Story by Gabriele Walkow; Photos courtesy of Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
Conveniently located just 30 minutes from Jacksonville International Airport, off the coast of northeast Florida, Allegiant travelers will discover delightful island charm complemented by an abundance of activities and amenities in this tropical paradise. An unhurried pace of life greets visitors, inviting them to kick back and reconnect with all things island. It’s time to make lifelong memories.
A visit to Amelia Island promises an experience that’s uniquely Floridian and countless travelers agree. Amelia Island consistently ranks among the “Top 10 U.S. Islands” and “Top 25 Islands in the World” as recognized by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.
A timeless destination, 13 miles long and approximately two miles wide at its widest point, Amelia Island is home to breathtaking beauty, pristine parks, vast stretches of tranquil beaches and a rich history. World-class golf, soothing spas, luxury resorts, a roster of restaurants and a world of water activities await travelers of all ages.
Scenic Fernandina Beach Marina
Start your exploration at the newly reopened Amelia Island Welcome Center, located in the lovingly restored historic train depot at 102 Centre Street in Fernandina Beach. The expert ambassadors here ensure that visitors get the most from their vacation.
Armed with brochures and information, head to Fernandina’s historic downtown district, a treasure trove of history and heritage with the 50-plus blocks listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stroll the brick streets of this graceful port town where generations have walked before you and learn about 4,000 years of history. For example, the Victorian courthouse, built in 1891 and located in the heart of town on Centre Street, is the oldest county courthouse in Florida that is still in use today. Hop on the Amelia Island Trolley for a one hour and 15 minute tour of downtown Fernandina, Old Town and the silk stocking district. Located at the end of Centre Street at the marina, tickets for this journey back in time are purchased from the driver. After the tour, be sure to stop by the Palace Saloon, Florida’s longest-operating saloon and reportedly designed by Adolphus Busch of Anhesuer-Busch fame, for a cool one!
Eight different flags have flown over Amelia Island since May of 1562 and this unique history is honored by the Amelia Island Museum of History, housed inside the old Nassau county jail. Catering to many interests and age levels, walking tours and docent-led museum tours are scheduled regularly. Don’t miss the popular Ghost Tours, where guests tiptoe through dark streets and walk in the footsteps of a haunted past through the skillful storytelling of a guide.
Time for fun in the sun? Prepare for natural Appalachian quartz beaches framed by sand dunes, some as high as 40 feet! Amelia Island is home to five main stunning beaches each with its own amazing appeal. Main Beach Park is Amelia Island’s most well known beachfront park and a family favorite with a playground, picnic areas, two sand volleyball courts, a skate park, beach accesses, and restroom and outdoor shower facilities.
Fort Clinch State Park boasts a fishing pier and a wide variety of family-friendly recreational activities including swimming, fishing, sunbathing, hiking, biking and wildlife viewing. Shelling and shark tooth hunting are also popular here. Visit historic Fort Clinch and step back to the year 1864, as soldiers reenact life during the Civil War.
Peters Point Beachfront Park is popular for its fishing, covered picnic areas and limited beach driving. This is also the departure point for memorable beachside horseback riding tours. American Beach, now listed on the Black Heritage Trail, is a historic beach community popular with African-American vacationers. Amelia Island State Park, at the southernmost end of Amelia Island, offers visitors a secluded setting for fishing, strolling and bird watching.
Explore unique shops and galleries
Savor the area’s natural beauty on a sunset sail from Fernandina’s historic waterfront. With an abundance of native wildlife, it’s not uncommon to spot dolphins, sea turtles, herons and even wild horses roaming free on Cumberland Island. Learn about local history and the fragile eco-system from the expert history and nature narrators.
After a busy day of soaking up the sun, connecting with nature and discovering the area’s rich history, thoughts always turn to food and the anticipation of a delectable dining experience. Visitors can savor over 70 distinctive restaurants, sure to satisfy every appetite, on Amelia Island. Breakfast options include cozy cafes and sweet-smelling bakeries while a range of delis and diners, pubs and grills beckon invitingly for lunch. Dinner can be enjoyed oceanside, patioside or inside! The flavors of fine dining, international cuisine and fresh Florida seafood will tempt everyone’s palate.
Amelia Island also offers unique boutique shopping, colorful art galleries, cool collectables and much more. Visitors can wander through a dizzying selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, organic products and specialty foods at the Amelia Farmers Market at The Shops of Amelia Island Plantation. – Continued on page 16
The upscale, oceanfront Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is a vacation destination in itself. Nestled on 1,350 spacious acres with a 3.5-mile private beach and offering over 400 oceanfront guest rooms and suites with patios and balconies, guests can relax in oceanfront luxury. Featuring an infinity edge adult swimming pool, a 10,000-square-foot family friendly pool, a children’s splash park and two hot tubs, guests can lounge poolside on the largest multi-tiered pool deck in northeast Florida. Spend an afternoon kayaking and paddleboarding through preserved marshlands and then visit the nature center. Tee off on three championship golf courses or head to the award-winning courts at the Amelia Island Racquet Park. Still have energy to burn? Hit the fully equipped fitness center and then take some time out at the full-service spa before sampling the nine on-site dining venues, serving up casual to gourmet fare. The shopping village, complete with 14 boutiques and a French-style deli and market, is perfect for a shopping spree!
Other island accommodation options range from quaint B & B’s to welcoming motels to luxury hotels. The Residence Inn Amelia Island is a modern all-suite hotel, just three miles from Fernandina Beach. The bright rooms range from studio to two-bedroom suites and come with full kitchens and living areas. A free cooked breakfast, an outdoor pool with hot tub, a fitness center and BBQ facilities round out the amenities.
The Amelia Hotel at the Beach is located across from a white sand beach and is a five-minute walk to restaurants. All rooms feature wet bars, mini fridges and microwaves and offer pool views and partial ocean views, some with balconies. The terrace suite has a jacuzzi tub and an oceanfront balcony. Stays include a free hot breakfast, afternoon cookies, an outdoor pool and 24/7 fitness center.
Looking for a vacation rental to call your home-away-from-home? With four offices and over 35 years of experience, ERA Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island’s full-service real estate and rental company, will help you find the perfect place to vacation or live.
Amelia Island is home to a number of captivating festivals throughout the year, including the Amelia Concours d’Elegance, Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Amelia Island Jazz Festival, Petanque America Open, the Holiday Home Tour and Dickens On Centre.
For more information on this blissful barrier island, including a complete Calendar of Events, visit ameliaisland.com.