Amelia Island waterfront

Amelia Island is one area of Florida I know intimately, because my parents relocated there almost 13 years ago. It is a small island near Jacksonville, tucked into the northeast corner of Florida, right near the border of Georgia.

It feels a little different than the rest of Florida I have spent time exploring, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Specifically, Amelia Island has more southern flair than most of Florida. While it brings in a fair number of visitors, it is not overrun with tourists like some areas of central and southern Florida, with high-rise condo complexes as far as the eye can see and bumper-to-bumper traffic at every attraction.

It has a laid-back vibe, 13 miles of perfect sand beaches, marshes full of wildlife, and plenty of activities to keep anyone entertained. Plus, it is a short drive from the Jacksonville Airport, so once you step off the plane, you are only 30 minutes away from the start of your vacation!

Here are some of my favorite ways to spend time on Amelia Island, when I feel the need to escape the clutches of my parents (kidding, Mom and Dad!!).

Kayak Amelia

 Kayak Amelia

Located just off the southern tip of Amelia Island, Kayak Amelia offers organized kayaking tours, kayak rentals, and even stand up paddle boarding yoga (yes, apparently that is a thing). I have always opted for the basic kayak rental ($35 per kayak) heading up into the estuaries. The staff can suggest routes based on the tides, and the area is teeming with wildlife, especially birds, like great blue herons, bald eagles, and ospreys. If you steer in the direction of the ocean, you can see turtles, stingrays, and dolphins.

Wave Runners Amelia Island

Wave Runner Rentals

Nothing beats powering through the water in the wave runners from Amelia Boat Club. You can head towards downtown Fernandina Beach, motoring by the main marina and shopping area, and then out to the surrounding islands like Cumberland or St. Mary’s. Or, you go south down the inter coastal waterway, gawking at the beautiful homes on Amelia Island from the water, and the tremendous wildlife in this area. The last two times I have been out on the wave runners I’ve spotted quite a few dolphins, just breaching the water around us. When that happens, I love to cut the motors and just drift, watching the dolphins swim.

Boat Rentals

If your group is bigger, or you want to spend a day relaxing on the water, daily boat rentals are also widely available. We’ve used Amelia Boat Club for this as well, but there are also other rental companies in the area from which to choose. Let me tell you – there is nothing better than puttering around in a pontoon boat, with your nearest and dearest, and a cooler stocked with plenty of drinks and snacks.

Egans Creek Greenway

This 300 acre, 3 mile trail system runs through the northern part of Amelia Island, just a few blocks from the ocean. Egans Creek contains fresh and salt water marshes, and its trails are perfect for running or walking. The fresh water marshes attract quite a few critters as well, so keep an eye out for alligators and turtles. On my last visit, I managed to spot 6 alligators in a short stretch of the greenway. It was the first time in my life I had to run around an alligator on a morning jog.

Fort Clinch State Park

Fort Clinch State Park

Located on the northern tip of the island, Fort Clinch is a former Civil War base, turned into a large, diverse state park. It contains over 3 miles of beach, an extended fishing pier, and is well known for shelling and shark-tooth gathering (great white shark teeth are not uncommon). In addition, there are 6 miles of biking and hiking trails, wrapping around the park. While I have the comfort of my parents’ guest room at night, Fort Clinch also boasts campsites, so you can stay overnight right near the ocean.

The Beaches

One major benefit of Amelia Island’s long, skinny shape, is that the ocean-facing side is one continuous 13 mile beach. The whole beach is open to the public. If you have a 4WD vehicle, you are even allowed to bring your car onto the beach in certain areas. With so much space, even during the busy periods, there is never a need to fight for a place on the sand. There is plenty of room for everyone.

Concours d'Elegance

Concours d’Elegance

Every March at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island, the Concours d’Elegance rolls into town. It is one of the finest car shows in the country, specializing in vintage vehicles. The cars are on display all weekend at the Ritz, as the golf course turns into a parking lot for some of the rarest and most expensive cars in the world. There are numerous car-related events going on all over the island during the Concours, including a car auction, where this year a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT sold for an astonishing $17.1 million!

Beach Bar Amelia Island

Food and Drink

Fortunately for this food enthusiast, Amelia is not lacking in good grub. While there are some high-end options that are perfectly nice, I prefer something a little more casual when I’m in Florida.

Tasty’s, located on Centre St, the main drag of downtown Fernandina Beach, serves up classic fast-food style burgers in a former gas station. Unlike typical fast-food joints, they use quality ingredients while still keeping things affordable.

If, like me, you crave some barbecue when you head south, and the newly opened Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen has brought legitimate barbecue to Amelia Island. Fatty, delicious beef brisket and ribs, along with some unique items like smoked lamb shoulder and alligator ribs. Definitely do not skip the sides, especially the brussel sprout cole slaw.

For drinks, I love Sliders, located right on the beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. When the weather is nice, you have to grab a spot at their outdoor tiki bar. They even had seats at the bar that are swings attached to the roof of the tiki hut. Just make sure to not lean back too far!

