After taking the St. Johns River Ferry across the river, we discovered the Ribault Club. There was really a 50/50 chance of stumbling upon it, because Ft. George Island really only has one road in a big loop, but we were fortunate enough to stumble upon this historic location. The Ribault club is really park of the St. George Island Cultural State park, and is run a bit differently than any other state park we have encountered. The Ribault club itself is maintained by the Florida State Park System, the National Park system maintains exhibits with the Ribault Club, and the banquet facilities are managed independently as well. It makes for an interesting mix of cultural and private goals.
The first thing we noticed about the Ribault Club, is that it reminds me of an old southern mansion that you would see on Forrest Gump, or a civil war movie. It has a unique layout, as it has had multiple expansions built on throughout the years. We really had no idea what the purpose of the Ribault Club was until we had a chance to go inside and chat with the park Ranger. He explained, that the Ribault Club was literally a club for the rich and famous in the 1920. It would have rivaled any upscale meeting hall or private club. This once very exclusive club was a favorite spot for the rich and famous for many years. In 1989, the property was purchased by the state of Florida with the Ribault Club being in very poor shape. Now after a beautiful restoration, the Ribault club is back to it’s former glory!
Once we entered the club, we were taken in by the beautiful meeting spaces, as the Ribault Club is now used primarily as a meeting and wedding venue. The property no longer caters to the rich and famous, but according to the pictures on their site, you can host quite a beautiful wedding there!There are multiple rooms to choose from, and it appears up to 400 people can pack into this historic location.
We were free to roam around the complex, and found a rather large exhibit on the Timucuan Preserve. The exhibit explore the local history of St. George Island, the Ribault Club, as well as the political changes throughout history. There were a handful of interactive displays, that featured sounds and video of local wildlife that my little guy seemed to enjoy. These displays located within the Ribault Club were placed by the National Park Service, so they are pretty good quality, and done in great taste.
Across the back stretch of the building, there is a beautiful lawn that you can easily picture playing lawn games in the 1920s! In fact, there are lawn game tournaments hosted at this location every once in awhile! We took a stroll to the river’s edge and found a single pavilion and grill. This would make a great place to enjoy a lunch or an afternoon, but there isn’t much for the little ones to do. There is a small kayak or boat launch at this site, but there is very little parking space for boats and trailers.
While we enjoyed our visit to the Ribault Club, there wasn’t much to do other than sight see. This location has great potential if they were to install a playground, or add additional family oriented facilities. Unless your attending a wedding, or launching a kayak, you may want to skip this location. While it is free, and you won’t spend any cash for visiting, you may want to just drop by the pavilion for a picnic lunch on your way to the Kingsley Plantation which is also on Ft George Island.
The Ribault Club Ft. George Island Details:
11241 Fort George Road
Fort George Island, Florida 32226
Hours of Operation:
The park is open from 8:00 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. The Ribault Club is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Phone Number: (904) 251-2320