It’s easy to make great memories on Amelia Island, Florida. Take historic tours on foot (also on board a trolley or in a horse and carriage), spend a day at the beach or relax at a spa.
Hike or bike ride, take a boat tour or go fishing. Learn about local nature and Amelia Island’s eco-system while you paddle a kayak. Ride horses on the beach (or perhaps you prefer riding in golf cart?) While known for its beautiful beachfront and historic district of Fernandina, Amelia Island is also a haven for golfers with eight area golf courses. With an average annual temperature of around 70 degrees on Amelia Island, golfers can pretty much enjoy local golfing year round on this barrier island in northeast Florida. These are just some things to do on Amelia Island.
Amelia Island’s 13 miles of beachfront attract the most visitors during the peak summer months (June, July, August). However, Amelia’s beautiful beaches are especially nice in autumn and winter for beachcombing to find natural treasures like shark’s teeth, starfish, shells, and sand dollars, or to go bike riding at low tide or jog along the shoreline. If you’d rather not exert energy and just want to relax, escape to the seaside to enjoy Amelia Island’s posh resort spas (at the Ritz-Carlton and Amelia Island Plantation).
SPECIAL ANNUAL EVENTS ON AMELIA ISLAND, FLORIDA
Amelia Island hosts several festivals each year (SEE FESTIVALS PAGE), including the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival held annually the first weekend of May.
NATURE’S SPLENDOR ON AMELIA ISLAND
Both eco and heritage tourism have grown in popularity and Amelia Island can satisfy the nature and historic explorer. Many are attracted to the simplicity of being outdoors and appreciating nature and educational travel, as people try to “de-stress” and get back to life’s simple pleasures. One of the least expensive ways to absorb coastal nature here on Amelia Island is to simply visit Amelia’s beautiful beaches. Off-peak season, from late fall through April, is an especially nice time for beachcombing to find natural treasures like shark’s teeth, starfish, shells, and sand dollars that regularly wash up on Amelia’s shoreline. At the other end of the spectrum, some prefer to “de-stress” by visiting a luxury spa (see Amelia Island spas toward end of article). For those who love the water, Fernandina Beach offers nature cruises and a ferry service connecting Fernandina, FL and St. Marys, GA allowing visitors to enjoy boat rides and coastal nature on the water around Amelia Island. (See more further below about visiting the wilderness island, Cumberland Island, GA, a neighbor to Amelia Island, FL.)
If you want to see the one of the most natural areas of Amelia Island, check out Fort Clinch State Park — the park has beautiful beachfront on both the Atlantic and Cumberland Sound. The Atlantic Ocean beachfront at Fort Clinch is accessible by wooden walkways over what is the island’s largest remaining area of undisturbed natural dunes. Fort Clinch is a must-see attraction on Amelia Island, with over 1,100 acres, a half-mile long fishing pier, historic fort tours, picnic area, hiking, biking trails, birding and nature observation, plus wonderful campgrounds.
FERNANDINA BEACH’S HISTORIC DISTRICT, NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES
It’s easy to picture in your mind’s eye images of late nineteenth century days past, when you take a stroll down historic Centre Street, the main corridor of quaint shops, called “downtown” by locals. In this enchanting 50+ block historic district of Amelia Island’s seaport village, one feels somewhat suspended in time — there still remains the aura of simpler days past. Licking ice cream cones, sipping gourmet coffee, nibbling homemade fudge and chocolates, and browsing the quaint shops, visitors seem to enjoy the relaxation and simplicity of Fernandina’s historic downtown district. There are boutiques, art galleries and antique shops to explore.
History buffs will certainly enjoy guided tours of the historic district in Fernandina Beach. Guided tours are available through the Amelia Island Museum, and there are additional private tour vendors. Learn about Amelia Island’s history from well-versed museum docents while you take a walking tour through the historic district (over 450 homes, buildings, structures on the National Register of Historic Places) of Fernandina Beach. The Amelia Island Museum is noted as Florida’s first oral history museum. The Amelia Island Museum of History is located at 233 South 3rd Street, Fernandina Beach, Florida. Call (904)261-7378 for additional information about tour schedule and hours of operation. Polly the Trolley also offers narrated tours of the historic district for those who wish to ride.
