Where would you relocate if you could reside anywhere? “Amelia Island, of course,” said Catherine and Thomas Oliver when they, with their daughters Amelia and Evie, pointed their compass eastward one year ago.
The energetic couple met at the College of Charleston in 1997, where Thomas would spend his weekends surfing and kayaking on the beach in front of Catherine’s home. After graduation, the couple lived in Asheville, North Carolina, where Catherine began her nursing career and Thomas started his marketing and film companies, Oliver Media Services, LLC and Filmmakers, Inc., discovering his passion for film production. In 2009, his film, Green River: On the Down Low, won first place for short films at the Amelia Island Film Festival. Thomas went on to direct, and, in 2010, release his feature film, Raven Fork. The subject of both films? Kayaking!
Thomas’s success in filmmaking caught the eye of mainstream television producers, allowing the family, with their 2- and 4-year-old daughters, to accept an invitation to relocate to Sitka, Alaska in 2011. Thomas was the series producer for Coast Guard Alaska on The Weather Channel. This experience led to a resume full of television film work, including field producer for Animal Planet’s Backcountry Justice, director for Sportsman Channel’s Apex Predator, and wheel house producer of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.
In 2015, the family felt the itch for a new adventure. A wish to be near family and good schools, coupled with the flexibility of Thomas’s project-based work and Catherine’s career as a registered nurse, the family was headed to Florida. “We are a fourth-generation Fernandina Beach family,” says Thomas. “In the 1950’s, my grandfather, taken with the beauty of Amelia Island, moved his family to the island, and I am blessed to do the same.”
“On June 9, 2015, we left Sitka on a ferry,” Catherine remembers, “but we didn’t make it to Amelia until July 1!” On the way, Amelia and Evie had “their best vacation ever” as they pitched their tent across the country. From Seattle to the Oregon Coast to California’s Redwood Forest, with a stop in Salt Lake City, a visit to Aztec ruins in New Mexico, and a reunion with Catherine’s sister in Telluride, it was a summer of memories. “When we made it to Amelia, life fell into place.”
“As a family, we believe in Amelia Island,” says Thomas. “We support local business and want to contribute to a strong and healthy future for our home.” This conviction, paired with a love for the area that they want to share with others, inspired Catherine and Thomas to open Amelia Adventures, a family-owned and -operated boating and nature tour company. With Thomas’ 20-plus years of kayaking and guiding experience with an American Canoe Association level III coastal kayaking certification, as well as Catherine’s experience as an Outward Bound leader and canoe instructor, the couple is prepared to create a lot of excitement on the water.
“Whether you want to paddle the Amelia River and tour historic Fernandina Beach or Cumberland and Talbot Islands, or see Egan’s or Lofton Creeks, we are ready to go,” says Thomas. “We start each kayak tour with instruction for your level of ability, and the trip includes complimentary professional photography, freeing you to enjoy the experience as a family.” Amelia Adventures offers individual and multi-seat kayaks enabling small children to join the excursion, and if you have your own kayak, bring a guest or the family along and you’ll paddle for free!
In addition to kayak tours, Amelia Adventures offers two boats for private charter, Amelia and Cumberland Island tours, and sunset cruises. “We want to offer something for each person in a family to enjoy our island.” Very important to the Oliver family is the “Leave No Trace” ethic. “We encourage our guests to take only photos, and leave only footprints,” says the couple.
One year later, the Olivers are proud to call Amelia Island home. “The thrill of seeing a dolphin, manatee, or a wild horse on Cumberland never grows old,” says Catherine. “We adore working together and love Amelia Island life—beaching with the girls, swimming, playing tennis, and, of course, sunsets with their grandparents!”
The Olivers are living their own Amelia adventure, and are ready to share the adventure of Amelia outdoors. For more information, visit ameliaadventures.com or call (904) 500-TOUR (8687).