Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location

Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location

Beach sunrise & sunset photos aren’t exactly a rarity in Florida.  Heck, with 1,350 miles of coastline, I doubt if there is a Floridian that lives more than an hour from a beach.  But from a photographer’s perspective, what might originally seem like a golden bonanza tends to tarnish a bit when you come to realize that many of the beaches look pretty much the same.  Nice sand, dunes, sea oats….and that’s about it.  Great if you are out to get a tan and enjoy the ocean, but as a photographer, I’d prefer to have some waves smashing against boulders, mountains dropping off into the surf…something other than just sand, ocean and sky.  Don’t get me wrong, a simple beach sunrise shot can be beautiful, but when I’m scouting beach locations, I’m always looking for something more.

I found myself on Amelia Island last week and I found one of those beach locations with a bit more. What do you think?:

Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
One of those sunrises that make you very happy you dragged yourself out of bed! Click on the photo to see a full resolution image.

I really think this is the best sunrise location on the Island.  Even better, this wood pier is easy to get to and very accessible. Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location It is located just a couple hundred feet south of Public Beach Access #31..which includes a small public parking lot (even better, the parking is free).  This is located right off of South Fletcher Ave. (A1A) at Hutchins Ave (look for the blue and white Beach Access sign marked #31…see photo to the right ).  You should be able to get here in 30 minutes or less from any point on Amelia Island. Click here for a google map with directions to this spot  Don’t confuse this pier with the large concrete one a bit north in Ft. Clinch State Park (the park doesn’t open until after sunrise).

The great thing about sunrise shots that incorporate a fishing pier is that you can just walk a few hundred yards down the beach and now get a shot sans pier:

Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
I liked how the foam on the bottom right mirrored the clouds above…

Of  course, once the sun is up you can hang around the pier and play with long exposures that turn the surf into that silky look:

Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location

A few sunrise/sunset tips for my fellow photographers:

  • Be early!  Color is usually best before the actual sunrise…often 30 minutes or more before.  I learned this lesson the hard way last year in Charleston when I walked out of my hotel room twenty minutes before sunrise and looked up to behold one of the most glorious sunrises I’ve ever seen.  By the time I got to my pre-scouted sunrise location (despite running the ENTIRE *&$^@} way), the sunrise had faded to one that was nothing special.
  • Another frustration to be avoided is when you get to the beach just in time to capture the sunrise’s peak…and then notice that your lens has fogged over.  With humidity close to 100% during the summer, condensation on your lens is a common occurrence in Florida. You can avoid this by just driving to the  beach with your windows down and AC off…your camera/lens will acclimatize in ten minutes or less.
  • Bracket your shots.  The dynamic range of sunrises/sunsets is pretty, well, dynamic!  A range of exposures will ensure that you get at least one shot that you can work with.  It also gives you the option to use HDR.
  • Bring your tripod.  Some of your shots may take several seconds.
  • Wear watershoes.  You will likely need to get your feet wet.  Otherwise you will end up running back and forth like a sandpiper.
  • If you set you tripod up in the surf, be aware that receding waves will dig sand out from under your tripod…which can result in blurred shots.
  • Move around.  Some folks scout out a location, pick the best spot and never move.  I would have missed many of my best shots on this beach if I had set up my tripod and kept it there.
  • Bring your wide angle lens to allow you to get the whole scene.  A wide angle zoom is even better since you can change your perspective without actually moving.
  • If your camera has a Live View feature, use it to get your focus perfect.  Limited light can make it difficult for autofocus to work properly.

Once the sunrise burns itself out, there are a number of other photogenic locations on Amelia Island:

  1. Ft. Clinch
    • This is a state park at the northern end of the island that features a Civil War era brick fort.

      Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
      Ft. Clinch
  2. TheFernadina Beach Lighthouse.
    • Best views are from the Egans Creek Overlook within Ft. Clinch State park or parked alongside Atlantic Ave across from Atlantic Park
    • You usually can’t get close since it is located behind a locked fence and it is only open the first and third weekend of the month (website)

      Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
      Fernadina Lighthouse as seen from Ft. Clinch park across the Salt Marsh
  3. Fernadina Beach ‘Old Town’
    • Find Centre Street on your GPS and head there after sunrise.  Park your car and take a stroll…the street is quiet and deserted before 9am so you can walk the sidewalks by yourself and capture the antique buildings in soft morning light.
    • Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise LocationAmelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
  4. Cumberland Island/St. Marys
    • My wife and I enjoyed the Amelia Island Boat Tour.  Cost is $28/each and for that you get a well-narrated 2 hour tour that leaves from the little harbor at the end of Centre Street in downtown Fernadina Beach.    You  have a good chance of seeing dolphins as well as wild horses on Cumberland Island (bring your longest lens).  You can get nice shots of Ft. Clinch as well distant views of nuclear subs at the base at Lake Mary’s.  See reviews of this tour on Trip Advisor by clicking this link.
    • Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise LocationAmelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise LocationAmelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
  5. Sunsets are a bit more challenging to capture than sunrises.
    • This shot was taken from harbor at the end of Centre Street (next to Brett’s Waterway Café)Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
    • If you are a guest at the Omni resort, you might want to try shooting the sunset from the boardwalk at Drummond Park (on Sea Marsh Road past the Golf Clubhouse).  The sunsets during my visit were lackluster, but I’d bet that a decent one would look pretty impressive over the salt marsh.  If you aren’t a guest at the Omni, I believe you could still get to the park if you have reservations for dinner at the lodge…if so, they will allow you access thru the guard gate.

I won’t be able to post again for a couple weeks, but I have a great excuse:  I’m leaving this Friday for a two week trip to Hawaii (I know, poor me!)  I’ve spent the last two months planning every sunrise and sunset shot…dozens of hours on the internet looking for tips, eons on Google Earth figuring out angles and shadows, forever on Trip Advisor trying to figure out the best tours…but I wouldn’t have it any other way!  I’m looking forward to sharing my photos with you when I get back.  In the meantime, have fun and keep shooting!

Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
Doesn’t get much better than this…
Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location
One last shot….I was blessed with two consecutive killer sunrises!

Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips and a great Sunrise Location

Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Locations

Amelia Island and Fernadina Beach: Photo Tips & Sunrise Location

Related Images:

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Thanks to your great advice, I captured several beautiful sunrise images by the pier. Peace.

  2. Hi Jeff, I’m in Jax all next week staying with relatives down in Ponte Vedra. I’d love to talk to you about potential shooting locations. Feel free to email and I’ll provide you my cell #. Thanks for your time.


    1. Hi Brian,
      Just sent you an email. I’d be glad to talk about photo ops here in Florida!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your outstanding blog. I photographed the sunrise at Fernadina Beach and got some outstanding images. Your directions were great and your photography tips were so helpful.
    I am so appreciative for all your help and incite.

    1. Hi Harry, Glad you found my blog helpful and you got some great shots!

  4. I recently stumbled on your site and found this post interesting. Great photographs by the way. I’m in Amelia Island a couple of times a year and have found some additional places. Big Talbot and Little Talbot Islands are just south of Amelia Island and have some great spots to photograph sunrise and sunset. Ft Clinch is a great place to go when there are re-enactors around to give life to the old fort. In Fernandina Beach there are a couple of old Shrimp Boats that make interesting subjects as well. Thanks for taking the time to write your interesting blog.

    1. Hi Rich, Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for the suggestions about Big/Little Talbot, Ft Clinch and the shrimp boats. I’ll certainly check them out next time I am in Fernadina!

  5. Thank you for posting this and including such great driving directions. I was in town for a business trip and googled to find if anyone had posted recommendations for where to see sunrise — this page was perfect. Much appreciated.

    1. Hi Jack,
      Glad my blog helped you enjoy a sunrise. Feedback like yours makes this all worthwhile!
      Take care,

  6. We just returned from a relaxing week-long vacation on Amelia Island. I wanted to thank you for the heads up on this pier location for sunrise shots. We are not morning people, but managed to drag ourselves out of bed for a combined morning of the blood moon and the sunrise. Unfortunately for my sunrise shots, there were hardly any clouds in the sky. I know how much they can add to the colors and dimension of photos. But nonetheless, the pier was a great spot and I appreciate you sharing!

    1. Glad you got a chance to visit Amelia and I’m very pleased you found my blog helpful…hopefully next time you will get a killer sunrise too!

  7. I love sunrise and sunset equally and your photos are simply outstanding. Being not familiar with Florida, I am in awe. I have to get there some time! Thank you.

    1. Thanks Evelyne,
      I hope you do get to visit Florida…but wait until the winter when the temps are cooler!

  8. I am a former resident of Amelia Island, during the ’50’s and 60’s and lived across the street from the pier shown when ours was the last house going southward on Fletcher.
    I have never seen such beautiful depictions of the island I loved and appreciate your shooting, and more importantly, publishing them.
    Thanks and look forward to the Hawa’ii pics…

    1. Wow…thanks so much for the compliment! It truly means a lot to me when a long term resident appreciates my photography of their former home. Thanks again, Jeff

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