AMELIA ISLAND: So What’s New Since Last Summer?

Haven’t been on Amelia Island since last summer or planning a first trip? For those unlocking the door to a summer beach escape, check out these tidbits about new stuff around Fernandina and the beaches.

What's New Around Amelia Island, Florida?
So What's New Around Amelia?

Haven’t been on Amelia Island since last summer or planning a first trip? With the beaches and warm weather luring vacationers during peak travel season — June, July, and August — many will be arriving on Amelia Island to walk barefoot in the sand during the summer of 2011.

For those unlocking the door to a summer escape, check out these tidbits about new stuff since last summer season.

Welcome back to returning visitors, and greetings to newcomers!

“BEACH CASUAL” PLACES TO EAT, COOL TREATS AND OTHER CHANGES AT THE AMELIA ISLAND SEASIDE

Summer and ice cream are sweet companions and on a hot day at the beach, a vacation ritual. There’s another option for creamy treats on Amelia Island — DeNucci’s Soft Serve, (904-310-6837) 2210 Sadler Road, serving yummy frozen custard, ice cream, yogurt and Nathan’s hotdogs, too. A family-owned ice cream parlor that was built on Sadler Road about a third of a mile from the Seaside Park beach access, many will agree it’s hard to resist something on the huge menu. (A personal favorite is a waffle cone with vanilla custard dipped in toasted coconut glaze.) They have a drive-thru window and a little playground area for the young ones. This ice cream parlor is easily walkable along sidewalks from four Amelia Island hotels on Sadler Road (Residence Inn by Marriott, Hampton Inn, Days Inn & Suites, and Amelia Hotel at the beach.)

Another great summer combo is the beach and barbecue. Formerly known by locals as “Lewis’s” ribs way back, is Island Bar-B-Q, “the original Island-style” (904-261-2017). Locals know this place best, with its ribs and pickles. This is a real BBQ pit by the seaside that has “the” original recipe. New to the menu is Fernandina wild-caught shrimp and other seafood (oysters, scallops, crab), but BBQ is their specialty. Very close to the beach (from the Seaside Park beach access), Island Bar-B-Q is tucked behind the Hammerhead (near the roundabout) at 2045 S. Fletcher Avenue at Sadler Road. Think most folks call ahead for takeout (but they also have a few tables). It’s also very convenient to the four hotels mentioned above (and Island Bar-B-Q will also deliver).

Besides ice cream and barbecue, pizza is usually on the menu while on vacation, especially if traveling with a family. The former Papa John’s pizza location is now “Townies Pizzeria & Deli” (904-277-4755) located at 1721 South 8th Street, Fernandina Beach offering specialty pizza, wings, salads, sandwiches. Townies also delivers around Amelia Island and Yulee (even “late night” deliveries.)

Twilight BYOB Cruise Aboard Amelia River Cruises
Twilight BYOB Cruise Aboard Amelia River Cruises

All aboard the new summertime evening “Twilight BYOB Cruise” by Amelia River Cruises, departing from the Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina (ticket booth at 1 Front Street on the riverfront boardwalk, call for reservations 904-261-9972). Does cruisin’ and boozin’ while listening to tunes on a sultry summer night sound intriguing? This new boat tour on the Amelia River is happening 7 days a week departing at 7 pm, (weather permitting), a 2-hour boat ride that also offers live entertainment featuring local artists. Listen to live music, see a sunset out on the water, and bring your own bottle to enjoy a drink – beer, wine or beverage of choice. This is an adult-oriented river cruise introduced by Amelia River Cruises in June 2011. The cost per adult is $29 plus tax, and also gets passengers presenting their ticket stub a drink special at Indigo Alley ($2 bucks off 1st drink) and Café Karibo (50% off 1st drink) on the same night as the cruise. Sounds like a fun night out in Fernandina Beach this summer, on Amelia Island (Twilight Cruise operating June through August 31, 2011). The musicians who will be aboard include Larry LeMier, Sean McCarthy, David Voll, Hupp Huppman, Ray Hetchka, and Pew Schmidt, see Amelia River Cruises website for more information. NOTE: Folks can also still take the family-oriented sunset cruise departing evenings at 7:30 pm for about an hour boat ride ($14 kids, $18 seniors, $20 adults) offered spring through fall.

