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  • Drew Fuller

Amelia Island

The People of Amelia Island

One visit is not enough.

My wife had a friend come into the States, close enough that a catch-up visit was in order. Friend was staying in a house on Amelia Island, so off we went. It’s about a six hour drive from Atlanta. The trip was going to be all about people rather than destination, but I had no idea the wonder of the folks we would meet. It was late Friday afternoon before we pulled into Fernandina Beach.

We stayed at a friend of Friends who lives near the Fairbanks House, a B&B mansion with a historical marker out front. It looks like the place to stay to help get in touch with the character of the island. You can walk the couple of blocks to a busy downtown on neighborhood streets. A return trip will have us there.

My wife and Friend met in the Caribbean working on St. John in the hospitality industry. Friend still lives in the islands, though the place where they worked is no more. The stories they told of those days made me want to be there. While my wife and Friend caught up, I got to know the owner of the house, the amazing Queen Tug. I doubt she would be offended if I call her that.

Queen raised her family for twenty some odd years on ocean going tugboats. She is a keyboard master, playing for churches while on land. She’s been in magazine articles and I don’t know many people who have musicians record a song about them. Every time you walk through a room in her house you see something you hadn’t noticed before. You know everything there has a story attached. She is the fourth owner of the house built in the 1800’s. Queen’s neighborhood is full of houses like hers, and that’s not even the part of the island they call Old Town.

Her neighborhood is called the Historic Section, where the gathering places are front porches and sidewalks. Met a wonderful lady walking her dog as we walked to breakfast at T-Rays. She knew where that was. The locals are easy to pick out and tend to know where everything is, happy to share information. Later we saw her again, and she asked us how breakfast tasted. That lead to a conversation about lunch and we were off to Timoti’s Seafood Shack, after more talk about her island. She told us the oldest hand-knotted net factory is still there, they just don’t make many shrimp nets anymore. It’s all about sports nets now days. It’s getting a visit next trip. Bet there are some stories within those walls. Brunch before coming home was at Jack and Diane’s. A disappointing meal was not on the island during our weekend.

Went on a tour boat ride with Amelia River Cruises and Charters. The captain was quick to point out the dolphins, manatees, alligators, wild horses, and interesting birds. We saw wild horses when the cruise took us to the Carnage ruins on Cumberland Island. Captain struck me as fully competent, happy to show off piloting skills while retrieving an overboard flip-flop. The tour guide was also fully competent with local knowledge on just about everything we saw. Guide pointed out more wildlife, industries that were and are, and the abundant Captain Budwisers. That’s how Guide referred to the weekend boaters.

There is so much we didn’t have time to explore in just one weekend. The fort, a walk on the pier, maybe a carriage ride through Old Town, definitely beach time next visit. We didn’t get to The Crab Trap, but it looked and smelled like a meal that’s good enough reason to return by itself. I’m looking forward to that return to make more acquaintances, maybe even turn one into a friend. Most of all, I’m looking forward to hearing more stories from Queen Tug.

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