In the heart of Fernandina Beach, you’ll the relatively new The Salty Pelican. When a morning of shopping and sweating leaves you craving sweet iced tea, head here for your pick of Southern favorites, from a classic Po’ Boy, to decadent crab dip. They also have a huge selection of oysters, if that’s your thing – raw, broiled or fried.

Also downtown is the new Amelia Tavern, which focuses on craft beer and a selection of small and large dishes to go along side your brew. It’s one of my parents’ new favorite places, so you better believe that next time I visit, we’ll head here first. I already have my eye on Truffle French Fries and Classic Cuban Sandwich.

Hotel Accommodations

Like any respectable beach destination, there is no shortage of hotels and inns on Amelia Island. Here are our favorite properties on the island, from luxury to budget.

Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island

The most expensive and luxurious hotel on the island. It is set right along the dunes, with easy access to the pristine Amelia Island beach, and features an 18-hole golf course, spa, three restaurants, and a pool. My favorite part, even if you don’t stay there, is to hit the recently renovated Lobby Bar, with by far the most creative cocktail/bar program on the island, along with a new sushi counter and reworked appetizer menu.
Book Here:    HotelsCombined.com   Expedia

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

While the Ritz Carlton is the most expensive, the Omni is not too far behind and is not easily accessible by non-guests. It is set on 1,350 waterfront acres, with three golf courses, and a large tennis center. It also just completed a renovation, a whooping $85 million overhaul.
Book Here:   HotelsCombined.com   Expedia

Elizabeth Pointe Lodge

This property is small, with only a handful of rooms in a gorgeous seaside lodge. What it lacks in rooms it makes up for in charm. And, full disclosure, we have a special connection since we spent our wedding weekend in one of their cottage suites.
Book Here:   HotelsCombined.com   Expedia

Hampton Inn and Suites – Amelia Island Historic Harbor Front

A fantastic budget option on the island. These hotel is situated just a few steps from Centre Street, the main hub of activity on the island, and home to a variety of restaurants, bars, and shops. Plus, like all Hamptons, they have their great free breakfast. I’m always a sucker for that waffle machine!
Book Here:   HotelsCombined.com   Expedia

 

What to do on Amelia Island, Florida

Dear reader, please note that some of these links are affiliates, which means we will make a small profit should you choose to use them. This in no way unfluences our recommendations though. We only share the things we have genuinely used and loved.

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  • April 2, 2016

    I wish I had known about Amelia Island when I was living in Florida! I spent 6 months living at WDW (on Disney property) and would have loved to have gotten away for all that (not that I didn’t love it) but a weekend somewhere completely different would have been awesome!
    Vicki recently posted…Amsterdam’s Best Museums: Sex, Drugs, Beer & Cocktails!My Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      Yeah, it is a great little island, only about 2.5 hours from WDW. By the way, how was living at WDW? That must have been an interesting experience!

  • April 2, 2016

    Sounds great! We lives in Fort Myers for a couple of years, though as seems to be the case with anywhere you actually live, we didn’t end up exploring our local surrounds. Would love to get back to the State and take in Amelia Island!
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…Top 5 National Parks to Visit in Gippsland, AustraliaMy Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      Definitely an area that feels way more southern than Florida-ish. Great beaches and a distinct island vibe.

  • April 2, 2016

    Hey Drew! It’s my first time here, your blog design is fab! And I love that kayaking photo. I love Florida – being from Montreal, it is one of those easy getaway destinations. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in South Beach, but now I have to say I wish I had visited Amelia Island!
    Amelie recently posted…A VEGAN-FRIENDLY WEEKEND IN BOLOGNAMy Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      Glad you like our site! Kayaking is one of my favorite activities on the islands. Though I mentioned the tides in the post because the last time I went, I went against a strong tide and spent a punishing 2 hours getting out to these islands where I could pull my kayak onto the beach. Felt like I was barely moving despite my constant rowing. Amazing, gliding with the tide, the return trip took 30 minutes!

  • April 2, 2016

    I’ve been to a few places in the USA but not Florida. So many interesting places to see and these are really nice ideas!

    Would love to kayak there. It’s one of my favourite ways to spot wildlife.
    Hugo Cura recently posted…Monaco for the non-richMy Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      Great wildlife spotting down there, especially by kayak in the marshes. Can even spot on larger alligators as well, which can be both good and terrifying!

  • April 2, 2016

    Running around the alligators sounds a bit scary. But, the rest sounds awesome! It’s nice to hear about a city in Florida where you can go and it is less touristy. I’m from South Carolina, so I’m not so far off. I’ll have to keep Amelia island on my list. Thanks for putting it on my radar 🙂

    • April 3, 2016

      It is a nice destination for a weekend. Low key, laid back island vibe. Of course, running around alligators was not very low key, but they didn’t seem to mind my presence!

