Amelia Island has been a sought-after spot for centuries. Since 1562, eight separate flags have flown over this 21-kilometre stretch of paradise, including those of France, Great Britain, Spain and Mexico.
Now in the hands of Florida, Amelia Island is rife with culture and unique ambiance. It’s home to a Spanish old town, a Victorian historic district, delectable Southern fare and a number of charming coastal boutiques. And, with only 20,000 residents, its friendly, laid-back vibe is unbeatable.
After exploring Amelia’s charms (including 20 km of beaches), you’ll want to claim it as your own.
Morning Start your day with an hour-long yoga class on the beach or in a tree house surrounded by live oaks at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. Located at the nature-filled southern end of the island, the hotel offers ocean views from all its rooms, making it the perfect base to explore Amelia. Following your yoga session, drive 20 minutes north to Fernandina Beach—the island’s only city—to spend the day exploring its 50-block historic district, which boasts beautiful 19th-century buildings and ancient oaks covered in Spanish moss.
Afternoon Peruse the Victorian storefronts that line Centre Street, the historic district’s main area. Shop for local pottery at Twisted Sisters, Florida sugar cane rum at Marlin & Barrel and nautical gifts at Ship’s Lantern before trying a Cuban sandwich and tostones (fried plantain slices) at Hola! Cuban Café. Afterward, cross the street to the waterfront for a two-hour, narrated Cumberland Island tour with the Amelia River Cruise. Learn all about the area’s history while taking in the fantastic views of both Amelia and Cumberland islands.
Evening Back on land, dine on British pub food at the Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest pre-Prohibition tavern dating back to 1903. Admire the mahogany bar and embossed tin ceiling while enjoying the “old world-style” fish and chips and signature Pirate’s Punch, a fruity rum cocktail made from a top-secret, 55-year-old recipe.
Morning Spend your second day making the most of the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort’s many perks. Start with the blueberry maple sausage at Marche Burette, then head over to the Nature Center to feed the turtles and chat with Buddy the Macaw. Follow that up with a bike tour around the resort’s 1,350 acres. Weave through the Maritime forest trails to reach Drummond Point Park, where boardwalks extend over the salt marshes that cover the island. Be on the lookout for crabs and swallow-tailed kites.
Afternoon Tour The Sprouting Project, the resort’s sustainable aquaponic greenhouse, smokehouse and apiary, then dine on super-fresh seasonal fare like salads, suckling pork and sweet potato doughnuts in the organic garden. Give in to the resulting food coma at The Spa and Salon with a 50-minute massage and a steam shower.
Evening Relax poolside at the Rum + Tequila Experience, where a mixologist selects a flight of either of the bar’s namesakes from its 200-plus collection. For dinner, head to Verandahfor Southern fare like the Floridian Fish Muddle with snapper, Sapelo Island clams and Fernandina shrimp or deviled eggs with pecanwood smoked bacon and parsley.
Morning Head to Old Town Fernandina, just north of the historic district, where the Spanish settled in 1811. Check out the gorgeous waterfront houses, including the high-towered Pippi Longstocking House (it was the setting for the 1988 movie The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking). Don’t miss the stunning Bosque Bello Cemetery where magnolia trees drip Spanish moss over old stone walls and gravestones dating back to 1813.
Afternoon Drive a few minutes east to the main entrance of the 1,400-acre Fort Clinch State Park that covers the north end of the island. Enjoy a seafood lunch at the nearby Sandy Bottoms Beach Bar and Grill before entering the park. There, visit the 19th-century fort for a reenactment of a battle from the American Civil War, look for alligators on the 10-km hiking trail and head to the pier to spot dolphins, sea turtles and pelicans.
Evening Back in the historic district, start your dinner off with sangria and fried polenta at España Restaurant & Tapas, then try its signature paella. End the night with pirate and ghost lore on a half-hour horse-drawn carriage tour through the area with Amelia Island Carriages.