By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: I'm driving to Walt Disney World this winter. I know it sounds funny but afterwards we'd be interested in visiting some historic towns. If you know of any, please let us know.

A: You might consider a drive north along the A1A approximately 3 hours from Orlando to historic Amelia Island. Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway and one of Eastern United States deepest inlets, Cumberland Sound, Amelia Island is Florida's most north easterly point, stretching a wee 13 miles long and two miles wide, and is loaded with history.

In the 1850s, U.S. Senator David Yulee was so enchanted with this southern isle that he built Florida's first cross-state railroad connecting Fernandina Beach with Cedar Key so folks could vacation at the "Queen of the Summer Resorts" on Amelia Island. The historic district of Fernandina Beach was on the rise. Its post office, a copy of the Medici's Uffizi Gallery in Florence is one sure sign of the early days of opulence. Later, Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler constructed his East Coast Railway bypassing the beach hamlet.

Today, the locals report this was the best project that never was. It's a sleepy dreamy town locked in a Victorian time capsule whose streets are lined with antique shops, boutiques and restaurants. Styled in Queen Anne architecture and coquina exteriors, remnants of the past are beautifully preserved throughout the 50 blocks registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ten of the historic homes are known as quaint bed and breakfasts, an ideal setting for any history buff. Once when I past through this town, I stayed at the Florida House Inn, Florida's oldest tourist hotel whose peculiar backyard resident, a Live Oak, is said to be over 250 years old. The dining room is famous for such guests as the Vanderbilts & Rockefeller's. Foodies will be delighted. Known as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, there is succulent shrimp along with other local catch of the day that awaits the hungry palette.

A great precursor to the island's history occurs at Florida's only oral history museum, the Amelia Island Historical Museum, where seasoned interpreters use flags, maps and photos in storytelling. Afterwards, roam the streets on a guided walking tour. Historical re-enactments happen at Fort Clinch State Park.

For more info on Amelia Island, call toll-free 1.800.2AMELIA or visit the web site at


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