By Bruce Stambaugh
Amelia Island, Florida and Lakeside, Ohio might be nearly a thousand miles apart, but they have a lot in common. People would be at the top of the list.
First, though, I am grateful that I can visit each destination. Second, I’m glad my wife also loves both Amelia and Lakeside, and, well, me, too.
Personal disclaimers aside, each destination features special attractions unique to its setting. And yet, though one location is in the Sunshine State and the other in the Buckeye State, they are not that dissimilar.
Sure the vegetation and critters vary significantly, but are intriguing nevertheless. They are much more alike than you might imagine.
My wife and I discovered Amelia Island almost by accident. On our way to Sarasota, the hot spot for greater Holmes County snowbirds, we made an overnight stop on Amelia. It was love at first sight.
We stayed nearly on the inviting sands of the 13-mile long Main Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Between the motel and the sand a family owned restaurant served delicious, fresh, locally caught seafood.
On the trip home, we further explored Amelia Island, discovering its historic town of Fernandina Beach, founded in 1562. Its quaint shops and showy old homes sit on the Intercostal Waterway. You can’t beat sunrises on the Atlantic, and sunsets on the harbor. Need I say more?
That was four years ago. Yes, we’re heading back this winter, too.
Conversely, I knew Lakeside since I was a kid, and that’s a long time. Our parents took the family there a few times when I was young. Needing a getaway, I introduced my own family to the Chautauqua on Lake Erie 27 years ago. We haven’t missed a year since.
The lake lures you to its enticing shore where giant oak, ash, maples and cottonwoods shelter parks and steamboat-style cottages. Visitors gather on the concrete dock for luscious looks of dawn and dusk.
Since it’s a gated community in the summer, kids can run free without the normal parental fears of life beyond the gates. Lakeside is not just family friendly. It is family based, founded as a Methodist church camp in 1873.
All that said the people of both Amelia Island and Lakeside are the mortar that cements the palms, the ocean and the exotic wildlife just as they do the lake, the shuffleboard courts and the ice cream shops. Amelia Island and Lakeside both have character and characters. It’s the latter that really makes you feel at home.
Amelia Island hosts a nice mix of natives, retirees and sun seekers, permanent and temporary alike. Residents are courteous to tourists who ask too many questions, or drive like they’re lost. They might be.
Want to meet a cross section of the populous? Attend the weekly farmer’s market Saturday morning held on a section of closed street in Fernandina Beach. Or attend the farmer’s market on Tuesday and Friday mornings held on a section of closed street at Lakeside. Different states, same tasty results.
At the Fernandina Beach marina, a dockworker awaiting a yacht to refuel spins stories aplenty. You’ll learn a lot.
At Lakeside, if you admire someone’s cottage, their flower garden, or wonder what game they are playing on the front porch, just ask. They’ll be glad to share.
Destination locations like Amelia Island and Lakeside have lots of attractive charm. It’s their genuine hospitality that keeps people coming back, including us.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014