We were in Fort Clinch from 2/1 to 2/2/2022 as part of our Florida in January trip.
Fort Clinch State Park is located at the very top of the Florida coast on Amelia Island, 1.5 hours north of St Augustine, just outside the charming little town of Fernandina Beach. We had booked two nights here, but felt satisfied after one, so in the interest of shortening some long driving days on the way home we left a day early. A month later we were surprised to get a reimbursement check from the State of Florida in the mail for that second night. Nice customer service, Florida!
Fort Clinch State Park
Fort Clinch State Park is 1400-acres full of hiking and biking trails, beaches, campgrounds, wildlife, and the historic fort. Fort Clinch was constructed to protect the entrance to the Cumberland Sound and St Mary’s River after the War of 1812. It was used on and off during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, but was abandoned and neglected until it became a state park and the CCC restored it in the 1930s. The park was closed during WWII when Fort Clinch was used as a communications and security post, then reopened and returned to the people after the war.
Our campsite was in the Atlantic Beach campground just behind the dunes. The sites don’t have sewer hookups, but there’s a dump station. We loved our campsite! It was super peaceful and the beach, a short walk away, was a delight to explore. No dogs are allowed on the beach, but I wouldn’t want to take Bugsy there anyway due to the carpet of shell fragments and jellyfish carcasses. Wear shoes!
Fort Clinch itself was neat but didn’t blow us away. We paid our $5 entry fee and saw it all in fifteen minutes. We might have hurried because it was cold.
We opted to skip the main hiking trail in the park as it is shared with mountain bikes and seems to parallel the entrance road for much of its length, and instead ran along a wonderful trail just outside the park, described at the bottom of the post.
After roaming the beach and poking around the fort, we headed into Fernandina Beach, an adorable beach town a 10-minute drive away. It only takes that long because of the slow park entrance road–it’s very close distance-wise, and when planning this stop I figured we’d bike into town. Maybe if we’d stayed that second night!
Our first stop was Mocama Beer Company, a bright, cool spot with a modern look and strong beers–ours were both around 8.3%. My smoothie sour was a bit too sweet (I know, what did I expect), but J’s hazy was very good.
Next we drove down to the historic district to explore and admire the architecture and the waterfront. We stopped for a cozy cocktail at Decantery, a wine, cocktail, and dessert lounge, when we liked what we saw through the window.
Wicked Bao practially screamed at us from the Google map. We had dinner at the bar at this extremely popular and extremely delicious Asian street food restaurant and were ecstatic. Service was fast and friendly and despite the crowd, we didn’t have to wait for bar seats.
To cap off our fun evening in Fernandina Beach, we got ice cream from Island Time. It was a wonderful evening.
Before leaving town for Jekyll Island in the morning, we went for a run in Egans Creek Greenway. This was our pick instead of running in the state park and it was delightful, other than the gnatty things that coated our sweaty faces. The trails were a bit confusing, but there are maps and interpretive signs and lots of wildlife.
Would we return to Fort Clinch State Park and Fernandina Beach? I would, and J would but was a little more tepid about it, and we agreed that we would only go if it were convenient. We didn’t explore any of Amelia Island south of Fernandina Beach, so that would be on our to-do list for another visit.