#TravelTuesday: Florida’s Amelia Island, the Little Island that’s Big On Personality

by Analise and Marika Flatt on December 14, 2021 in Travel,
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In northeastern Florida, Amelia Island stretches for 13 miles, and the northern part of the island has a totally different vibe than the southern point —  both you need to “sea” to believe.

Historic Downtown is where all the action is on Amelia Island. In addition to shopping and exquisite dining, you can even schedule a walking tour to learn all about the major influencers of Amelia’s beautiful architecture and business throughout the island. Photo courtesy AmeliaIsland.com

Getting There

Fly into Jacksonville airport. Even though they’re a bit hard to come by in our COVID times, you might want to rent a car (depending on how much you want to explore). The drive is about a half hour from Jacksonville to Amelia Island. Once you get to the island, getting an Uber or Lyft becomes a little harder. You’ll want to stay in Fernandina Beach’s Historic District. That’s where the action is and everything is walkable on that end of the island. 

Amelia River Cruises is the most popular cruise line on the island and offers all kinds of tours. From shrimping, to family sunset tours, beach creek tours, adult cruises filled with adult drinks, and the most popular “see it all” Cumberland tour. There’s literally something exciting for everyone.
Photo courtesy AmeliaIsland.com

The ABC’s of Island Life

A: Accommodations

The Addison Bed & Breakfast in Fernandina Beach has everything you need for the perfect visit to the island. In the heart of the Historic District, it’s one block off Centre Street, which is the main drag, and nearly everything is within less than a half mile walk.

A daily delicious hot breakfast (served on the veranda, weather permitting) is included with your stay, as is a 5:30 happy hour with complimentary wine and beer, giving you the opportunity to meet other guests.

The 14-room inn was purchased in 2017 by innkeepers Lisa and Ron West who provide loads of Southern hospitality and quality concierge services.

The adults-only inn caters to couples and all rooms have king-size beds. Ask for a second story room that overlooks the well-manicured courtyard.

Travel tip: Enjoy their complimentary bicycles to explore the island, especially to take a little cycling trip over to Fort Clinch State Park where you can ride through a canopy of trees, hike for miles, and explore the historic military fort.

Asian and French-styled food, mimosas, beer, fish and seafood are all delicious and easy to find right on the island. Photo courtesy AmeliaIsland.com

B: Bites and Beverages

Joe’s 2nd St. Bistro 

The Brand: Owned and operated by Chef Ricky and his wife Mari Piggs.

The Vibe: Located in a restored 1900s home in downtown Fernandina Beach with a rustic yet elegant atmosphere. Beautiful artwork around the restaurant brings a homey touch, brought to you by the chef/owner’s father, Ray Piggs

The Bevs: Along with the unique wine list that complements the menu beautifully, they have a full bar and serve a mean mojito. 

The Eats: The Amelia Island Shrimp & Grits was a personal favorite, and you get to take full advantage of the island’s fresh shrimp. 

The Salty Pelican 

The Brand: Seafood with a view of the water.

The Vibe: Indoor and outdoor seating available, but the best seat in the house is upstairs with a view over the marina.

The Bevs: Try the Cucumber Lemonade or their specialty, the Pelican Punch, if you are in the market for something sweet. 

The Eats: The Short Rib Poutine is a great way to start, with Fish and Chips or the Pelican Shrimp Wrap for the main course.  Add on a Peanut Butter Pie for good measure!

Calling all foodies! With sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful tree canopies as a backdrop, Omni Amelia Island Resort hosts its annual Fish to Fork event. With true dock-to-dish specialties, it’s a fun and interactive atmosphere as renowned chefs from around the country showcase their fishing and culinary skills. Dates for 2022 to be announced — follow the Omni on social media for updates. Photo courtesy AmeliaIsland.com

Marché Burette 

The Brand: Located on the property of the Omni Amelia Island Resort.

The Vibe: French-style market and deli with indoor and outside seating. The outdoor tables overlook a pond and fountain, perfect for a beautiful Florida day. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch some live music, too.

The Bevs: Mimosas pair nicely with the Brunch Tower.

The Eats: The Brunch Tower resembles an afternoon tea and is a great choice. For lunch, you can’t go wrong with any of their sandwiches, especially the Southwest Turkey Panini. And the tasty hummus appetizer can be a light meal in itself. 

