Much has been written about the beauty of Amelia Island and its surrounding area, from the spacious sandy beaches, luxurious resorts, golf courses, and the numerous events and activities that bring travelers to the island from all over the world. Yet, often not highlighted in the travel brochures are hidden gems that are awaiting to be explored. As I began to discover these magical places, I was reminded of a quote by fantasy writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, as he encourages us to look “Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.”
You don’t need to travel far to get a glimpse at what is around the corner and follow that new road. Adventure can stimulate our senses and open us up to some extraordinary places, creating lasting memories. My mission is to explore these hidden treasures and share my journey with those looking for fun and adventure in hopes you will stay active and enjoy the experience with your family and friends.
My first trip takes me, some family members, and a group of friends to explore the 4-mile loop of Dune Ridge Trail on the north end of the barrier island, Little Talbot State Park. Once you arrive at the park it is important you check in at the ranger station. After parking, your hike begins by backtracking toward the park entrance where you will find the trailhead. The trail is tucked away on the north-east side of the road close to the entrance.
Once we stepped onto the well-groomed trail, we were quickly transported back in time to what the first explorers to our area must have experienced. As we left our busy lives and asphalt roads behind, we began to feel a sense of peace and the scent of nature. The trail ambles through two miles of mature maritime forest which has been built on top of an ancient dune ridge.
The forest is home to an array of wildlife that hikers may encounter on the trail. We observed several squirrels and birds busy with their morning routines and were delighted to see a gopher tortoise sunning itself along the trail. It was not clear if this wandering forest dweller was happy to share the trail with us, so we said our gentle greetings and went on our way.
As we approached the two-mile mark of our hike, we heard the roar of the ocean waves crashing on the seashore as the ocean breeze gently brushed our faces and heightened our senses. The landscape quickly changed from forest to brilliant white sand, and we suddenly broke out of the trees and were in awe at the deserted wide sandy beach and elusive sparkle of the ocean which swept against the shore.
The final two miles of the hike took us south along the Atlantic shoreline. The laugh of the seagulls and shorebirds hunting for a meal allowed time to clear our minds and capture nature’s beauty. The seashells were plentiful, and we found a couple of unbroken sand dollars which we believed to be good luck. Fallen trees and driftwood lined the shore, and as we approached the protected turtle nests, we marveled at the complexity of the sea turtle’s life cycle.
As the boardwalk leading to Little Talbot’s parking lot came into view, so did the beach goers. Only then, did we begin to feel like we were back in civilization. No one in the group which consisted of ages 21 through 70+ felt that the 4-mile hike was difficult, and that if necessary, there are multiple places to pause and enjoy the surroundings while taking a short rest (although on the path, that might consist of sitting on a fallen tree!). Join me on my next adventure down a new road.
Tips for hiking Dune Ridge Trail
Tides: To experience the spacious two-mile on the beach, time your hike around low tide.
Time: In the summer, plan your hike in the morning due to the heat.
Fee: Entry to the park is $5.00 if you don’t have a Florida Park Pass.
Supplies: Bring plenty of water, insect repellent, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes.
Other: A camera and binoculars will enable you to capture this special moment.