The Real Camino Island

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist solving this mystery. I’m betting that John Grisham’s new novel, CAMINO ISLAND, featuring an enticing beach a few steps away, is probably based on Amelia Island. And exciting news for 2020: a sequel, CAMINO WINDS, blew into bookstores.


Novel #30: Camino Island

Grisham’s new book isn’t your typical legal thriller but about a crime – the theft of rare books from Princeton. And the story includes a female novelist suffering from writer’s block. She has my complete sympathy!

Amelia Island is a beautiful place so if you haven’t been there yet, put it on your travel wish list. After years of seeing repeated ads from their tourist office in magazines, we finally went for a short visit in April. The island, but not the residents trying to escape crowds, should be thrilled with free advertising.

The small island is on the Atlantic Ocean in Northeast Florida, just south of Georgia and close to the Jacksonville airport. Another tourist-friendly historical old town, St. Augustine, is close by and worth a visit too.

Fernandina Beach, the main town, is filled with shops, restaurants, and bars, and situated by the harbor and waterfront. The town is charming without chain stores and many Victorian and unique buildings.


Sunset view over the town’s harbor.

While visiting, we took an excursion boat ride to see more of Amelia Island and Cumberland Island, Georgia, now populated mostly by wild horses. Our tour guide wore pajama bottoms decorated with sushi-making ninja cats. I kid you not! The multi-talented designer aka boat captain sells his unique PJ’s in town, and my husband even bought a few.

The island was a major shrimping site but because of foreign competition is now down to just a fraction of its earlier business. Be sure to try the local shrimp – smaller, paler pink and a bit saltier. Delicious!

We rented bikes and rode around town and up the hill to an earlier downtown now filled with mostly old Victorian style houses. A well-designed Greenway path took us into nature, and since this was springtime, we saw groups of baby alligators with their moms in the water below us.


Camouflaged gator spotted on our boat ride.

Then again, Grisham’s Camino Island may be Marco Island on the opposite side of Florida near Naples and another spectacular locale. That beach was off-limits at certain times of the year for the sea turtles to go ashore and lay eggs.

Camino Island could be almost anywhere. Why fiction, even when referring to real places, can be imaginary and in the author’s head. My novel AQUAVIT is also set on some islands, Manhattan and Sealand, where Copenhagen, Denmark is located, with an entirely different kind of charm. Just like our novels. And if you’d like to check out some sample chapters from my novel, about a woman desperate to escape from her daily routine for a voyage onboard an old clipper ship, here’s the link: Aquavit on Amazon


Shaking a hook after a kick from a Florida Mule.

P.S. You might like another blog about John Grisham’s new novel THE ROOSTER BAR. Link:  Grisham’s Rooster Bar

Karen Stensgaard is the author of the novel AQUAVIT and BLUENESS, two books in the Aquamarine Sea Series.  They don’t take place on Camino Island but the first book takes place on Manhattan in NYC and Sealand in Denmark. And they feature a woman in trouble too! For more information, please refer to my website page for each novel.

17 thoughts on “The Real Camino Island

  1. Thanks for reading my blog. Amelia Island is a beautiful setting for a novel. South of Savannah and north of St. Augustine. I’m planning another visit soon!


  2. I am reading. Camino Island presently. I had to scope out the geography. At first the Gulf location popped up but I doubted that. Having travelled through Georgia en route to Florida from home in the Ottawa Valley, Ontario Canada, my mind drifted to stays in Savannah and Jekyll Island and St. Augustine. I will pursue more of your work Karen


  3. Have been to both Amelia island and vacationed on Marco Island (no longer the quaint paradise it use to be)..I also think he’s writing about Amelia..StAugustine should be on everyone’s bucket list❤️


  4. I read Camino Island and was completely enthralled,,,,I agree, reading this book and the subsequent novel Camino Winds,,,leads me to believe that Camino is definitely Amelia,(thinly disguised)..Although,as I said,I loved the book,one factual detail left me wondering. Do any stores on the island really have basements?


  5. No, I did not know that but I had heard his wife went to the university there and he made the commencement speech which can be watched on YouTube. I think most authors use tidbits from real life in their novels. They seem to seep in unexpectedly. Thanks for the info. Karen


  6. Did you know that John Grisham inserted himself into this book?
    In the story Mercer initially lives in tiny cottage in Chapel Hill behind a mansion on Franklin Street, where the owner of the mansion only rents to starving professors and graduate students.
    Well the mansion owner is the author himself. Just google “John Grisham, Chapel Hill, Cottages” and you will find out. There were 4 cottages behind his property in2017… he is now trying to move them to another location.


  7. Grammarly, my paid grammar checker, didn’t notice either. I suppose you could chew sweet gum in a sweetgum! Beautiful trees BTW. Maybe the movie version could include one.


  8. Site resembles the actual Fernandina Beach, a barrier island off Jacksonville with, yeah, some Key West tossed in. Wish Grisham could spell sweetgum the tree; it’s not sweet gum. Appears at least twice. Spellcheck caused error no doubt.


  9. Just finished The book today. I believe Camino Island would have to be Amelia Island because of the references to Jacksonville FBI Office and flying out of Jacksonville to Atlanta, etc.


  10. A basement on an island in Florida? Highly unlikely. Too much of a demand on ‘willing suspension of disbelief’


  11. Started reading his books after I retired , I was s public defender defense investigator who actually went out and did my job very aggressively . Loved it. Knocked on doors and wow. What responses I received Worked major crime (high court). In ct.
    had a ball working the streets talking with people.


  12. I am reading Camino Island now, the book loaned to me by my daughter, which is a really good book; by then, when has he written anything less. Enjoying the ” locales” as island life is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. As I read the novel I constantly imagined Amelia Island. In the book the Main Street is called Fernando Street. Reminded me of Fernandina. So I’m pretty certain he was inspired by Amelia Island.

    Liked by 1 person

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