Fernandina Beach

Words by Bob Arrington | 2024 Charter Issue

Word spreads quickly amongst cruisers when a safe anchorage is discovered, or a friendly harbor is found.

Safe, all-weather, predictable inlets are also high on the list of information to share. It just so happens all three of these features exist in the St. Mary’s River dividing the states of Florida and Georgia.

The St. Mary’s River inlet separating Florida and Georgia, carries 45 feet at mean low water through its wide well marked entrance.  The inlet is so good, the U.S. Navy found it acceptable to locate the Kings Bay submarine base in nearby St. Mary’s, Georgia. Kings Bay is the largest submarine base in the world. It’s an awe-inspiring experience as a boater, to give way to a Trident Class Nuclear submarine navigating the inlet with you.

The inlet is popular with northern U.S. and Canadian sailors, as several insurance companies use the Georgia-Florida border as the navigational limit for hurricane season. Cruisers frequently bring their boats here for summer storage, after a winter in the Bahamas or Caribbean.

Once safely through the inlet, a turn to the south will take you to the quaint village of Fernandina Beach, Florida. Located on Amelia Island, a well-known resort island located near Jacksonville. Blessed with abundant natural beauty and rich in history, Amelia Island draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to its golf resorts and white sand beaches. A fun fact and source of local pride: Amelia Island is known as the Isle of Eight Flags, having been occupied since its settlement by more nations than any other place in North America.

Fernandina Beach is a beautifully maintained Victorian village, only steps away from the marina. Centre Street and the adjacent blocks are the life of this vibrant downtown. Fernandina Beach escaped experiencing the boom-and-bust cycles of many of the working waterfront communities; its diversity in industry, shipping and commercial fishing has sustained them through the worst of times. A testimony to its enduring spirit, Fernandina Beach has the oldest continuously operating saloon in Florida, the Palace Saloon is a pre-prohibition establishment with the original mosaic floors and stamped tin ceilings.

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