By Cindy Jackson
July 3, 2021
Originally posted August 21, 2019 11:20 a.m.
Editor’s Note: From Friday, July 3, until Monday, July 5, the Fernandina Observer staff is taking a holiday break. For your Independence Day weekend enjoyment, we are “looking back” and posting articles from the past. Enjoy the 4th!
Amelia Adventures is a family owned and operated business, and one that operates by, for and about family.
Amelia Adventures provides kayak tours, paddleboards, paddleboard lessons, paddleboard tours and even private boat tours – for more intimate groups of up to 6 individuals.
And, Amelia Adventures recently opened a showroom, an office, an “outpost” if you will, at 432 South 8th Street in historic downtown Fernandina Beach.
It is there you will find on display incredible photographs taken by co-owner and lead tour guide Thomas Oliver. It is there you will also find apparel perfectly suited for wandering along the waterways of Amelia in addition to sunglasses and T-shirts, soda and water supplies, keepsake items and souvenirs perfect to memorialize any island adventure including, but not limited to, waterproof bags/backpacks which artistically display the longitude and latitude coordinates of this island paradise that we call home. And lest we forget, they also offer kayaks and paddleboards and other equipment for sale as one might expect at an outpost location.
And, if not out guiding tours, it is there (at 432 South 8th Street) that you will also find Thomas and Catherine Oliver – and maybe even daughters Amelia and Evelyn. You might also get introduced to Tom and Anita, Thomas’parents who often help with the day-to-day operations and who can also be spotted during a tour launch. The Olivers, you see, are a fourth generation Fernandina Beach Family. Suffice to say, it’s definitely a family affair. In fact, it was Tom and Anita who helped cater the ribbon-cutting event this past July.
Also at 432 South 8th Street you will also find a most amazing mural painted by renowned artist David Nackashi. It is perfect for such an outdoor tour company like Amelia Adventures. Long-time locals may be familiar with that name. Nackashi used to live on Amelia Island but now resides in Jacksonville fulltime. Yet It is his artwork that has brought even more traffic to 819 TJ Courson Road where one finds Townie’s Pizzeria — an another example of this artist’s style and vision.
Interesting enough, Thomas, also a professional television and photographer, made a video documenting the creative process that went into making the mural. In that video, artist Nackashi said something quite prophetic about the Olivers, when he stated, “The beauty of the Island is their business.” And their business, says Thomas Oliver, “is making amazing memories.” And that they do.
Says Thomas, “We’re doing what we do well.” For their first two seasons, they did kayak and boat tours and true to their business plan, only added paddle boarding when they were truly ready. After that, came a day camp for kids. But it’s not just about the mechanics of developing a new skill.
Says Thomas, “we provide the experience and deliver consistently on the tour.” Did you know that you won’t get bug bites while paddling Lofton Creek? Do you know why? Do you know the best locations for spotting otter . . . or alligators? Did you know that Egan’s Creek is the only inland waterway the public can access? Guests learn all this and more on any of the many tours offered by Amelia Adventures.
One might ask what is it that differentiates Amelia Adventures from other similar businesses on the Island. If the answer isn’t obvious, it’s important to note that they are not a rental business – with no disrespect intended.
They are the total package. They make memories. They educate. They are conservationists/environmentalists. And, they are family. To that end, Thursdays are reserved for participants in the Kids Camp to bring parents and siblings along to show off their skills and knowledge learned and in so doing, perhaps create even more water sport and nature aficionados.
Amelia Adventures is Thomas and Catherine Oliver. Thomas Oliver’s father grew up here. When Thomas would visit his grandparents on Amelia Island he surfed practically every day. And it was his surfing that led him to North Carolina and a special breaking point for waves. That breaking point just happened to be in front of Catherine’s family home. She took notice and as the saying goes, it caught her eye. One might say it was “love at first sight.”
Catherine will say very modestly, “Thomas taught me everything I know” which defies her own set of impressive credentials including the fact that she is a registered nurse, spent years leading adventures as part of the Outward Bound program and has over 15 years guiding kayaking tours herself. Sounds like, looks like, IS a match made in heaven.
In addition to being certified as someone who can instruct instructors and possesses all sorts of other professional credentials, Thomas Oliver is also a television producer. His resume includes involvement with shows like the Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel. It was tan assignment for that show that took the Oliver Family to Alaska.
It’s no wonder every participant in a tour by Amelia Adventures results in some of the best photos ever obtained. Each and every family member and wildlife lovers of every variety delight in his images. It takes a trained professional with tons of experience to be prepared and capture the very moment a playful duo of dolphins “break” water or when one playful dolphin is caught innocently playing under a paddleboard. And while Thomas Oliver will admit that manatees and sea turtles are the most difficult to capture on film – he does it.
But it doesn’t stop there. This dynamic duo seems to do everything right. In addition to being gifted tour guides, they talk about a philosophy they embody and it is witnessed in their every move. And that philosophy is quite simply embodied by the phrase “Leave No Trace.” And the Olivers do just that without being “preachy.”
It is their belief that if they give clients an amazing experience in so doing, those individuals will go on to do the right thing when they can. In chatting about just that, Thomas recalls an instance when leading a group of out-of-town visitors down a dock to their kayaks, a repeat client re-introduced herself. Thomas noted that she was wearing a fanny pack – something not often seen these days as travel accessories are wont to go out of style. But, as she explained to Thomas, as a result of her initial kayak tour, she now wears it every day as she does her morning beach walk — collecting trash all along the way. Now that’s paying it forward.
(SIDEBAR: Statistics show that kayakers are the least likely to pollute).
Amelia Adventures is so much more than boat tours.
Visit their website at ameliaadventures.com, stop by their outpost or check-out their postings on YouTube.