Amelia Island not only is rich in white-sand beaches and blue waters, but in history as well. The colorful history here dates back to the Revolutionary War, British rule, and even Native American inhabitance.
Part of the fun of visiting the area, besides relaxing on the beautiful beaches of course, is to explore some of the many fascinating Amelia Island historic sites located throughout the island.
One such establishment is the historic Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest bar – a short drive from several of our Amelia Island vacation rentals.
The Story of the Palace Saloon on Amelia Island
Once a men’s shop where suits, accessories, and shoes could be purchased, the Palace Saloon was opened in 1903 by Louis G. Hirth, who purchased the building and decided to turn it into a bar.
It was added to the collection of saloons that dotted the streets near the Fernandina docks, where ships from the around the world came into port.
Working with an Anheuser-Busch founder, Hirth created an elegant establishment, complete with a 40-foot curved mahogany bar. Its elegance drew globe-traveling captains, and the Palace Saloon was soon referred to as the “Shipcaptain’s Bar”.
Not only is the saloon considered the oldest bar in Florida, but legend has it that it is also the last bar in the U.S. to close prior to Prohibition. Whether it’s true or not is uncertain, but the story is certainly part of the lore and history of this unique drinking establishment.
The Saloon not only survived Prohibition by selling ice cream, gasoline, and cigars, but also a fire in 1999 that could have spelled the end of this hard-earned business.
The Palace Saloon Today
There are many Amelia Island historic sites, but only one where you can sip a pint while you soak in a snapshot of the past.
The history of the Palace Saloon resides in its mosaic floors, embossed tin ceilings, and gas lamp fixtures still standing proudly along the bar, drawing year-round crowds. In this water hole, guests can sit where captains from more than 100 years ago once gathered to relax, share stories, and imbibe mugs of their favorite suds. In those days, the bars – not the beaches – were the main attraction of Amelia Island.
Today, patrons are no longer seafaring captains, but residents and visitors staying at one of the Amelia Island vacation rentals looking to enjoy a night out. In the modern Palace Saloon, these patrons are greeted with live music, dancing, a Monday-to-Friday Happy Hour, ManUp Mondays, and a Ladies’ Night every Thursday.
The Saloon’s drink menu includes:
- Pimm’s cup (Pimm’s, Barret’s ginger beer and lemon-lime soda)
- Southern Lime-ade (Southern Comfort bold black cherry, Bols triple sec, lime, sour, lemon-lime)
- Jalapeno Margarita (with Jose Cuervo Gold and jalapeno simple syrup)
- Tangerine Splash (Bacardi tangerine rum, water, sweet & sour)
Not to mention their craft beer, Pirate’s Punch – a secret recipe – and Bloody Marys, the Sunday special.
Visitors can enjoy a free drink of equal value to a purchased drink – one free drink per day. No food is served at the Saloon, but not to worry – there’s plenty of eateries in the area where you can satisfy your hunger before stopping at the historic Palace Saloon.
In 2016, the Palace Saloon placed third on the list of “The 16 Most Historic Southern Bars Worth Traveling For” published by the BLT (blog for lifestyle & travel). It was cited for its “classy atmosphere” and “gorgeous murals”.
The Palace Saloon is found on Centre Street in Fernandina Beach. It should be noted that this is not a family establishment – no one under 21 is allowed. So, if you have a night out without the kids while staying at our Amelia Island vacation rentals, come check out this historic spot. There’s no time like the present to enjoy a bit of Amelia Island’s past.