BEACH BITES AND BARS RIGHT ON THE BEACH – “NEW & IMPROVED”

If you’ve been here a time or two, you’re likely familiar with the only two casual beach bars where one can get a cocktail at the oceanfront or dine at the seaside right on the beach — Sandy Bottoms and Sliders (the only places other than within the island’s luxury golf resorts).

Located at the city of Fernandina’s largest beach access, Main Beach Park, Sandy Bottoms has built a new outdoor beach bar dubbed the “Ocean Oasis” serving the rear covered patio overlooking the ocean. Beachgoers this summer will also notice that off the patio right in the sand are some tables and lounges. Sandy Bottoms is serving in the sand this year.

Sliders Seaside Grill, a landmark for 66 years at Seaside Park at the Sadler Road/South Fletcher roundabout, has been undergoing a massive renovation on the second floor and upper level porch overlooking the ocean. They are open for business, including their popular outdoor tiki bar just steps from the beach. However, the exterior of the building is still in the process of renovation and the new second floor renovations with banquet facilities, bar, and oceanfront verandah are projected to open sometime in June. Did you know Sliders offers key lime pie using the “original recipe” from 1945?

NEW RESTAURANTS ON THE AMELIA ISLAND DINING SCENE

Snapper’s Bar and Seafood Grill is intending to open June 18, 2011 if all goes well, according to the sign on the door near the red snapper bench on the front patio, located at 960062 Gateway Blvd. in Gateway to Amelia (just over the bridge when you arrive on Amelia Island on A1A). For local folks and those familiar with Amelia Island, Snapper’s is opening in the location that originally was Spanky’s and then Thyme World Cuisine (an indication of the challenging restaurant business on Amelia Island). The location overlooks the marsh and has a tiki bar on the outside deck (next door to Barbara Jeans). Other new restaurants also coming to the island are Barzin Bistro Wine Bar at Palmetto Walk on the southend of Amelia Island off First Coast Highway, and in the Publix plaza, Barberitos Amelia (a southwestern grille and cantina franchise with many locations in Georgia) serving “farm fresh burritos, tacos, salads and nachos.” (See also new restaurants in the historic district further below…)

NEW PUBLIC BATHROOMS AT THE BEACH

Also new at Seaside Park near Sliders is the addition of a new public restroom facility that opened in late April. Convenient for daytrippers and beachgoers who live in the area or those staying at nearby hotels. (What’s not new at Seaside Park is tourists driving cars onto the beach and getting stuck. Read the signs, guys “4 wheel drive needed!”  (Steady stream of business for tow trucks at this spot every summer.)

Do help keep the beaches clean when visiting — no glass, no litter, no unleashed dogs on the beach and pick up after your pets! Be mindful of the sea turtle nests and turn off outdoor lighting at night along the beach that can confuse nesting sea turtles (read about Amelia’s sea turtles and attend a nest excavation this summer, a great nature activity).

ATTENTION BIKE RIDERS: SOUTH FLETCHER AVENUE REPAVED WITH BIKE LANES, FIRST COAST HIGHWAY, TOO

Cyclists will be glad to know miles of roadway have been repaved on Amelia Island and bike lanes prominently marked. If you’ve been here before, you likely recall the main beach route, South Fletcher Avenue. For the newcomers, this road runs parallel to the ocean starting from Main Beach Park on the north end of Amelia Island, running south to where it intersects with First Coast Highway.

All of South Fletcher has a new, smooth surface and marked bike lanes on both sides of this seaside corridor. (Since there are loads of driveways and parking areas along South Fletcher, however, cyclists need to be keenly aware of motorists pulling out onto the road who can often be clueless to bikers.)

Approaching the intersection of A1A (near the Harris Teeter shopping Center), there’s a new roundabout and continuing south to the tip of the island, all of A1A/First Coast Highway is newly paved with marked bike lanes all the way to the southend bridge.

WHAT’S NEW DOWNTOWN IN FERNANDINA’S HISTORIC DISTRICT?

