Travel to Amelia Island
With miles of beachfront views and a stunningly revamped resort, Amelia Island is an eye-catching Florida escape.
Written By: Erin Byers Murray
As one of the southernmost Sea Islands, a group of barrier islands stretching from South Carolina to northern Florida, Amelia Island is captivating and just 13 miles long, nudging the edge of Georgia. Though not officially part of that state’s Golden Isles, the Florida island does share the same type of marsh grasses that turn a golden shade of wheat during the fall.
And it’s chock-full of historical lore: Over the past 400 years, Amelia’s been the conquest of eight different provinces, including France, Spain, Mexico, and the U.S. All of that hand-changing made it a haven for pirates who, according to legend, stashed their booty all over the island. It’s also the birthplace of the commercial shrimping industry—much of Florida’s white shrimp is caught right off the island’s coast—and the production of handmade shrimping nets still takes place there.
1 = Omni Amelia Island Plantation
404 ocean-facing rooms and a tiered, palm-tree-lined pool deck complete with two pools and hot tubs, a kids’ splash park, and three fire pits. Covering more than 1,300 acres, the resort is also home to a spa, a shopping center, an activity-filled nature center, three golf courses, a Cliff Drysdale tennis program, and three acres of beachfront. There’s paddleboarding, yoga, personalized beach bonfires complete with s’mores—the list goes on.
Oceanside — Outstanding she-crab soup, fish tacos, and a sturdy burger loaded with mushrooms, onions, and black pepper aioli
Sunrise Café — Impressive and delicious breakfast buffet (off the menu, try the Georgia peach smoothie)
Rum and Tequila Experience bar — Sip on aged versions of both liquors while watching the tide come in
Falcon’s Nest — A pub-style restaurant for great fish and chips
Marsh View Bar & Grill — grab from their light-fare menu or relax by at a full bar by the fairway (as it's adjacent to the golf pro shop)
2 - The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island
Another major property on the island, the Ritz opened 23 years ago and has gone through several updates along the way, including inside the spa.
Treatments: 50-minute zero-gravity Heaven in a Hammock experience; two-hour Amelia Island Honey Butter Wrap
• 26 treatment rooms, a private saltwater pool, and male, female, and coed relaxation lounges.
Salt — reserve the private chef’s table, which sits inside the kitchen and offers front-row seats of the action plus a customized tasting menu from chef Richard Laughlin.
3 - Fernandina Beach
Boutiques and galleries, some taking up residence in old Victorian cottages, line the quaint streets, which end just near the water’s edge at the Harbor Marina.
Amelia River Cruises — charter a boat ride or hop on an eco-shrimping tour or take a kayaking tour through the marshes
Pigg’s Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro
España - for Spanish tapas
Le Clos - Provençal bistro food at this romantically cozy
How to Get There
Amelia Island is about eight and a half hours from Nashville by car. If you’re flying, Delta and US Airways offer flights with connections from BNA to Jacksonville International Airport; the island is a 30-minute drive from there. Most hotels offer airport shuttles, but we recommend renting a car in order to fully explore the island. (For more information, go to ameliaisland.com.)
When to Go
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is the largest in the country, with about 150,000 visitors participating in the island’s rich, living history. There is shrimp to eat, yes, but you’ll also find dozens of area artists and their wares plus plenty of pirate-themed fun, fireworks, ice cream eating contests, and the Miss Shrimp scholarship pageant.
This month, the Omni Amelia Island hosts Fish to Fork (May 15-17). This two-day culinary challenge brings five chefs (Richard Jones from Nashville’s Green Door Gourmet will be there) to the resort and sends them off on charter boats to spend a morning catching their own fish, which they then prepare Iron Chef–style into a feast for guests. Packages including a two-night stay and access to the festivities start at $850. (For a VIP experience, which involves joining in on the chefs’ fishing excursion, call Allison Powers, 904-321-5091.)