Amelia Island#1 in Best Things To Do in Jacksonville
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- 4.5Food Scene
About 30 miles northeast of downtown Jacksonville, the relaxed community of Amelia Island draws families in droves with its 13 miles of beaches, historic attractions and laid-back atmosphere. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Amelia Island also provided a safe vacation haven for Jacksonville's Black residents. Florida's first Black millionaire, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, purchased 200 acres of beachfront on Amelia Island and called it American Beach. Here, Black vacationers could enjoy the island without the threat of racial discrimination or violence. In 2002, the beach was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. To learn more about the beach's culture, stories and heritage, consider a visit to the American Beach Museum.
While on the island, you can also learn about pirate lore at the Amelia Island Museum of History, look for alligators and wild horses while on a waterway cruise, hike through Fort George Island Cultural State Park or simply lounge on the sand. Recent visitors particularly recommended laying your towel along the shores of Fernandina Beach, a small community that stretches along the northern part of the barrier island.
Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach are a bit of a hike from downtown Jacksonville, and traffic can be treacherous. If you'd like to make the most out of a visit to these beachside communities, consider setting up camp there – the island is home to some of the area's more opulent accommodation options, including The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. You'll also find numerous vacation rentals and condos that can accommodate larger groups. Just be sure to make your reservations well in advance if you're planning to visit in the summer.
You can visit Amelia Island at any time, free of charge. But the island's different attractions follow different schedules and charge their own admission prices. To learn more, visit the Amelia Island website.
More Best Things To Do in Jacksonville
#2 Ponte Vedra Beach
The southernmost of the Jacksonville Beaches, Ponte Vedra Beach draws leisure travelers in search of sprawling sands and, of course, golf. This fairly small community on the Atlantic coast (about 22 miles southeast of downtown Jacksonville) is best known as the home to the PGA Tour and THE PLAYERS Championship, which are hosted at the famous TPC Sawgrass – and that's just one of many courses and country clubs in the area. But if you would prefer to skip the fairways, you can take advantage of Ponte Vedra Beach's museums, shops and eateries. Recent visitors were also big fans of the beach, thanks to the soft sand and dolphin sightings.
Ponte Vedra Beach is also home to some of the area's more upscale hotels, including the Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach. However, be aware that accommodations here fill up quickly during the golf tournaments in the spring and during the summer, so make your reservations well in advance if you plan to stay here.
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