Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach Travel Guide (2024)

Planning a trip to Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach? Here are the best things to do in Downtown Fernandina, including the best shopping, historical sights, and local restaurants.

Amelia Island has been inhabited for centuries, has been under eight different countries’ flags, and has seen everything from pirates to bootleggers to shrimpers. It’s no wonder then that the seaport village of Fernandina Beach has a historic district spanning 50 blocks and has over 400 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

From local shops to charming restaurants, Victorian-era architecture and historical sights, learn all about exploring Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach in this guide!

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Fernandina Beach History

Fernandina Beach is located on Amelia Island and was officially established in 1811.

Amelia Island is known as the “Isle of 8 Flags” because it is the only municipality in the US to have flown eight different national flags: since 1562 the island has flown the flags of France,Spain,Great Britain, the Republic of Florida, theGreen Cross of Florida,Mexico, theConfederate States of America, and theUnited States.

Fernandina Beach has a history of pirates, bootleggers, and shrimpers. The island is even considered to be the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry.

Today, Fernandina Beach is known for its annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, miles of sandy beaches, and boutique downtown shopping. This and more are what have kept Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island consistently ranked among Florida’s best island destinations.

Things to Do in Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach

Exploring the historic downtown district is one of the best activities in Fernandina Beach! Things to do in Downtown Fernandina include:

  • Checking out the historic buildings
  • Shopping at local boutiques
  • Dining at charming restaurants
  • Enjoying seasonal events and festivals

Here’s your guide to all the fun you can have in Fernandina Beach’s historic district!

Historic Buildings in Downtown Fernandina

Nassau County Courthouse

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Built in 1891, the Nassau County Courthouse is one of only a few remaining late-19th century Florida courthouses.

A beautiful Italianate building, this courthouse is the tallest building in the Fernandina Beach Historic District. The building has continued to serve the county’s judicial and governmental needs since it was first constructed.

Lesesne House

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Across Centre Street from the courthouse is the Lesesne House. This Classical Revival style home was built by the Lesesne family in 1860 and is one of the oldest homes in Fernandina Beach.

The Lesesne family left Fernandina during the Civil War and never returned, so the home became the property of the Friend family. The Friends still occupy the home today as a private residence.

U.S. Post Office-Customs House-Courthouse

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Next door to the Lesesne House is an Italian Renaissance Revival building from 1912 built to accommodate its three original functions as a United States customs house, courthouse, and post office.

Now the building only houses the post office.

The Palace Saloon

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The Palace Saloon holds the distinction of the oldest continually operating drinking establishment in Florida.

The building dates back to 1878 and the bar dates back to 1903. Local lore says that it was the last bar in Florida to close on the eve of Prohibition.

This is one of the best bars in Fernandina Beach. Be sure to pop in and get a cup of their world famous Pirates Punch.

Vintage Coca-Cola Sign

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The Palace Saloon was also the first hard liquor bar to begin serving Coca-Cola products around 1905.

I doubt this sign is that old (I couldn’t find any history on it), but it’s a fitting mural to be displayed on the backside of the Palace Saloon building. And I just like co*ke.

Old Train Depot

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The old train depot, where the Amelia Island Welcome Center is now located, was Florida’s first Atlantic-to-Gulf Railroad.

The Florida Railroad Company was incorporated in 1853 with David Yulee as president; you can take a picture with Yulee next to the depot. The railroad ran from Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key.

Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach Walking Tours

If you want to learn even more about all the historic buildings Downtown Fernandina Beach has to offer, you can join a guided walking tour of the historic district.

You can also stop by the Amelia Island Welcome Center at the historic train depot to pick up a self-guided walking tour map.

Shopping in Downtown Fernandina

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Downtown Fernandina Beach is full of local shops selling everything from souvenirs to artwork. Here are a few of my favorites:

Downtown Fernandina Beach Restaurants

Some of the best restaurants in Fernandina Beach are located right here in Historic Downtown! Here’s just a taste of what you can find:

Ciao Italian Eatery

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Ciao Italian Eatery is a little bit upscale. They serve classic Italian pasta and seafood dishes, and they make a really good coconut mojito.

I can vouch for both their spaghetti and their seafood pasta being very delicious!

614 Centre St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

Mezcal Spirit of Oaxaca

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Mezcal Spirit of Oaxacais known for having the best margaritas in town, so that’s exactly what we went for. We had a pitcher of their Organic Margarita and some chips and salsa.