The Wicked Bao 

The Brand: Asian street food off the beaten path; a local favorite.

The Vibe: Fun outdoor patio with indoor seating as well.

The Bevs: Known for their signature Sake Sangria and they have an extensive wine list.

The Eats: Family-style is the move to try a little bit of everything, such as the Roti Canai, the Pork Pot Stickers and the Bao Trio. 

Tip: Because it’s a local fave, there might be a line out the door, but it’s well worth the wait. 

Kayaking, one of the most popular sports on the island, is perfect for soaking up some Vitamin D and some education. We recommend booking with family-owned Amelia Island Kayak Excursions where you can leave with a digital photo album of the experience. Photo courtesy AmeliaIsland.com

C: Choose Your Own Adventure

Cruising Cumberland Island

Take a ride on the Amelia River Cruise that circles the very historic Cumberland Island. (It’s where JFK Jr. got married in a secret ceremony.) On this casual cruise that lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours, you’ll see wildlife such as dolphins, wild horses and deer and you’ll also learn loads of interesting facts, such as:

  • The reason why Amelia Island is known as the “Island of 8 flags” is because they’ve been ruled by 8 different governments.
  • How and why pirates used the area to smuggle goods, making it known as “the back door to the U.S.”
  • Amelia Island is known as the birthplace of shrimping. Where there used to be over 100 shrimping boats out in the nearby waters, now you’ll only find 8 to 10, thanks to the farm-raised shrimping industry. However, if you order shrimp on Amelia Island, you are guaranteed to have the freshest available.
  • One of the major industries on the island is growing yellow pine trees to make Amazon boxes and other paper and cardboard materials in high demand these days.
  • There is a nearby nuclear subs station run by the U.S. military. 
Fun Fact: Did you know the best time to go shelling for seashells is during the winter or after a summer thunderstorm? Photo courtesy AmeliaIsland.com

Calling All Book Lovers

Song and Story Bookstore is an adorable independent bookstore which has been around for 4 years and is beloved by the local community. The owners Mark and Donna Paz Kaufman actually taught others how to run successful independent bookstores all over the country, before opening this. The Book Hugs program (a subscription program built for grandparents to keep their grandchildren reading year round) and a concert series in the upstairs gathering space, are two of their innovations. Local resident and best-selling author David Baldacci is a major supporter. The bistro offers delicious lunch fare such as a Chicken Salad Sandwich, Gourmet Grilled Cheese and hearty soups, in addition to a myriad of scrumptious sweets you can pair with a warm cappuccino to enjoy while browsing the book aisles.

Paddle Time

Kayaking is a popular sport on the island with many different waterways to help you soak in the natural wildlife the area is known for. Take a professionally-guided kayaking adventure with family-owned Amelia Island Kayak Excursions. Whether you’re paddling down Egan’s Creek or Lofton Creek, your knowledgeable and friendly guide will point out birds, historical structures (such as one of the first railroads in the state), and maybe even a gator or two.

In addition to visiting the famous sea turtles while staying on Amelia Island, get used to beaching with the tortoises that live in the sand dunes.
Photo courtesy AmeliaIsland.com

Two Wheel Exploring

Explore the southern part of Amelia Island near the expansive Omni property with Amelia‘s Wheels where you can rent various bicycles for nearly any increment of time. With scenic bike-only pathways, you can wind throughout the bottom part of the island, staying on property, enjoying both the wooded scenery and the beach.

Additional #LoveAmelia Hot Spots

  • The Palace Saloon (located in the Historic Downtown) is the longest running bar in the state of Florida. They have live music most nights. 
  • The island boasts 4 state parks.
  • Amelia Island is a beer lovers paradise with taverns and pubs sprinkled throughout, including First Love Brewery, Amelia Island Tavern, and Mocoma Beer Company (which also has a great coffee bar). 

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Cover photo courtesy AmeliaIsland.com

Marika Flatt, Outstanding Austin Communicator 2021, is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She has had Charleston on her bucket list for two decades and finally visited! She can be seen on TV shows across Texas, offering travel tips, in addition to her long-running “Weekend Trip Tip” on NPR’s Texas Standard.

A lover of all things travel, pretty running trails and good coffee, Analise Flatt is a junior at Stephen F. Austin State University studying Mass Communications with a minor in Travel and Tourism. Check out her Instagram to stay updated on her latest travel adventures.