VIDEO: Exploring NE Florida's Fort George Island Historical Park

May 8, 2017

WJCT presents a collaboration between the University of North Florida's Environmental Center and Public Trust Law on 19 short videos showcasing the city, state and national parks of the First Coast, produced by Sean Lahav, a project leader in the environmental leadership program.

Fort George Island Historic Park

Fort George Island Historic Park is located along A1A, between Mayport Naval Station and Little Talbot Island. 

Sprawling on a barrier island north of Jacksonville, the park chronicles thousands of years of human occupation, starting with the Timucua Indians. Then, throughout the centuries, there were the Spanish, the French, the British as well as affluent Americans, who in the 20th century, sought a winter retreat. 

Hours: 8 a.m. – sunset

Description

The Fort George Island State Cultural Site sits between Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach. The area was once the site of many of Northeast Florida historical events  – from the times of Native Americans to the expeditions of colonialists to the escapades of 20th-century top brass.

This is also the highest point along the Atlantic coast south of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

History

Centuries ago, the island was home to the Alicamani village, a stronghold of the Timucua chiefdom of the Saturiwa tribe. Later on, it hosted the Spanish Franciscan mission of San Juan del Puerto that studied the Saturiwa and imposed the Spaniards’ religious and cultural beliefs on the natives.

In the 18th century, Fort George Island found itself under the rule of the British, who built Fort George — naming it after the British king — to ready for a battle with the Spanish to claim Florida.

Some 200 years later, in 1928, the exclusive Ribault Club winter resort opened, attracting affluent guests with its nine-hole golf course, lawn bowling, tennis field and sailing opportunities. Today the playground for the rich and famous has been preserved as a visitor center.

Amenities

  • Ribault Club functions as a visitor center, which can also be reserved for special occasions.
  • Behind the Ribault Club is a launch for small boats, kayaks and canoes. Fishing is also allowed.
  • The park offers trails for off-road biking and hiking.
  • A two-hour Segway tour with EcoMotion Tours is available.

Trails

  • Fort George Island features a looped three-mile trail that runs the interior of the former golf course. It is suitable for biking and hiking. The Saturiwa trail comes with a CD narration of the area’s history.

Advice

  • Fort George Island Historic Park welcomes pets but they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.

Parking 

  • Fort George Island has two parking lots: Ribault Club near the boat ramp and at its western end close to Kingsley Plantation.  A park entrance fee might be required. 

Fort George Island features many areas for fishing.
Credit SEAN LAHAV / UNF ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

Location 

Direction via I-95: Head north on I-95 and take exit 358A. Merge onto Zoo Parkway/FL-105 and stay on the road as it becomes Heckscher Drive after crossing Nichols Creek. After about 15 miles, turn left onto Fort George Road and then slightly left onto Palmetto Avenue. In a mile, Fort George Island Historic Park emerges on the right.

Dima Vitanova can be reached at dima93vitanova@gmail.com and Vince Kong can be reached at vkong@wjct.org