They also have a special taco Tuesday menu and an outdoor patio.

302 Centre St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

Wicked Bao

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Tucked away on the edge of Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, Wicked Bao specializes in Asian street food. Their popular dishes include bao, pork ramen, and kimchi fried rice.

I recommend trying the Bao Trio with Braised Pork Belly, Bulgogi Beef, and Buttermilk Fried Chicken Baos so you can try a variety.

232 N 2nd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

More Downtown Fernandina Beach Restaurants:

Events in Downtown Fernandina

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Downtown Fernandina is the heart of the town, so this is where you’ll find many of the annual special events. Here are a few to look forward to:

  • Sounds on CentreApril through October — a free concert series at the river end of Centre Street
  • Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festivalfirst weekend in May — celebrating Fernandina’s role as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry
  • 8 Flags Car Show, Amelia CruizersOctober — a classic car show
  • Petanque America Open USA November — held on the downtown riverfront, hundreds of Petanque players enjoy international tournament in this outdoor bowling game
  • Dickens on CentreDecember — a Victorian Christmas celebration inspired by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, featuring costumed characters, themed entertainment, local vendors, a parade, and more. If you’re in Fernandina for Christmas, this is a can’t-miss celebration
  • Fernandina Beach Farmers’ Marketevery Saturday year-round — buy local produce and goods in this market on N 7th Street
  • Fernandina Beach Arts Marketthe 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month year-round — buy local art in this market located adjacent to the Farmers’ Market

Where to Stay in Historic Fernandina Beach

The historic district has quaint bed & breakfasts, small inns, and vacation rentals in historic homes. There is also a traditional hotel. If you want to stay in the middle of the action and be within walking distance of the island’s best dining and shopping, then you’ll love staying in Downtown Fernandina! Here are the best stays in Downtown:

  • Amelia Schoolhouse Inn — a boutique hotel in the town’s original schoolhouse
  • The Addison On Amelia Island — an upscale B&B in three antebellum-style buildings
  • Amelia Island Williams House — an upscale B&B in a grand 1856 mansion
  • Florida House Inn — a charming Victorian Inn
  • — an upscale B&B in a grand 1905 home
  • — a historic B&B
  • — a pastel-hued hotel right on the harbor

Tips for Visiting Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach

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The main street in Downtown Fernandina Beach is called Centre Street.

Downtown Fernandina is very walkable and easy to navigate with wide sidewalks and plenty of pedestrian crossing zones.

Free parking is plentiful in Downtown. There is parking all along Centre Street and the sides streets. Most of the time, you can easily find a parking spot, but it can be trickier during busy summer weekends.

Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach Map

Ready to explore all that Historic Downtown Fernandina has to offer? Use this map to help plan out your visit!

I hope you have an amazing time getting to know Downtown Fernandina Beach!

Top Fernandina Beach Tours

With so much to see, Fernandina Beach can be overwhelming for any first-time traveler. To take some of the stress out of planning your visit, opt for a guided tour! Check out this list of the top Fernandina Beach tours to help you make the most of your time on Amelia Island.

  • Amelia Island Guided Kayak Tour of Lofton Creek
  • CraigCat Boat Tour from Fernandina Beach
  • Eight Flags Road Tour

Where to Stay in Fernandina Beach, Florida

  • Top Beach RentalCozy Log Cabin Directly on the Beach
  • Great ValueAmelia Hotel at the Beach
  • Top HotelResidence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island
  • Unique StayAmelia Schoolhouse Inn

More Things To Do in Fernandina Beach

Just can’t get enough of this coastal Florida town? Check out these other Fernandina Beach itineraries.

  • 13 Fun Things to Do in Fernandina Beach, FL
  • 5 Days in Fernandina Beach Itinerary
  • 23 Delicious Restaurants in Fernandina Beach, FL
  • How to Spend Christmas in Fernandina Beach, FL
  • 8 Rainy Day Activities in Fernandina Beach, FL
  • 10 Best Bars in Fernandina Beach, Florida

Ready to visit Fernandina Beach, Florida? Plan your trip with these tips.

  • Book Your Flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
  • Find Accommodation: You can find top beach rentals in Fernandina Beach on VRBO.
  • Start Packing: Check out my packing list resources so you’re prepared for your trip.

Cheers!

Paige

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Did you find this guide to Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach helpful? Let me know in the comments!

Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach Travel Guide (2024)
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