Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve | FORT GEORGE ISLAND

Entrance to the Ribault Club on Fort George Island

Entrance to the Ribault Club on Fort George Island

Fort George Island was first inhabited by native Americans some 6,000 years ago and first saw European settlement in 1587 when the Spanish built a mission on the island, San Juan de Puerto (they called the island San Juan). In the early 1700s the British took control and constructed Fort George, the name the island uses today (the fort site is unknown). After the American Revolution the island reverted to Spanish control and remained a Spanish territory until being sold to the United States in 1821. It was home to Sea Island cotton and indigo plantations until after the Civil War, when the end of slave labor made farming unprofitable. John Rollins purchased the island in 1869, and he developed a tourism industry by building the Fort George Island Hotel in 1875. Tourism boomed for a few years until fire destroyed the hotel in 1889 and yellow fever broke out. It wasn’t until the 1920s when the Ribault Club was built that tourists returned to the island. The club, which included a golf course, remained in business until 1991, with the last few years being under the ownership of the Florida Parks department.

Today the island is home to the Fort George Island Cultural State Park, having been purchased by the state of Florida in 1989. While it lies within the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, it is not National Park Service property. There are many other Florida state and Jacksonville city parks within the Preserve, but this is the only one discussed here on National Park Planner because the island is also the home of the Kingsley Plantation, the grounds of which are owned by the National Park Service. Seeing that those visiting the plantation must drive through Fort George Island, a discussion of a few of its activities are in order.

The restored Ribault Club now serves as a visitor center and can be rented for weddings and other events, and a driving tour of the island tells of its rich history. There is also a three-mile hiking trail that follows much of the original golf cart path used for the golf course (the trail is not reviewed on National Park Planner).

The park is open from 8 AM to sunset year-round, and there is no fee to visit.



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Last updated on December 26, 2019
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