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Amelia Island and St. Augustine: Coastal Treasures in Florida

Program No. 21268RJ
Discover what makes Amelia Island and St. Augustine such cultural and historic gems, learning about Native American history, Civil War strategy, grand architecture and renowned cuisine.

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At a Glance

From the Spanish Renaissance architecture and world-class cuisine of St. Augustine, to Amelia Island’s sun-soaked Southern charm — this learning adventure in Northeastern Florida will reveal the state’s coastal treasures. Take trolley rides back in time as you hear stories of lawless pirates, Spanish explorers, tycoons and the Native Timucuan tribespeople. Explore the historic architecture of St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the U.S. — including the 1672 Castillo de San Marcos and The Ponce, built by oil tycoon Henry Flagler in 1888.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Moderate walking, some uneven terrain; standing for some field trip lectures, boarding pontoon boat. Stairs in some historical buildings and homes.

What You'll Learn

  • Encounter rare birds, watch for manatees and learn about the shrimping industry as you boat the backwaters of Amelia Island.
  • Join an expert in period dress to learn about Minnorcan settlers of St. Augustine, who arrived here after nine years of enslavement at a nearby indigo plantation.
  • On a field trip to Flagler’s College, learn about Henry Flagler’s contributions to the development of Florida’s Atlantic Coast and hear stories about the Flagler family.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Tom Murray
Tom Murray is a graduate of San Jose State University but is a Southerner by choice, having spent more than 45 years in the South absorbing the culture, customs and history of the region. Tom specializes in coastal history with an emphasis on the sea islands of Georgia. Few people know and love beautiful Cumberland and Amelia islands better than Tom. He has spent 25 years lecturing and leading Road Scholar groups to sites from the mountains to the sea.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Tom Murray
Tom Murray View biography
Tom Murray is a graduate of San Jose State University but is a Southerner by choice, having spent more than 45 years in the South absorbing the culture, customs and history of the region. Tom specializes in coastal history with an emphasis on the sea islands of Georgia. Few people know and love beautiful Cumberland and Amelia islands better than Tom. He has spent 25 years lecturing and leading Road Scholar groups to sites from the mountains to the sea.
Profile Image of Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy View biography
Kevin grew up in Gloucester, Mass. and settled in Fernandina Beach in 1968. He spent 41 years sailing the waters of northeast Fla. and southeast Georgia. He holds a 100 ton master’s license and developed his knowledge of the wildlife and history exploring the waters that surround Amelia Island, Cumberland Island and St. Mary's, Ga. Generations of Kevin’s family have been shrimpers, and he shares with participants his knowledge of shrimp farming and the future of the shrimp industry in the U.S.
Profile Image of Ron Kurtz
Ron Kurtz View biography
Ron has been an Amelia Island resident for more than 30 years. After attending Hiram College, he graduated from New York University with a degree in educational theater. He served as the director of the Amelia Island Museum of History and wrote a highly regarded history of the island, now in its sixth printing, as well as a series of children's books. Ron has lectured on the history and architecture of the first coast for the Historic Preservation Trust as well as the Smithsonian Institution.
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While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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6 days
5 nights
11 meals
5 B 3 L 3 D
Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Program Registration will begin at 5:00 p.m. in the conference room. At this time you will register with the program staff and get your welcome packet and up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to confirm when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the hotel meeting room.

Evening: After meeting fellow participants over dinner, take time to unpack and prepare for tomorrow's outing on Amelia Island.

Amelia Island & Fernandina, Fort Clinch, Coastal Ecology
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island

Activity note: Getting on/off trolley. Minimal walking/standing at Fort Clinch on uneven terrain. Slopped incline to second level of Fort Clinch with no railings.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Start the morning off with a history presentation by a local expert before boarding an authentic trolley just for our group with pick up at the hotel. Receive a brief history of Amelia Island, including the story of the visionary whose exhilarating dream so stirred his neighbors that they agreed to move their entire town to the site of a plantation he owned, creating "New" Fernandina in the 1850s. From the "giant" Timucua Native Americans, to Spanish and French explorers, to the lawless spirit of pirates, to the dignified air of Victorian-era residents, Amelia Island has been home to diverse cultures that have left a truly exciting heritage. We will learn about and see the first African-American beach, one of nine sites along the African-American Heritage Trail. This beach was the only place available to African Americans during the times of segregation. We will observe the uniquely gracious and historic homes of another century and learn of the efforts to preserve their nearly extinct, pristine architectural styles, as well as the small town’s fragile sense of community and historical integrity.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will next travel by trolley to Fort Clinch, a part of the Florida State Park system since 1935. The fort is one of the most well-preserved 19th century forts in the country, thanks to the preservation and restoration efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. While garrisoned during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, the fort has never seen action. Civil War-period reenactors will bring garrison living to life for us. Explore the many rooms, galleries and grounds of the fort as you learn how the soldiers worked and lived each day.

