Leaving St. Marys GA, it isn't far to the Florida line. From the perspective of one that is traveling the perimeter of the United States, Florida is intimidating. When you add the length of the east coast. the Florida keys, the west coast and the panhandle, there is as much coast of Florida as there is from the Florida line to the end of the coast in Maine.
We are going to take a foray into Florida this week, then back up and cover a couple of the barrier islands in Georgia that we missed. So, first up in Florida is Amelia Island.
Named for the daughter of King Ferdinand of Spain, Amelia Island houses three cities. We start on the North end of the island at Fernandina.
We will look more into the history of the area tomorrow - but suffice it to say that over the last 500 years this has been the most hotly contested real estate in the United States. This island has been ruled by about everyone it could have been ruled by.
Today this is a tourist mecca, with many New Englanders wintering here. Back in the late 1800's there was regular steam-ship service to here from New York. This was THE PLACE to be seen, unless of course you were one of the thirty families that could afford entrance into the Jekyll Island Club.
Amelia Island is almost 14 miles long and about two miles wide, so there is a lot of beach. For those of you who have driven Florida, you know the road that never seems to end - AIA. This is where it starts. and it runs 330 miles southward to Key West.
There were a couple of the houses that stood out to me. I love it when you see things - especially that are built in this generation - that are not cookie-cutter.
We have enough boxy structures - in fact I am convinced that historians will look back on this era as one of the most boring architecturally. But, at least we came up with Faux News Channels and the computerized mobile telephone.
The St. Marys River runs along the backside of the island. One of the big attractions to this river early on was the acidic nature of the water. The inland swamps in Florida and southern Georgia generate a bunch of a chemical called tannin. You see, early shipping was plagued with worms that bored holes through the wooden hulls.
Tannin kills these worms. Thus, ships that were anchored in this water would last much longer than ships that were constantly exposed to this assault.
This is the home of the modern shrimping industry. Both the modern techniques, nets and boats were developed here. But, like most of the east coast, the shrimping industry here is just a shadow of what it once was.
There are a few boats left, but you can also see hulls far out in the tidal marsh rotting away.
As a former booming fishing town, there are the remnants of many fisheries about.
A few of these are still in relatively good shape.
But many more sit in decay.
Roofs and walls falling in - but you know that it won't last long. These sit on prime real estate, and someone will find a use for the land.
This is a sizable port, and at one time it was the busiest port on the east coast of the United States.
With two cranes, it is but a shadow of what its northern neighbor, Savannah's Port has become.
But industry remains here. Two large mills came to town back in the 1930's, and have contributed much to the local economy since.
But the vast majority of the back-side of the island remains in its natural state. Here is a view toward the mainland along the town's riverfront.
Spots to watch a beautiful sunset abound.
Downtown Fernandina is a bustling place, with several streets full of shops carrying a wide mix of goods and services.
There are numerous bed and breakfasts and hotels. Here is Florida's oldest operating hotel.
And right around the corner is Florida's oldest continuously operated pub.
Some of the old architecture is really neat. This church was built in the 1890's, and stands in start contrast to the sparse styles of the Protestant churches we have seen for the last couple hundred miles.
Even the entryway is a work of art.
And of course there are the cemeteries - although they seem to be a bit more muted. Many of the oldest cemeteries and long lost - but the European influence here dates clear back to the 1560's.
It started snowing the afternoon I hit the Florida line - not nearly enough to accumulate anything, but snow in the Sunshine State nonetheless. The birds don't seem too enthused about the whole deal. Hardly any of them are flying about - most are just hunkered down with feathers fluffed out.
Even the normally raucous pelicans are pretty subdued.
A beautiful sunset shows one of the advantages of the cold - the "maritime haze," that low-lying mist that distorts photos taken anywhere around the ocean in hotter climates has fallen out of the air. Photos are pretty comparatively crisp.
Tomorrow we will look at the history of this place - it has a net one. Meanwhile, today's parting shot is something that has me scratching my head.
Somebody built a boat dock with a draw-bridge. Now I have seen the gates on the walk-ways that folks lock, but this is a new one.
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