Simpson Landscape. | Photo: Thomas Oliver
AMELIA ISLAND, Florida - Amelia Island is to many a unique and somewhat secret gem along the Atlantic coast of northern Florida. The island has a long and rich history being ruled under 8 different flags including France, Spain and yes, a pirate. Being similar in size to Manhattan the island is surprisingly diverse and contains an abundance of wildlife, un-crowded beaches and scenic vistas all making Amelia Island a true SUP destination.
Amelia Island is a SUP destination that offers something unique each time you paddle. Six of the best places to explore the island on a SUP are detailed below. Be mindful that the tide and wind dictate when and where to paddle. While there are plenty of places for first time paddlers, these six paddles are better suited for the intermediate to advanced paddler as they vary in length from 5 to 10 miles.
Mild temperatures and the sea breeze make Amelia Island a year-round destination for paddlers. Summer, the hottest and most humid months, is the busy season for family vacations to the beach. That said, the island never really feels overly crowded. The weather in the fall and spring is much less humid with temperatures ranging from the upper 50’s to the low 80s. The cool and dry weather is perfect for a fire on the beach after a day of paddling. Winter is mild, relatively speaking, with temps in the 40s to upper 50s with an occasional freeze warning. It is rare that it is too cold to be in or on the water even in the winter months. For the paddler, fall and spring are ideal as the weather is warm and dry. The island gets the most consistent waves during this period as well with the occasional hurricane swell.
Amelia Island's Half Moon Bluff. | Photo: Thomas Oliver
Beautiful Amelia Island sunrise. | Photo: Thomas Oliver
Start your day off right with a morning workout in the gorgeous light of sunrise. With a little swell you can ride a few bumps as you paddle along the coast. You will likely be joined by a dolphin or two and in late spring you may also come across a sea turtle. It is also a popular time of day to see riders on horseback strolling down the beach. There are numerous points along the island with public access to the beach, just pick one and go!
Cumberland Island via Beech Creek
Ft. Clinch, wild horses, and the dungeoness can all be seen on this paddle. | Photos: Thomas Oliver
Just to the north of Amelia Island is Cumberland Island National Seashore. To access Cumberland from Amelia Island you paddle across the inlet which is just under a mile. The paddle starts with a view of historic Ft. Clinch in range of its canons. Once across the inlet, head west along the Cumberland Island shoreline to the entrance of Beech Creek. Keep an eye out for manatee at the entrance of the creek. The paddle from there is through a meandering salt marsh with some gorgeous vistas and egrets. Along the creek there is a good chance you will see wild horses that were brought over by the Spanish hundreds of years ago. At the end of the creek are the ruins of Dungeness. This is a great place to get out and explore before paddling back. The ruins are all that remain of a mansion with roots dating back to the 1700s. The property has been owned by many prominent names in American history such as Oglethorpe, Greene and Carnegie. The launch point for this paddle is DD Bartels Boat Ramp.
Blackwaters of Lofton Creek
Loften Creek is surrounded by beautiful scenery. | Photos: Thomas Oliver
When the wind is howling at the ocean making the conditions unfit for surfing or paddling, Lofton Creek is the place to go because it is located inland and protected by thick vegetation and trees. The calm waters of Lofton are black from tannic acid, a byproduct from decaying plants. The contrast between the black water, green foliage and blue skies is picturesque. You can paddle north or south on the narrow creek where you can thread the needle through some over hanging tree branches and shoot the pier of a railroad trestle to the north. Lofton Creek is also the best place to see spider lilies and alligators! Access to Lofton Creek is via Melton Nelson Boat Ramp.
Surf 2 miles off shore
Fun, uncrowded waves can be found off the shoals. | Photo: Pam Bell
Surfing an empty break is the dream of nearly every surfer. While Amelia Island is blessed with many uncrowded surf spots, access to the shoals just outside the Nassau Sound requires a little effort in the form of a 2+ mile paddle. Once you get there you will have the place to yourself. With deep ocean water hitting the shallow shoals you can get waist high waves when there is nothing worth surfing back on the mainland. There are two launch points that give you access to the Nassau Sound – Sawpit Boat Ramp and Amelia Island State Park. From either access point, paddle east towards the breakers off in the distance!
Simpson Creek to Boneyard Beach
The first inhabitants of Amelia Island were Timucuan Indians known for being tall and healthy. They lived off the land hunting and gathering for food, particularly marine wildlife, including alligators, manatee and shell fish. In fact, prominent remaining artifacts are their mounds of oyster shells.
Simpson Creek to Boneyard Beach is an extrordinary paddle. | Photos: Thomas Oliver
Simpson Creek is located in a salt marsh that is now the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Paddling north through the salt marsh you will see an abundance of birds, especially egrets. As you continue through the meandering marsh you with come to Half Moon Bluff, an unexpected and beautiful natural feature. The bluff is about 30 feet high and is layered with dark clay on the bottom, white sand, palmettos and oak trees on top creating a canopy of vibrant green. Simpson Creek eventually empties into the Nassau Sound where you paddle northwest along Big Talbot State Park. There are a number of empty beaches to explore along the way. One of the beaches is known as Boneyard Beach. Here you will paddle by the skeletal remains of fallen oak trees that have been bleached by the salt and sun. The final leg of the paddle takes you under the A1A bridge to the exit point. For this paddle you need to set up a shuttle. The launch point is at Kayak Amelia on Simpson Creek and the exit is at the Sawpit Boat Ramp.
Historic Downtown Sunset
Stunning Amelia Island sunset. | Photo: Thomas Oliver
Downtown Fernandina Beach has a long and storied history. Seeing it from the deck of a SUP as you paddle down the St. Mary’s river provides an interesting perspective especially at sunset. Moored sailboats and the marsh in the foreground frame the setting sun. Looking east you will enjoy downtown in the orange and red glow of sunset. You will paddle by some of the few remaining local shrimp boats, container ships at the port of Fernandina, the house the movie The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking was filmed and the marina. The harbor is also loaded with local dolphin and, if you know where to look, manatee. Across the river is the uninhabited Tiger Island which is another place to explore during the paddle. Lastly, there are two pulp and paper plants in town that give the paddle a real urban, industrial feel. Afterwards, there are plenty of places to eat and drink downtown. Launch points for this paddle include DD Bartels Boat Ramp or the Fernandina Beach Marina.
Amelia Island is a SUP friendly locale both in and out of the water. In fact, a number of local residents are major players in the world of SUP. Scott Road Beach Access is popular with the local paddle surfers and a place you can still drive on the beach. You will always be warmly welcomed by the folks at Amelia Island Paddle Surf Company. Learn more about Amelia Island Paddle Surf Company by checking out their Facebook page here.
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