The plethora of historical landmarks preserved in Florida through the state and national park system is truly stunning and are a must see on any vacation or visit to the area. Accessing these landmarks from the water on a paddle board makes for some incredible paddling. In many ways we are able to travel back in time on the deck of stand up paddle board. The Kingsley Plantation is just one of these landmarks ideally suited to be experienced from the water.
The Kingsley Plantation is located on Fort George Island. Initially covering over 1000 acres it was used to grow a variety of crops such as cotton and corn. The property has cycled through a number of different owners under British, Spanish and American rule. The plantation is named after one of the most notable owners, Zephaniah Kingsley. Born in England Zephaniah was white making his story an interesting one on many levels. Zephaniah bought and married a slave. While a proud slave owner and trader himself he reportedly argued for the rights of freed colored people and mixed races. It has been said that Zephaniah was a very lenient slave owner and that his slaves would commonly finish their daily tasks by mid-afternoon giving them the opportunity to hunt and fish around the island. He encouraged dancing and even armed his slaves for their protection.
To begin this paddle head north from the boat ramp along the eastern side of Fort George Island. From there paddle along the shoreline and enjoy the view. You will see marsh grass and a mix of trees from oak to palm glowing in the sunlight. Take a moment to savor the natural beauty. Keep an eye out for sand bars in this part of the river. With clear water you will be able to see the bottom as you paddle over them. In some places it can get very shallow. With a careful eye you may spot a group of stingrays, blue crab or a conch shell. Continue paddling along the shoreline as the river bends to the west. As you round the bend the Kingsley Plantation will come into view.
The main house is believed to have been built around 1798. The view north from the main house over the river and marsh is definitely one to stop and savor. Also, of interest are the nearly two dozen tabby constructed slave cabins which are still standing. They were built in a semi-circle reportedly so that all the cabins could be watched from the main house.
After exploring the plantation, the return trip to the boat ramp follows the same route. If you have timed your paddle with the tides some of the sand bars will be visible by now. Be sure to stop and enjoy these ephemeral beaches created by the sandbars that surface with the dropping tide. This is a great way to cool off and hang out on the water. Be mindful as you head homeward, there are submerged rocks along the beach as you get back to the launch spot.
Time this paddle board tour with the tide. Be sure to monitor the wind forecast just prior to departing. The length of the paddle is about 2 hours, round trip. Be mindful the current can be swift in the river as there are a number of shallow sand bars in this part of the river. This paddle board tour begins and ends at Alamacani Boat Ramp. The ramp is located to the south of Amelia Island just off AIA near Huguenot Park. You will see the boat ramp to your right as you cross the bridge over the Fort George River. It is about a 15 minute drive south of the Amelia Island. You can park in the small lot and launch from the beach. Be mindful of the rocks submerged just off the beach. As a safety precaution we recommend launching on your knees.
This is a popular area in the summer especially for boating. Be cautious of boat traffic which can create rough water from their wakes. It is important to know that if you get concerned about falling off your paddle board from a boat wake go down onto your knees. This is a safe and stable position to be in until the boat wake passes. Falling from your paddle board in shallow water or onto an oyster bed can result in an injury.
Taking a paddle board lesson to learn the basics before doing this trip is a good idea. You will make the most of your time on the water taking a guided paddle board tour. Be sure to bring your PFD (preferably an inflatable belt PFD) and marine whistle. Equip your board with a coiled SUP leash. Be Safe!