  • April 2, 2016

    I have never heard of Amelia Island before, but it sounds like the perfect place to enjoy Florida! I actually have a Florida file, because I have mainly avoided it other than going to Jacksonville and Orlando. Your photos are beautiful! But, please be careful. I’m a little scared for you running around alligators!
    Corinne recently posted…No Planning Travel Planning Required?My Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      Yeah, the alligator I saw while running was the largest, and was out of the water and on the trail. About 6 feet long or so. It was completely still though, enjoying some late morning sun. He didn’t even flinch. I stopped and took some photos with my phone, though from a safe distance!

  • April 3, 2016

    Can’t say I have ever heard of this island before. I must now say though it looks amazing. The canoe tour and dolphins amazing. My girls would love this

  • April 3, 2016

    The name itself sounds so charming and lovely already. Your photos definitely justified that, and your description made me feel like I was there! Thanks for the wonderful round up! Something to add on my ‘murcaaa bucket list!

  • April 5, 2016

    Amelia Island sounds like my kind of place! It would be amazing to get up close to the dolphins, turtles, sting rays and bald eagles in a kayak. I would also be down for some BBQ at Gilbert’s! What a lovely spot for your parents (and you!) to enjoy.
    Jen Joslin recently posted…Transportation in Phnom PenhMy Profile

    • April 5, 2016
      Julie

      Thanks! We spend a ton of time in Amelia Island (and we got married there!) so it’s near and dear. It’s nice and small as well so you can explore for just a few hours or do what we do and chill out for a week!

  • April 5, 2016

    Big fan of your photos! I am heading to Florida in June and I have two weeks there. I shall not skip this. Thanks for sharing, Drew!

    • April 5, 2016
      Julie

      Thanks Trisha! We love Amelia Island – if you’re heading to North Florida during your trip, it’s worth the small journey north of Jacksonville to go there!

  • April 7, 2016

    Great write up! Florida is a pretty cool place. We were down there last spring visiting friends and had a blast.
    Jim recently posted…Best Wetsuits for SUPMy Profile

    • April 10, 2016
      Julie

      There truly is something for everyone in Florida. We like the milder weather and Southern charm of Northern Florida, but there are many great places to explore!

  • July 11, 2016

    I’m in Fort Myers and have been looking for local-ish destinations to get away to. I did a kayaking trip at Lover’s Key in Bonita Springs as well as one in Silver Springs in Ocala. Both beautiful places that I highly recommend. I’ll have to add Amelia Island to my list of places in FL to visit!

    • July 11, 2016

      Amelia Island is really pretty, and I love spending an afternoon kayaking. The perfect way to get out on the water.

  • July 20, 2016

    This place is beautiful and seems like the perfect place for kayaking! I’m glad you enjoyed your time there, and thanks for sharing your adventures with us!

  • September 3, 2016

    We vacation in Florida regularly, and we look for the quiet and out of the way spots, so this would be right up our alley. Thanks for the write-up and I’ll be checking out Amelia.
    Diver S recently posted…5 Central U.S. Kayak Adventures Right In Your BackyardMy Profile

    • September 4, 2016

      Amelia is very nice. Definitely feels slightly more southern than Florida, but still has amazing beaches, like you would expect from a coastal Florida destination.

  • October 12, 2016

    What a beautiful looking blog site! I just love love love kayaking and really enjoyed this post. Just found a great new place to kayak in Florida. Thanks for sharing!
    James Dutreaux recently posted…Seaward Kayaks ReviewMy Profile

    • October 12, 2016

      Glad you enjoyed it. Definitely some nice kayaking, just be aware of the strength of the tides…can make for some tough kayaking!

  • October 16, 2016
    Stephanie Rice

    I am a first time visitor to Amelia Islands. My family stayed at the Omni, in a condo and it was amazing. I feel like the island has become a little part of my soul. Everything is so beautiful-the trees, the beach, the waves, the shells….I could go on. I am interested in visiting again. This time of the year has been very low key and without many visitors. Is there a time to avoid the island,when it is over crowded?? I would love to plan a visit again in the next year.

    • October 16, 2016
      Julie

      Hey Stephanie! The only time of year that we try to avoid Amelia is the height of summer (like August). It is soooo hot there (of course, we’re coming from the UK, so our tolerance for heat is at an all time low). We also got married here, so it has a special place in our hearts as well. You should definitely go back!

  • October 18, 2016

    These are all great ideas! Your photos are so pretty. What was your favorite stop while visiting?

  • October 29, 2016

    I recommend Kayak Amelia.. it was a great experience.
    Cynthia recently posted…MyFlorida Access http://www.myflorida.com/accessflorida Florida BenefitsMy Profile

  • October 30, 2016

    That looks like such a lovely place . We’ve been to Florida a few times but often on the southern part. The kids love the beaches. I’ll definitely keep Amelia Island on my bucket list of places to visit the next time we go to Florida.
    Marjorie recently posted…Matula Tea: What is It and Is It Healthy?My Profile

    • October 30, 2016

      definitely a hidden gem in Florida, and I’m not much of a Florida person…