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The little island that’s big on personality.
Amelia island stretches 13 miles, and the northern part of the island has a totally different vibe than the southern point—both you need to “sea” to believe.
Fly into Jacksonville airport. Even though they’re a bit hard to come by in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might want to rent a car (depending on how much you want to explore). The drive is about a half hour from Jacksonville to Amelia Island. Once you get to the island, getting an Uber or Lyft becomes a little harder. You’ll want to stay in the Historic District so that the majority of what you’d like to do is within a very easy walking distance.
Fernandina Beach is a town on Amelia Island named for King Ferdinand. That’s where the action is. This is where the Historic District sits, and everything is walkable on that end of the island.
The ABCs of Island Life
The Addison Bed & Breakfast on Fernandina Beach has everything you need for the perfect visit to the island. You cannot beat the location in the heart of the Historic District. It’s one block off Centre Street, the main drag, and nearly everything is within less than a half mile walk.
A delicious hot breakfast every day is included with your stay, as is a 5:30 happy hour with complimentary wine and beer, giving you the opportunity for social time to meet other guests.
In 2017, innkeepers Lisa and Ron West purchased the 14-room inn, which provides loads of Southern hospitality, quality concierge services and a delicious breakfast enjoyed out on the veranda in nice weather.
The adults-only inn caters to couples, and all rooms have king-size beds. Ask for a second-story room that overlooks the well-manicured courtyard.
Travel tip: Enjoy their complimentary bicycles to explore the island. Take a little cycling trip over to Fort Clinch State Park where you can ride through a canopy of trees, hike for miles and explore the historic military fort.
B: Bites and Beverages
The Brand: Owned and operated by Chef Ricky and his wife Mari Piggs
The Vibe: Located in a restored 1900s home in downtown Fernandina Beach, offering a rustic and elegant atmosphere. Beautiful artwork around the restaurant brings a homey touch, compliments of the chef/owner’s father, Ray Piggs.
The Bevs: Along with the unique wine list that accompanies the menu beautifully, they have a full bar and serve a mean mojito.
The Eats: The Amelia Island Shrimp & Grits was a personal favorite, giving you the opportunity to take full advantage of the fresh shrimp served on the Island.
The Brand: Seafood with a view of the water
The Vibe: Indoor and outdoor seating available, but the best seat in the house is upstairs overlooking the marina.
The Bevs: Try the cucumber lemonade or their specialty, The Pelican Punch, if you are in the market for something sweet.
The Eats: The Short Rib Poutine is a great way to start the meal, with the fish and chips or the Pelican Shrimp Wrap for the main course. Add on a peanut butter pie for good measure!
The Brand: Located on the property of The Omni Amelia Island Resort
The Vibe: French-style market and deli with indoor and outside seating. The outdoor tables overlook a pond and fountain, perfect for a beautiful Florida day. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch some live music too.
The Bevs: Mimosas pair nicely with the Brunch Tower.
The Eats: The Brunch Tower resembles an “afternoon tea” presentation and is a great choice; for lunch, you can’t go wrong with their sandwiches, especially the Southwest Turkey Panini. The tasty hummus appetizer can be a light meal in itself.
The Brand: Asian street food off the beaten path, a local favorite
The Vibe: Fun outdoor patio with indoor seating as well
The Bevs: Known for their signature sake sangria, but they have an extensive wine list
The Eats: Family style is the move to try a little bit of everything, such as the Roti Canai, the Pork Pot Stickers and the Bao Trio.
Tip: Because it’s a local fave, there might be a line out the door, but it’s well worth the wait.
C: Choose your own adventure
Take a ride on the Amelia Island River Cruise that circles the historic Cumberland Island. On this casual cruise, which lasts approximately two and a half hours, you’ll see wildlife like dolphins, wild horses and deer. You’ll also learn loads of interesting facts. For example:
- The reason why Amelia Island is known as the “Island of eight flags” is because they’ve been ruled by eight different governments.
- How and why pirates used the area to smuggle goods, making it known as “the back door to the U.S.”
- Amelia Island is known as the birthplace of shrimping. Where there used to be over 100 shrimping boats out in the nearby waters, now you’ll only find eight to 10, thanks to the farm-raised shrimping industry. However, if you do order shrimp, you are guaranteed to have the freshest available.
- One of the major industries on the island is growing yellow pine trees to make Amazon boxes and other paper and cardboard materials in high demand these days.
- There is a nearby nuclear subs station run by the U.S. military.
- Cumberland Island is where JFK Jr. got married in a secret ceremony.
Song and Story Bookstore is an adorable independent bookstore that has been around for four years and is beloved by the local community. The owners, Mark and Donna Paz Kaufman, actually taught others how to run successful independent bookstores all over the country, then later moved to Amelia Island to open this local gem. Unique highlights of the concept include their Book Hugs program (a subscription book program built for grandparents to keep their grandchildren reading year-round); a concert series that takes place in the upstairs gathering space; and best-selling author David Baldacci, who has a home on the island, is a major supporter of the homegrown effort. The bistro offers delicious lunch fare such as a chicken salad sandwich on croissant, gourmet grilled cheese and hearty soups of the day, in addition to a myriad of scrumptious sweets you can pair with a warm cappuccino to enjoy while browsing the aisles.
With many different waterways to choose from, kayaking is a popular sport on the island. Take a guided kayaking adventure with Amelia Island Kayak Excursions. Family-owned and -operated, this outdoor professionally guided adventure will help you soak in the natural wildlife the area is known for. Whether you’re paddling down Egan’s Creek or Lofton Creek, your knowledgeable and friendly guide will point out birds, historical structures (such as one of the first railroads in the state) and maybe even a gator or two.
Explore the southern part of Amelia Island near the expansive Omni property with Amelia‘s Wheels where you can rent various bicycles for nearly any increment of time. With scenic bike-only pathways, you can wind throughout the bottom part of the island, staying on property, and enjoy the scenery of the wooded pathways and the beach.
Additional #LoveAmelia hot spots:
- The Palace Saloon (located in Historic Downtown) is the longest running bar in the state of Florida. They have live music most nights.
- The island boasts four state parks.
- Amelia Island is a hotspot for beer lovers. You will find taverns and pubs sprinkled all throughout the island. Favorites like First Love Brewery, Amelia Island Tavern and Mocoma Beer Company (which also has a great coffee bar).
This enchanting Victorian seaport village provides the idyllic backdrop for an East Coast beach excursion that can be both thrilling and relaxing. The small-town setting (think Hallmark movie), with a surprising number of permanent residents, will pull you in whether you choose to dance the night away to the live music on every corner, curl up on the beach with a great book or cuddle up at a quiet inn.
Marika Flatt, Outstanding Austin Communicator 2021, is the travel editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She can be seen on TV shows across Texas, offering travel tips, in addition to her long-running “Weekend Trip Tip” on NPR’s Texas Standard.
A lover of all things travel, pretty running trails and good coffee, Analise Flatt is a junior at Stephen F. Austin State University studying mass communications with a minor in travel and tourism. Check out her Instagram to stay updated on her latest travel adventures.