The former Bank of America building on Centre Street in Fernandina’s downtown historic district has been renovated and two new businesses have opened. The Fernandina Beach General Store has a big selection of groceries plus deli, and is open for breakfast and lunch. They also sell beer and wine (and even Lotto). Centre Street has not had a market like this downtown in many decades, so convenient for downtown residents as well as mariners who dock at Fernandina Harbor who can now walk several blocks to get supplies. The General Store has a counter and stools along the large front windows on Centre Street and a few tables, too. Next door, just opened is Pepper’s Mexican Grill & Cantina with a large cocktail bar and indoor seating as well as front patio with outdoor tables.

SOUTHERN-STYLE DINING RETURNS TO HISTORIC FLORIDA HOUSE INN

Florida House Inn, Fernandina Beach Circa 1857
Florida House Inn, Fernandina Beach Circa 1857

In mid-June 2011, Florida House Inn circa 1857 (22 South 3rd street) re-opened its dining room bringing back the southern-style family dining of its past. (Local long-time residents and those who visited Fernandina 15 years ago and before, will remember this popular dining format.) The restaurant is under the operation of Chef Susannah Sands with a menu offering traditional southern dishes including platters of fried chicken daily, seasonal vegetables, bread, biscuits, dessert and sweet tea. Other options will change daily and include pot roast, meat loaf, gumbo and fried fish. The dining hall, with its tables for ten, seats folks together to fill tables, and will be open daily from 11:30 am to 3 pm (lunch with beverage and dessert costs $13.95, no reservations, first come, first serve). Note that the Mermaid Bar is also open for cocktails.

Also in the downtown historic district, at the rear of the building housing the famous Fernandina pub, the Palace Saloon, is the new “Toppings.” Serving pizza, salads and hot dogs (and you guessed it, loads of toppings to choose from). Also within the Fernandina Beach historic district on Centre Street is a new yogurt shop coming soon, “Islandtime” premium frozen yogurt café.

Amelia Angler Outfitters (904-261-2870) has opened a new store at 111 Centre Street offering tackle, fishing gear, charter fishing trips and fishing classes. Owned by one of the foremost fishing experts here in Fernandina Beach, Captain Terry Lacoss, the fishing shop is near the riverfront, just half a block from the Fernandina Harbor Marina.

AMELIA ISLAND ART – NEW ART EDUCATION CENTER

The Island Art Association just had its grand opening of its Art Education Center, located at 18 North 2nd Street in the historic district of Fernandina, offering art classes (904-261-7020).

FERNANDINA BEACH GOLF CLUB

If you like playing the public golf course, since last summer, the city of Fernandina municipal golf course is being privately managed by golf management company, Billy Casper Golf.

WHEN ONE DOOR SHUTS, ANOTHER ONE OPENS — NEWS ABOUT AMELIA ISLAND LODGING

If you stayed at Amelia Island Plantation last summer, it was likely before the resort hotel on the property was sold. Omni Hotels and Resorts added Amelia Island Plantation’s hotel to its portfolio of luxury properties and infused funds and many new managers to take over operations of the resort hotel and AIP’s resort amenities. Amelia Island Plantation is Amelia Island’s largest waterfront golf community, with around 2,000 property owners and three golf courses. Thus, Omni Hotels and Resorts is now part of the larger Amelia Island Plantation community, a 1,350 acre property that occupies much of the southend of Amelia Island, from the Atlantic coast crossing the island to the marsh and riverfront.

Bed and breakfast inns that had closed their doors have been sold to new owners in the past year and reopened. Located in Fernandina’s historic district, Hoyt House reopened followed by Florida House Inn. New owners of the former Ash Street Inn are also in the process of getting its doors reopen, with renovations currently underway (innkeepers have renamed this B&B, to be known as the Blue Heron Inn). Also see Amelia Island Living’s Bed & Breakfast Inn page for more info about Fernandina’s B & Bs.

RITZ-CARLTON’S NEW TIKI HUT ON THE BEACH

Amelia Island’s Ritz-Carlton has opened a Tiki Hut in the sand right on the beach. Like to experiment with cocktail recipes? The Ritz mixologist has been sharing some of their cocktail recipes regularly on the Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton Facebook page.

Wishing all a summer escape to remember!

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