How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Amelia Island

Embrace few crowds, white-sand beaches and flowing fairways this summer.

U.S. News & World Report

How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Amelia Island

Beach Access Boardwalk Over Sand Dunes Amelia Island Florida

With pristine beaches, championship golf courses, and a Civil War fort, Amelia Island beckons to serenity seekers and history buffs, alike.(Getty Images)

Amelia Island is a playground for golfers, families, beach enthusiasts and nature lovers, alike. Located about 25 miles northeast of Jacksonville, Florida, this under-the-radar gem offers an easily accessible and relaxing retreat. And with 13 miles of unspoiled beaches, great food, genuine hospitality and live oaks with draping Spanish moss, it's hard not to be charmed by Amelia Island. Here are can't-miss spots and things to do on your next trip to Amelia Island.

Enjoy a Festival

Amelia Island hosts a number of festivals, so plan your visit accordingly. For example, the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival at Fernandina Beach takes place from April 29 to May 1 this year and includes a parade of boats and a pirate parade. In fact, Amelia Island is the only territory in the U.S. that was under the dominion of eight flags during the past five centuries.

Amelia Island is also known for its Vintage Gran Prix Car Tour, Petanque America Open (an outdoor game that's reminiscent of horseshoes and bocce ball), the Concours d' Elegance, where rare, elegant cars are showcased and cultural events celebrating blues, jazz and chamber music.

Check Out Fernandina Beach

Named in honor of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, Fernandina Beach is home to a historic district, many unique restaurants and shops. Plus, the beach reigns as the birthplace of the shrimping industry, so if you're a shrimp lover, Fernandina is not to be missed.

Take a Cruise

Amelia River Cruises offers narrated sightseeing cruises from Fernandina's waterfront to the unforgettable Cumberland Island in Georgia, where wild horses roam. Along the way, you may spot dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, egrets, herons, luxury yachts and even a Civil War-era fort.

Tour the Lighthouse

The Amelia Lighthouse, built in 1838, is the oldest lighthouse in Florida and the only one from that has survived without major rebuilding. It you enjoy touring historic landmarks, it's certainly worth a visit during your trip.

Where to Stay in Amelia Island

When it comes to accommodations, you'll find everything from bed-and-breakfasts to condos, villas and resorts. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, a 1,350-acre property with more than 400 rooms and dramatic ocean views, is an ideal choice. On the property grounds, guests have access to three golf courses, 10 restaurants, 24-hour fitness center, 7 miles of trails for biking and Segway guided tours, a spa, tennis courts and more. What's more, there are plenty of family-friendly amenities and romance-kindling spots for couples, including an adults-only infinity pool and fire pits. And with the new addition of the Rum & Tequila Experience, located on the lower pool deck, there's a selection of some 100 rum and tequilas waiting to be crafted by an expert mixologist.

And with Amelia's serene waters, the stage is set for paddle boarding, kayaking, water aerobics, beach yoga, surfing and fishing tours, among other water-based activities. Regardless of your age, you'll find something to do. There's dance time with Tanner Turtle, the resort's mascot; Camp Amelia for younger kids, the Nature Center; and for tweens, the Gamers Lounge. Tennis lessons are available for those ages 9 and up, and families can enjoy beach fires on Saturday evenings, trivia nights and other kid-friendly activities. And for active types, there's golf, pilates, zumba, yoga, and pickle ball, (a fusion of tennis and table tennis), making it easy to stay in shape while on vacation. If you would rather unwind, head to the spa, where you can get pampered with Swedish massages, rejuvenating body treatments, facials, manicure, pedicures and other treatments.

When hunger sets in, tickle your taste buds at Oceanside, the restaurant overlooking the beach, which offers seafood-centric dishes, such as calamari, rock shrimp and jerk wing appetizers. The black bean burgers and grilled chicken sandwich with pecan smoked bacon, avocado and Cajun mayo are also crowd-pleasers. For breakfast, the Sunrise Café, is the spot for a hearty Southern breakfast or gluten-free, organic fare. And on Sunday's, the café offers a can't-miss live jazz Champagne brunch. 

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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