Florida’s Amelia Island Has Pristine Beaches, Luxury Resorts, and a Small-town Feel

Here's what you need to know before visiting Amelia Island.

Beach Access Boardwalk Over Sand Dunes Amelia Island Florida

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It’s no secret that Florida has some great beach destinations, but Amelia Island is one of its most pristine. Located in northeast Florida along the state’s Atlantic coast, Amelia Island belongs to the Sea Islands chain of barrier islands and is popular among families and couples for its luxury resorts, golf courses, abundant native wildlife, and 13 miles of breezy beaches.

A Florida gem that remains quiet and peaceful even as the rest of the state explodes in popularity, Amelia Island is a true retreat for locals and visitors alike.

What to Do on Amelia Island

Unsurprisingly, the main attraction on Amelia Island is the beach, but there are also plenty of outdoor activities such as nature trails, biking, golf, tennis, and more. With the Atlantic Ocean on its eastern side and the Intracoastal Waterway, Nassau Sound, and Cumberland Sound on the others, the island has plenty of coastline with gorgeous water views to delight visitors. Best of all, the average temperature of the ocean during the summer is a pleasant 82 degrees, so the beaches aren’t just for looks.

Amelia Island is unique in that its beaches are made of natural Appalachian quartz sand and most are framed by sand dunes, some as high as 40 feet. Not all of Florida’s beaches are backed by these beautiful natural features, but Amelia Island has plenty of dunes for your coastal reveries.

At Main Beach Park, you’ll see the iconic sand dunes, and there’s a boardwalk with recreation facilities open to the public, including oceanfront mini golf. Head to Amelia Island State Park for 200 acres of beaches, salt marshes, and coastal maritime forests. There are more than 40 public beach access points along Amelia Island’s coastline, so you’ll have plenty of places to explore during your visit. 

Amelia Island Aerial near Main Beach Park, Amelia Island, Florida

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As the oldest existing lighthouse in the state of Florida, the Amelia Island Lighthouse — first lit by whale oil when it was built in 1838 — is a must-see on any trip to Amelia Island. You can register for a tour, but note that visitors are not allowed to climb the stairs inside the lighthouse.

With an intriguing history under Spanish, French, British, and American influence over the years, Amelia Island has plenty of fodder to entertain history buffs. At Fort Clinch State Park in nearby Fernandina Beach, you can check out the nineteenth-century Fort Clinch as well as beautiful ecological features such as plains, maritime hammock, and estuarine tidal marsh in addition to the area’s signature sand dunes. Add Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve in nearby Jacksonville and the Dungeness Ruins in nearby Cumberland Island, Georgia, to your itinerary for the full historical picture. And don’t miss the Amelia Island Museum of History for a history lesson on Nassau County inside the old county jail.

Aside from beaches and history, there are many things to do in Amelia Island, from bike tours to horseback riding to candle-making and even visiting Marlin and Barrel Distillery, a craft distillery with rum, gin, bourbon, and more (book a tasting if you’re a fan of spirits). Make sure to walk around the charming Amelia Island Historic District in Fernandina Beach for Victorian-era architecture, Florida’s oldest bar, and a taste of Old Florida. In Amelia Island, you can choose your own adventure for the perfect Florida beach vacation.

King Guestroom at Omni Amelia Island Resort

Courtesy of Omni Amelia Island Resort

Where to Stay on Amelia Island

Sprawled across 1,350 acres at the tip of Amelia Island, Omni Amelia Island Resort is known for its luxurious oceanfront accommodations. You can’t go wrong with a stay at this sumptuous spot, as it has a huge 3.5-mile stretch of secluded beach all to its own in addition to classic resort amenities like on-property restaurants, resort pools, 36 holes of championship golf, and a full-service spa. There are more than 400 oceanfront guest rooms and suites with balconies to choose from, so there’s plenty of space for you and your family.

Another popular option is The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, where each room and suite has a private balcony and ocean view. The resort also sports an 18-hole championship golf course with private instruction available, as well as indoor and outdoor pools with direct beach access and cabanas. The resort naturalist can show you around the area, and there are fabulous on-resort restaurants to enjoy.

Those on a tighter budget can enjoy a perfectly pleasant stay for much less at the Courtyard by Marriott Amelia Island; the quaint, 46-room Seaside Amelia Inn is another favorite. 

Want something totally unique? Book one of the 10 rooms in the Amelia Island Williams House, an elegant bed-and-breakfast housed in a nineteenth-century mansion. Guests adore the two-course daily breakfast, private baths, and warm Southern hospitality.

Fernandina Beach Trolley Tour Drives Main Street Amelia Island Florida

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Best Time to Visit Amelia Island

Thanks to year-round sunshine and mild temperatures, there’s no bad time to visit Amelia Island. While many people enjoy going in the summer for hot days at the beach, spring and fall are also beautiful times of year to go. In the spring, skies are blue and the average high is in the 70s — perfect for any and every outdoor activity — while autumn cools off a bit and sees less rainfall.

Wintertime on Amelia Island is marked by drier air but the same comfortable temperatures and ample sunshine. The ocean is a bit chilly for swimming, but it’s unbeatable weather for golf, tennis, hiking, and biking.

Christmas is an especially lovely time to visit Amelia Island. The charming downtown comes alive with elaborate light displays and festooned shop windows, and the docent-led Amelia Island Holiday Home Tour of lavishly decorated historic family homes is a delight to visitors and locals alike. Literary fans shouldn’t miss the Victorian-themed Dickens on Centre Christmas street festival, and if you can, stay through the new year for the annual New Year’s Eve Shrimp Drop, which is Florida’s answer to the snowy Times Square celebration. 

Where to Eat and Drink

When you’re near the ocean, you can expect fresh, flavorful seafood on many menus, and Amelia Island is no exception. Head to Timoti’s Seafood Shak for anything from fried shrimp to fresh poke. It’s a no-frills local favorite.

With its coastal Mediterranean influence, house-made pasta, and fine surrounds, Verandah at the Omni Amelia Island Resort is another great option for seafood. For something different, head to España Restaurant & Tapas, where you’ll find traditional Spanish fare and seafood garnering hundreds of rave reviews. Eat in the lush outdoor garden for an especially lovely ambiance.

On the water, book a table at Salt Life Food Shack, The Sandbar & Kitchen, Brett’s Waterway Cafe, or Sliders Seaside Grill, and enjoy the ocean breeze in your hair as you feast on the sea’s tastiest delights.

Getting There

Those who don’t reside within driving distance of Amelia Island will want to fly into Jacksonville International Airport, only a half hour away from Amelia Island by car. Orlando International Airport is a three-hour drive. 

To reach Amelia Island by car, take I-95 to Exit 373 then turn east on A1A and drive 15 miles. When you cross a scenic bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway and see the sparkling Atlantic, you’ll know you’ve reached Amelia Island.

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