Two Amelia Island boutique hotels recently changed hands. Both with a longtime presence on this northeast Florida barrier island that precedes the newer crop of national brand hotels that have sprung up with the growth of tourism over the last few decades.
RREAF Holdings LLC, a private real estate investment and development firm based in Dallas, and Innisfree Hotels, a premier coastal hotel operator in the southeast, announced the acquisition of these two island hotels in a news release on June 21, 2022.
The Amelia Hotel had been a family-owned business, located at the busy corner of Sadler Road and South Fletcher, just across the street from the oceanfront restaurant/bar Sliders (pictured above). This is the city of Fernandina’s Sadler Road beach access at Seaside Park. Just next door on the adjacent parcel to the west of the Amelia Hotel is the Ocean Coast Hotel, only requiring a few strides more to walk to the beach (along a sidewalk and then crossing over South Fletcher Avenue). The two hotels combined have 225 guest rooms.
Highlighting The Drive-To Destination Market
According to the news release announcing the two hotel purchases:
“The properties — Ocean Coast Hotel and Amelia Hotel — are situated in one of America’s leading drive-to destination markets, which saw over 1.3 million visitors in 2021,” the news release states.
During the acquisition process, RREAF partnered with Innisfree Hotels, which will manage the properties. Innisfree is a best-in-class operator of beachfront hotels and resorts in the Southeastern United States.
Kip Sowden, CEO of RREAF Holdings stated “We are opportunistic buyers and believe now is a good time to buy and develop as consumers are eager to get out and travel post-COVID.”
“We’re very pleased to add these stunning properties to the Innisfree Hotels portfolio, in partnership with RREAF Holdings,” said Innisfree President and CEO Ted Ent. “Amelia Island’s Fernandina Beach is a picture-perfect location for a family getaway or conference destination, and we are eager to provide our guests with a world-class experience and genuine Innisfree hospitality.”
Beach Driving At Seaside Park/Sadler Road
On topic of the “drive market” but in a different context, Seaside Park near these two hotels remains the only city of Fernandina beachfront access point where the general public (including visiting tourists), can still drive a 4 WD vehicle onto the sandy beachfront to park (in area of 600 feet wide). It’s a very busy section of the city’s seashore during summertime, especially on weekends. The city shuts the beach entry gate at Seaside Park to vehicles when maximum capacity is reached.
Pictured below, vehicles were already parked at the Sadler Road beach access at Seaside Park around 8 a.m. on this June 2022 summer morning. During sea turtle nesting season (May 1st to Oct. 31st), vehicles are not allowed on the beach before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
A Walk Down Memory Lane
The hotel on the larger parcel of land — the Ocean Coast Hotel site located at 2707 Sadler Road– is likely more widely remembered as the former Days Inn Hotel & Suites with a Shoney’s restaurant in front. Walking down memory lane, longer-term locals may recall Shoney’s popular weekly “breakfasts for dinner.” The chef’s station offered custom order omelets and freshly made waffles at a bargain price. V Pizza opened last year at this restaurant space.
With the addition of these two hotels, Innisfree Hotel’s local portfolio has grown. It was five years ago (May 2017), when Innisfree Hotels announced it had taken ownership of the Seaside Amelia Inn located at Fernandina’s Main Beach Park (pictured below).
At that time back in May 2017, Jason Nicholson, VP of Operations, had stated:
Innisfree Hotels also manages the biggest new hotel built on Amelia Island during the last 20 years, located near Fernandina’s Main Beach. It opened last year in May 2021, the Courtyard By Marriott and Springhill Suites on Atlantic Ave. pictured in March 2021 before it officially opened.