the cemetery.




08 - Oh My - Another BIG  Tree






Once inside the cemetery, first on the agenda is to find the geocache which calls for a conference.


08 - Geocaching in a cemetery - Really


Bill reads out the directions and we start searching for the big tree, the iron gate and two specific tomb stones.

The tall guy reaches up to get it out of the notch.


The family plots are all marked out.  There are birth dates in the 1700’s.  The oldest person we find lived to be 91 but lots of folks lived into their mid and late 80’s.   It’s always fun to look at the first names.  Many of them are no longer in use.  Elsie and Homer.  Elwood and Hattie.



Leaving the cemetery we stroll down 6th street where we pass house after beautiful house all built in the late 1800’s.  The Victorian Period is my very favorite architectural style.




Fernandina Beach has a trolley tour that I’m sure would be wonderful to take but we have Nancy to provide all our history and it saves us $20 a head.


Green and white seem to be very popular colors.



It’s the Saturday before Thanksgiving and already people are putting up their Christmas trees.  Why are we in such a hurry I wonder.












During the past over 400 years Amelia Island has been under 8 flags.  The first recorded European visitor was French in May of 1562.  In 1566 the Spanish defeated the French.  In 1763 Oglethorpe took it for the English.  The British ceded Florida back to Spain  after the American Revolution and then it flipped back and forth between the Americans, the Spanish and the Mexicans before the United States took it in 1821 except for the year 1861-62 when the Confederates took over Fort Clinch.   WHEW! 

For all this and its claims to be the birthplace of the modern Shrimping Industry, this  Shrimp Statue is the mascot of the Annual Eight Flags Shrimp Festival held here the first few days of May each year.



We have not gone into any of the stores we’ve passed.  None of us needs to shop or buy anything but we all agree we must at least see Nana Theresa’s Bakery even though no one is going to have a sugary treat today.  But I sure know what I’d have if I were.  Just look at those peanut  butter cup cupcakes.








Across the street from Nana’s is  the Florida House.  Built in 1857 it is said to be the oldest hotel in Florida.



As we head back down to the car before our magic 3 hours of free parking is up, we pass by the Book Loft.  Knowing that it is impossible for me to spend less than an hour in any independent book seller, I have to save this for another time.






This has been a great day.  I’d love to come back, next time by bicycle, to this town of pirates and at least stop in the bookstore. We can wander around the many streets we didn’t  get to this time and check out even more of the houses with our hand dandy Nancy Mills Historic District Tour Guide.

This was a wonderful idea brought to us and made possible by Nancy and Bill.   Many thanks!!  It’s particularly terrific of them to even arrange for the rain to hold off until we get back in the car and are driving home.   That’s what I call great friends!  Attention to every detail!!


  1. Can't believe the self control of the four of us passing through the bakery and coming out empty handed. That's solidarity! Great fun walking with Bill and Nancy!

  2. Beautiful town there, enjoyed the men and instructions story also.

  3. Historic/tourist areas full of antiques, trinkets and food help many towns survive. At least some of them can throw in interesting history and natural areas as well. Growing up I dreamed of living in an old Victorian. Thank goodness I grew up to know I could never afford to maintain one. And now, after living in a RV so long, I'd surely get lost. It's hard to believe you, or should I say David, bought Nothing at the bakery. Do you think that last pirate is looking for a wench? Fun tour. Lucky to have your own guide.

  4. I think it's always nice to have a personal guide.

  5. I have not tried geocaching.

    Such a beautiful town.... and so very Southern!

  6. I love the old houses, the variety of styles and colors is amazing. I don't think I could have held stead fast over those luscious looking cupcakes. It makes me drool just to see the picture.

  7. That tall fluffy grass is Pampas grass In California it is considered a weed as those plumes spread all over and make babies.

  8. What? no cupcakes. This is the kind of small town that I like to explore and I would have to stop in the bookstore.

  9. Did you know that the JFK Jr and Carolyn Bessette wedding party stayed at Greyfield Inn for that Oh so secret wedding?? Lovely pics of your latest adventure. Love the tree hugging!

  10. How nice to have personal guides...my favorite way to see something new:)

    Those southern homes are beautiful especially the ones with the large wrap around porches. The curved porches sure do add to the beauty.

    I can just imagine how hard it was to walk away from that garden if no one was tending it.

    We really enjoy old cemeteries. There is usually so much information on the stone.

    I knew David would have to stop at that bakery...a happy man! Just look at that huge smile:)

    Returning to bike around sounds perfect!

  11. What a lovely old town! And I just love the word "Saloon". I've mostly heard bars called that in Old Cincinnati and Chicago. Tavern would be my next choice, followed by bar and pub.

  12. What a special place to explore! Love the old homes and buildings. Wondered if perhaps they start decorating early for Christmas for some sort of holiday home tour. Nice day you four had :)

  13. It was a fun day and a very interesting town. Loved the old houses!! You forgot to mention that I just printed the guide, but David led the tour...good job ;o)) Of course, I did manage to control the weather so we didn't get wet ;o)) You also forgot to mention that we went in the fudge and ice cream store and came out empty handed also. What an amazing show of restraint we displayed ;o)) Enjoy the rest of your time here and we will catch you later this winter!!

  14. We love that area and return time after time as it's such a great stopping off place for trips further down in Florida. And yes, you will need a good bit of time in the Book store! Nancy and Bill seem like such nice people and I love her blog (although I am a silent reader, I think I've read every post). You are making me get very excited about our trip to Florida. It's been two years since we were there!

  15. You four have such fun! Great tour! Hilarious about the windshield wiper! I love Victorian (as you well know). Looks like a place I'd live :) Thanks for the tour and history of the town. They do have mighty nice trees there!

  16. Thanks for the great tour Sherry. Now I want to visit there too.

  17. What a cool place! I can just hear the 4 of you laughing all afternoon :)

  18. The little scout is adorable in his uniform! Mr Yulee is quite handsome, and although you are being very attentive, I imagine he also would not have read the manual :-) I too enjoy cemeteries and architecture - so much for the eye and brain to take in. David on the church step with you and Bill.....love that he still gets such delight in being a naughty boy :-)))) I think the small door on the side must go to the "little girls' room" (sorry, I had to). I appreciate that you could tackle both a bakery and a candy store with restraint, but that you know your limits and avoided the bookstore for now. It's lovely that they have maintained/restored many of the historical places while not taking themselves too seriously by adding the pirates and the shrimp - I would like this town.

  19. What??? You didn't buy anything at that sweet little bakery? Fun tour of Fernandina Beach -- I always enjoy exploring with friends (reminds me of when we biked Apalachicola together). We've never been to Fernandina Beach but we'll definitely go next year. Will you be our tour guides? :-)

  20. What a great day with friends in a neat historic town, I applaud your resolve in not getting at least one cupcake.

  21. You should have auditioned for that tree hugging car commercial on the tube at the moment:))

  22. You went into a bakery just to LOOK!!! We need to talk... :cD

  23. Thanks for the book recommendation we plan on visiting when we leave here this summer.

  24. What a pretty town! I love the old houses and the trees are great! I can't believe you were able to walk into the bakery. I couldn't have done it if I couldn't get anything. How's your new food plan going? Miss you-


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