Fort Clinch State Park has nearly three and a half miles of beach stretching from the Amelia River on its west side around the peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean.
The best stretch to hike is between West Inlet and East Beach. It’s 2.4 miles between the two, or a round-trip of 4.8 miles.
The West Inlet Parking Area adjoins the fort and visitor center, so starting and ending your walk there also lets you tour the fort afterwards.
With a brisk pace, this hike can be done in about 2 hours, but we suggest budgeting 3-4 hours.
Thus will allow ample time to view the abundant shorebirds and to comb the beach for lightening whelks, olive shells, sand dollars, and the occasional shark’s tooth.
Resources for exploring the area
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
Location: Fernandina Beach
Trailhead: 30.698357, -81.443379
Address: 2601 Atlantic Ave, Fernandina Beach
Fees: $6 per vehicle or $4 single occupant; $2 pedestrians and cyclists
Restrooms: None at trailhead. Located at fort visitor center and beach parking lot.
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Park open 8 AM to sunset daily. Pets are prohibited on this walk, and on all beaches, boardwalks, and buildings within the park.
There is no shade except at the two ends of the hike. Pack a hat, sunscreen, and ample water.
From Jacksonville, follow Interstate 95 north for 20 miles to exit 373. Head east on SR 200 / A1A (Buccaneer Trail) for 10 miles, passing through Yulee and crossing the Intracoastal Waterway into Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Continue 2 miles as A1A curves north and merges onto South 8th St. Continue north on South 8th St for 3 miles to Atlantic Ave and turn right. Head east on Atlantic Ave for 1.5 miles. The entrance to Fort Clinch State Park will be on your left. After you stop at the ranger station and pay your park entrance fee, continue 3 miles along the main park road to the parking area at the Fort Clinch Visitor Center. Look for a sign for the West Inlet Parking area along the northwest corner of the lot. A short sand road leads to a trailhead with space for 8-10 vehicles. Or you can park in the main lot and walk the tenth of a mile to this parking area.
From the West Inlet Parking Area, there is a sign to the left marking a 0.3 mile spur trail to the River Campground.
To the right is an information kiosk and a boardwalk that leads to the beach.
Follow the boardwalk through the dune grasses to the water’s edge and turn right toward the historic fort.
There is no established or marked trail here, but hiking anywhere between the water and the stabilizing grasses protecting the dunes is acceptable.
At 0.2 miles, begin to follow along the fort walls. Notice the huge cannons perched upon them, once used to defend the port at Fernandina Beach from enemy invasions.
An old-style American flag flutters from a tall flagpole at the fort’s center.
Across the Sound, sits Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia. You may see wild horses on the beach there.
After 0.4 miles, complete the transit around the fort and head and head down the beach. Along this stretch, visitors are likely to be out searching for sharks’ teeth.
Note the large dunes to the right, some of the tallest along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Please refrain from walking on them, as they are very sensitive habitats and protected for wildlife.
Gulls, terns, plovers, sandpipers and other shore birds abound. Pelicans and osprey fly overhead searching the nearby waters for fish.
Continue down the beach. At 1.7 miles is the footpath to access the Atlantic Campground, which offers camping within earshot of the waves.
At 1.9 miles you will come to the first access for the East Beach parking lot. Continue along the beach.
A quarter mile later, cross the ruins of the old Fort Clinch Pier that was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Navigate around the remaining boulders, and step over a large steel dredging pipe as the beach curves south to the right.
At 2.3 miles, you will come to the second access to the East Beach parking area. Turn right to climb through the dunes onto a boardwalk.
Pass by shaded picnic tables and bathroom facilities on your way to the parking area at 2.4 miles, where there is a birding exhibit and viewing area
Take a rest break and refill your water bottle before heading back the way you came.
Learn more about Fort Clinch State Park
Explore the other trails of Fort Clinch State Park
See our photos of Fort Clinch State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Northeast of Jacksonville in Fernandina Beach, Egans Creek Greenway is a protected area of over 300 acres that runs north to south along Egans Creek.
Home to the largest dune system on the Atlantic Coast in Florida, American Beach has a rich history as a vacation destination that served the African-American community during the days of segregation in the South.
The thud of horse’s hooves on sand makes for a unique experience at Amelia Island State Park, the only Florida State Park where you can ride horses on the beach