Dinner: At hotel.

Evening: After dinner we will be joined by a local expert on island ecology in the conference room.

Amelia Island River Cruise, Free Time
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island

Activity note: Getting on/off a trolley; driving 8 miles roundtrip, approximately 25 minutes riding time. Getting on/off pontoon boat for cruise including ramp with grade and elevation dependent on tide. Minimal walking.

Breakfast: At hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, we will ride by trolley to a marina located in the historic district. Here, we will board a vessel to cruise the rivers, creeks and marshes that surround Amelia Island with a naturalist and history expert who will give you the details of everything from the land to the sea. We will cruise by Fernandina’s shrimp boats, historic Old Towne, Fort Clinch, the wild horses of Cumberland Island, and ruins of the Carnegie Dungeoness Mansion.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. At the conclusion of lunch, we will assemble at a designated time/location and travel via trolley back to our hotel which is approximately 4 miles.

Afternoon: At leisure.

Dinner: On your own to have what you like.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare to pack and be ready to leave for St. Augustine on Wednesday morning.

Cathedral Basilica, Historic St. Augustine, Lightner Museum
St. Augustine, FL
DoubleTree by Hilton St. Augustine Historic District

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. Travel by motorcoach approximately 1.5 hour/77 miles. Minimal walking in historic district.

Breakfast: At hotel.

Morning: We will depart Amelia Island for St. Augustine by motor coach. En route, we will preview a video about St. Augustine. Upon arrival, we will meet our study leader for a visit to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, the oldest parish of a permanent European settlement on the North American continent north of Mexico. Then, we will take a walk through the downtown historic district.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will enjoy a self-led visit to the Lightner Museum, home to one of the best collections of fine and decorative 19th-century art in the country, in the historic former Hotel Alcazar. Afterwards, we will check into the hotel.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

Flagler, Trolley Field Trip, Castillo de San Marcos
St. Augustine, FL
DoubleTree by Hilton St. Augustine Historic District

Activity note: Getting on/off trolley.

Breakfast: At hotel.

Morning: We will be treated to an expert-led field trip to Flagler College, once the Ponce de Leon, Henry Flagler's first St. Augustine, traveling by trolley or minibus dependent on weather. We will learn about the history of the building and its stunning Spanish Renaissance architecture and manicured gardens of the campus. We will then take a trolley ride around St. Augustine, the nation's oldest continually occupied European settlement and at various times home to Native American tribes, British redcoats, Spanish conquistadors, pirates, and tycoons. We will see remnants of each era preserved in the city's historical sites, such as historic St. George Street, City Plaza, and the Spanish Military Hospital.

Lunch: At a local restaurant. During lunch, we’ll be joined by a local expert who will give a presentation on Menorcan history and culture. Menorca (or Minorca) is one of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. During the 1760s, some influential Europeans believed Florida’s climate would be suitable for crops such as grapes, olives, and oranges. They began recruiting colonists from among those they felt would be suited to both the climate and the crops, primarily Greeks and Italians. More than 1,400 people including Corsicans, French, and Menorcans, left the Mediterranean in 1768 and sailed for Florida. We’ll hear their story.

Afternoon: From lunch, we will walk to visit Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, with construction beginning in 1672 when Florida was part of the Spanish Empire. Enjoy some time on your own in the Old City.

Dinner: At a local restaurant. We will say our farewells as we prepare to depart St. Augustine the next day.

Evening: At leisure.

Depart St. Augustine to Jacksonville Airport and Fernandina
St. Augustine, FL

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon. Transfer shuttle departs hotel at 8:00 a.m. for the Jacksonville Airport which is 45 min. away. The bus will continue to Fernandina to take anyone who left their car on Amelia Island. This concludes our program.

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program.

Morning: Transfer shuttle departs hotel at 8:00 a.m. for the Jacksonville Airport and then on to Fernandina Beach, FL. This concludes our program We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at Best wishes for all your journeys!

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