We are a marvelous destination for active adventure and nature travel packages, especially kayak and canoe experiences.
Twice this week I drove up and down Heckscher Drive to 9A in Jacksonville and twice I saw the sign for Kayak Amelia with the slogan: “You deserve a good paddling”. I have been here four years and for four years I have been wanting to get a good paddling. It’s healthy, fresh air, muscle building, incredible connection with nature and we have some of the prettiest scenic vistas and historic spots anywhere. I’m a victim of my own time management shortcomings, I guess.
But while driving by the sign I remembered reading the story that The Florida Keys consider themselves the best ‘kayaking destination in the world” and whenever I hear a claim like that, I can’t help but think that whomever came up with it, should be proven wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Florida Keys, and I can see that a Kayak trip up and down the chain can be a very nice experience, but whenever I drive Big Talbot, Little Talbot and down to Huguenot and in my mind add Amelia, Cumberland, St.Mary’s, St. George’s and our vast marshes to a Canoe or Kayak itinerary in this part of the world, I am certain that we can beat the Key’s claim.
Reading Angela Wallace’s from the Travel Agency stories last week, I fell in love again with the memories of adventure and eco travel and Kayaking Amelia and the surrounding islands would be right up my alley.
It’s all in the marketing I realize once again. The difference in the Keys is that a husband-and-wife team, Bill and Mary Burnham, were instrumental in creating a paddling trail through the chain of islands in South Florida and even the rest of the state.
They wrote the Keys-based guidebook “The Florida Keys Paddling Atlas” that sparked the development of a seasonal series of customized kayaking trips that include landing spots, camping spots, and lodging and restaurants.
The couple now offers weekend overnighters and 8 night camping trips which are promoted as an easy introduction to kayaking for couples and families up to 6 people.
One of the extended trips, which is described as primitive, finds the group camping every night at a good distance from civilization — an escape from urban traffic noise to play in the surf along the Gulf of Mexico, explore a maze of mangrove creeks and culminate at the famous sunsets in Key West. The Burnhams also insist on keeping their footprint on the environment small by keeping the numbers down, leaving a place as if no one was there.
With cost ranging from $295 per person for overnight trips to $1,350 for eight-night trips, which typically includes kayaks, camping gear, guide and shuttle services, a full menu of camp meals and orientation on the camping system, as well as instruction and a skills assessment with a preparatory kayaking session.
But we can do better
I wonder how much effort it would take to develop a complete vacation package series in the beautiful wetlands and marshes that surround us here on Amelia Island. Day packages with local hotels and B&B’s, week packages with accommodation providers on the various islands, Camping trips and even Geo Caching trips would give an interesting addition to our tourism offerings. Kayak Amelia’s website would need some healthy updating as many links don’t work anymore, but it would no doubt be worth the effort.