I’m not sure why, but I love ferries. We’ve taken a ferry across the Mississippi River in New Orleans, across the Pamlico Sound in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca from Port Townsend to Friday Harbor off the coast of Washington state. Of course, a ferry ride was required to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island a couple of years ago as well.
Last month we rode the St. John’s River ferry from Ft. George Island to Mayport Village as we traveled on A1A from Fernandina Beach to St. Augustine, and in fact, a ferry ride is required for anyone who wants to take the route down A1A. The fee of $6.00 per car can hardly be collected from all passengers in the time it takes to make the 0.9 mile “voyage”. And while we spent only a few minutes aboard, I stood along the rail taking in the St. John’s…something I couldn’t do while driving or even as a passenger at 50 miles an hour.
For as long as I can remember, there’s been talk of closing the St. John’s ferry as well as effort to save it (Save the St. John’s River Ferry). It’s a costly enterprise that many feel isn’t worth the money required to keep it operational, but since building a bridge at this location is not an option and since it’s an essential link in connecting Maine to the Florida Keys on A1A, I hope the ferry can be saved.
The St. John’s River ferry is one of three ferries operating in the state. The Dry Tortugas Ferry takes passengers from Key West to Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas National Park. This 70 mile, $169 ferry ride is quite a contrast from the one we took across the St. John’s River. However, this is really an all day adventure. We splurged on the Dry Tortugas Ferry several years ago and started the morning with fruit, bagels, donuts, and juice served onboard while we sat on the deck traveling at 30 m.p.h through the Florida Straits. A guide provided information about our surroundings as we cruised to the island, and then when we arrived, a tour of the fort, a buffet lunch, and snorkeling gear were included. Over nine hours later we arrived back in Key West exhausted. If $169 sounds like too much to spend on a ferry, just think how many people spend that much or more for a day at one of Florida’s theme parks. I’ll take the ferry ride and a real Florida adventure.
Oh, and the third ferry? It’s the oldest one in the state and located right here in the Ocala National Forest at Salt Springs. The Fort Gates Ferry carries a maximum of two cars from Salt Springs to Fruitland on the east side of the river for a fee of $10. It only runs from 8:00-5:30, but not at all on Tuesday and from the Ocala Forest side, drivers need to turn on their lights, honk, or call to get the attention of the ferry operator. This sounds like another ferry adventure waiting for me!