It's only my second morning in Fernandina Beach, Florida, but I'm completely hooked. I wish I lived here.
This perfect little town just across the Georgia line will do that to you. Moss-draped live oaks shade sidewalks that lead through blocks of handsomely restored Victorian houses. Schoolchildren pedal past on bicycles. You almost expect to see Andy Griffith come whistling by.
I'm sitting on the porch of the Addison on Amelia Island, having breakfast. Five spacious, sunny rooms in the main house, built in 1876, feature soft, downy beds. Guests enjoy a full cooked-to-order breakfast. Fernandina offers a wide variety of lodging, but you really get the feel of the town when you stay in one of the vintage bed-and-breakfasts. You can walk anywhere.
Shopping Centre Street
It's an easy two-block stroll to Centre Street. The first sight of Fernandina's main street charms you. Set your watch by the clock in the courthouse steeple.
Many shops sell affordable gifts. You won't believe the bargain prices for works by 50 local artists at the Island Art Association Co-op Gallery. Some cost as little as $29. Check out the snazzy transportation at ZZ Toys. Snag a windup Buck Rogers-style airship ($13) or a tin windup rocket racer car ($8).
Walk a few blocks beyond the downtown area to lunch with the locals. Step up to the window of Fernandina Seafood Market, and order a shrimp basket ($7.25) to eat at a table outdoors. Have fish tacos ($7.50) at Lulu's Bra & Grill (yes, it's bra, not bar). Try one of the jumbo Big T burgers ($4.25) at T-Rays Burger Station.
Evening settles over the rich patina of Fernandina's landmarks. Diners enjoy crab bisque and pan-seared salmon ($19) at the restaurant inside Florida House Inn, which opened in 1857. A ghost from the early days still resides in one of its 17 rooms.
I'm not surprised. It's hard to leave Fernandina Beach.
For more information: Contact the Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce, 102 Centre Street, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034; 1-800-226-3542 or www.islandchamber.com.
"Strolling Fernandina Beach" is from the February 2006 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.