LEISURELY HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE RIDES
For a unique perspective of historic downtown Fernandina, take a horse-drawn carriage ride with Old Towne Carriage (904-277-1555), while you listen to an oral history tour of the historic district. This is a special treat for children and adults alike — there are not many things that can transport you back in time, like listening to the clip-clop of hooves while riding in a horse-drawn carriage in Fernandina Beach. (If you’re staying at a bed & breakfast inn downtown, you can even arrange to be picked up at your inn by carriage — sound romantic? Treat your significant other to a bed and breakfast getaway in Fernandina Beach.)
AMELIA ISLAND’S GOLF COURSES
Some people play golf to enjoy the outdoors — the scenic, lush greens and fairways — as well as for the challenge of the sport. Golfers are in for a real treat here on Amelia Island, where they can choose from several wonderful golf courses. With an average annual temperature of around 70 degrees on Amelia Island, golfers can enjoy local golfing pretty much year round on this barrier island in northeast Florida.
AMELIA ISLAND SPAS
The Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton spa facility is a state-of-the-art sanctuary. Reportedly costing over $16 million to be built (a new addition a few years ago), the Ritz spa is housed in a wing featuring 27,500 square feet of indoor space and 5,000 square feet outdoors. The facility has 26 treatment rooms and offers two couples massage rooms (one of which is a wet room); two spa suites – the Ocean Suite and Seaside Suite – with a private lounge and four treatment rooms each, for parties who wish to experience treatments simultaneously; a fitness studio, and movement studio for supervised classes and personal training. The spa’s unique features include hammocks, which are used during treatments, signature spa treatments, customized treatment, and spa butlers. The Ritz-Carlton also has a private spa swimming pool for spa guests only. Inquire about spa services by contacting the Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton at 904-277-1100 (non-hotel guests are welcomed for day spa treatments).
“Miles from stress — footsteps from the sea,” The Spa, at Amelia Island Plantation, a 25-treatment-room facility, offers facial treatments, body treatments, massage, reflexology, and wet spa services such as Watsu massage and aromatherapy wrap, hydrotherapy, and Vichy showers. Not just for resort guests, the public is welcomed to enjoy spa treatments. Call Amelia Island Plantation’s “The Spa” for reservations, toll free at 877-843-7722.
Another splendid way to explore the magnificence of island nature is to do it by water. Amelia Island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, has tidal creeks, marshes, and the Amelia River/intracoastal waterway, all which contain a wide array of wildlife. Birdwatchers will especially take glee in the lively bird life within the marshes. Frequently spotted are dolphins (sometimes Manatees), and even an occasional sighting of an alligator sunning itself along the marshland banks.
KAYAKING AROUND THE AMELIA ISLAND AREA
Another water adventure available to explore local nature, is to take a kayak trip with Kayak Amelia. Learn about our island and eco-system while you paddle through local marshes and creeks. Kayak Amelia provides equipment, instruction, and no prior kayaking experience is required.
According to Kayak Amelia’s web site, trips are chosen based on the tide and current that day. Examples of half day trips include a “Marsh Paddle” and “Bar Hopping” (great for birding — paddle out to a sand bar for break time and watch the egrets, herons, osprey and others critters along the way). For further information, visit their web site at www.kayakamelia.com.
HORSEBACK RIDING ON AMELIA ISLAND BEACHES
Have you always wanted to ride horses on the beach, but never did? Amelia Island is one of the few places in Florida where you can ride horses on the beach on the southend of the island. (Actually, it’s reportedly one of the few places on the entire east coast that offers beachfront horseback riding!) If you’re interested in getting in the saddle, call Kelly Seahorse Ranch at (904)491-5166 for a reservation. The horse ranch operates out of Amelia Island State Park on the southern tip of Amelia Island.
Would you like to see horses in the wild, grazing on a largely uninhabited island? From Amelia Island, it’s about a 30-minute drive heading north to St. Marys, Georgia to catch the ferries departing to Cumberland Island (get further Cumberland Island ferry info by calling 912-882-4335). According to the National Parks Service, Cumberland Island, GA (located just across the Cumberland Sound from Amelia Island, Florida) has one of the largest maritime forests remaining in the United States and one of the largest wilderness areas in a National Seashore on the east coast. Daily visitors are limited to 300 per day (this is a 17.5 mile long island — it’s bigger than Amelia Island). For perspective, picture Manhattan island of New York with only 300 people (Manhattan is smaller in size than Cumberland Island.)