Taking your Corvette on a road trip is the best way to experience its unparalleled combination of comfort, reliability, and performance. But with fuel prices on the rise, and ever- busier work schedules becoming the norm, short weekend getaways have replaced multistate jaunts as the Corvette road trip of choice. These short, three-to-four-day trips give you a chance to stretch your Vette’s legs without spending too much money or venturing too far from home.
With this in mind, we looked at some upcoming assignments and decided that a driving trip to the annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance fit the bill. Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach, Florida, along with nearby Jekyll Island, Georgia, are all scenic coastal destinations filled with rich history. And so we fueled up our ’12 Torch Red Grand Sport convertible and prepared for our weekend journey.
Native Americans settled Amelia in around 1,000 A.D., naming the island Napoyca. Starting in 1562, a succession of flags would be hoisted there, including those of Spain, France, and England. After a period of desertion, James Oglethorpe rediscovered the island in 1763 and named it Amelia, after the daughter of King George II.
By 1783 the Spanish once again controlled Amelia and its environs, including a nearby plantation and harbor that would become the site of the present-day Fernandina. Pirates eventually overran the area, using it as a hub for smuggled slaves, liquor, and foreign luxury goods.
U.S. troops drove out the remaining pirates in 1821 and established Fort Clinch, which briefly fell under Confederate control during the Civil War. The area became a tourist Mecca after the war, attracting cruise ships and experiencing a construction boom. Today many of these historic sites remain, including the port, the railroad station, and quite a few Victorian-era homes.
These days the annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, held at the lush Ritz Carlton Hotel and Golf Resort (www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/AmeliaIsland/Default.htm), offers the perfect excuse to take in the area’s beautiful scenery. Our Torch Red GS fit right into this exclusive neighborhood, generating many positive comments among the highbrow crowd attending the Concours event.
We stayed at a nearby condominium located right on the Atlantic Ocean and within walking distance of the Concours. The day after the event, we toured historic downtown Fernandina and checked out the many historic homes, shops, and restaurants in the area. At the end of the day we enjoyed a superlative seafood meal on the wharf at a restaurant called Brett’s.
The following morning we put the top down and pointed the GS north toward Jekyll Island. Jekyll is only about 60 miles north of Amelia, and the backcountry drive is very pleasurable in a Corvette. When we reached the Sidney Lanier Bridge, we turned south on 520 to the Jekyll Island Causeway. At the end of the causeway, a $5 toll bridge links the highway to the seven-mile-long, one-and-a-half-mile-wide island. (Note that many island restaurants will reduce your bill by that amount if you simply show your toll ticket.) Jekyll is encircled by a paved road that provides easy access to the many beaches, parks, and restaurants.
The island is named for Sir Joseph Jekyll, a British parliamentarian who helped underwrite the colony of Georgia. In 1886 a group of wealthy businessmen established the Jekyll Island Club, a luxury resort that would come to host such luminaries as J. P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, Marshall Field, Everett Macy, William Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
The complex flourished until it was closed in 1942 because of security concerns during World War II. The state of Georgia took ownership of the site in 1947 and kept it in operation until 1972, when it was shuttered once again. The Club became a Historic Landmark in 1978, and the hotel (www.jekyllclub.com) was renovated in 1985, transforming it into the world-class resort it is today. The 240-acre compound, informally known as “Millionaire’s Village,” was filled with tourists during our visit.
During our trip we stopped at several of the island’s parks and visited the many historic homes that are visible from the roadway. We ended our day with an excellent dinner at the Latitude 31 Restaurant (www.latitude31jekyllisland.com), located on the hotel’s famous wharf.
As night settled in, we turned our Grand Sport south and headed home. The 4LT-equipped convertible proved the perfect ride for this trip, thanks to its long-range comfort, impressive fuel efficiency, and head-turning good looks. If you ever have a chance to visit Amelia Island, Fernandina, or Jekyll Island in your own Corvette, take it. These jewels of the coast offer a prime opportunity to experience the car’s full range of luxury, performance, and convenience attributes.