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Amelia Island Travel Guide

Mayberry with fine dining, this is how Wilson Tennille, Jr., owner of The Plantation Shop described his beloved Amelia Island.  After he said it, I could not agree more.  Simple, beautiful, historic, fantastic food, wonderful people, and never-ending views.  

Amelia Island is a particular spot for me as I have been visiting it since I was young. Since it was close to my hometown of Lakeland, Florida my mother, grandmother, and I visited a lot and always to celebrate something. First, it was to attend a seminar with my mother, then after my high school graduation, after my college graduation, and then again when I got engaged.  It was just something my mother planned and I always loved.  The beauty of the island, plus the wide open beach, was a draw for my mother and me.  When I was very little, and it was just my mom and me, we spent every Saturday at the beach with her best friend and her daughter, my exact age. It was a beautiful way to spend a weekend day, free of charge, and I always remember the drive home, falling asleep in the back with the ocean still playing in my head. The beach is a place of comfort for both of us. 

When I was offered the chance to visit Amelia as a guest of Visit Amelia Island, the answer was a quick YES.  Since my girl is away at school, I instead treated a dear friend to her first trip to the island. As I heard her telling her family all the things I loved I knew I had completed my mission.  It will become memorable for her as well. We spent two and a half days touring both Amelia and Fernandina Beach, popping into every shop we could find and packing our suitcases and car with treasures and our hearts with memories. From the second we arrived on the island on Friday at 1:49 pm, we only stopped to sip champagne, needlepoint, and sleep. It was a full three days and one I will treasure forever.  

To ensure I could produce an extensive travel guide, we read, researched, shopped, walked, backtracked, ate, and wrote down everything the locals were willing to share. There is much to take in on this 13-mile stretch of charming Florida. 

The island is located in Nassau County, Florida. It is 13 miles long, approximately 4 miles wide, and includes the communities of Fernandina Beach, Amelia City, and American Beach. We spent most of our time driving back and forth between Fernandina Beach and the Amelia Island Plantation, a short and charming drive. Driving under the mature moss-covered oaks of Amelia Island has become a core memory. I have divided my recommendations into four parts to ensure I include everything. 

Lodging ~

(image via Visit Amelia Island)

We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites located at the harbor of Fernandina.  Our room had a stunning view of the boats, the sunset, and the darling tiki hut boat that left every evening before the sunset with a few guests to get the best view on the island from day to end. Our extensive suite included a large bedroom, living room, fireplace, and kitchenette. The beautiful colors of the hotel (seen above) will remind you of Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The property is a certified Green Lodging property. Based on my research and the information provided to me, my host described it best. 

Completed in conjunction with The Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau (AICVB), the program verifies that the properties meet environmental best practice standards and demonstrate a solid commitment to water conservation, energy efficiency, recycling, and other green practices. Amelia Island has 10 accommodations that are Green Lodging Certified. Participating facilities can reduce environment-related costs and gain a marketing advantage through a comprehensive and credible method for assessing the extent of the environmental measures undertaken. Five stages are involved, and an annual program membership fee is based on each property’s number of rooms.

We were very comfortable, and after long days, both collapsed into bed.  With the amenities provided to us, we did not visit their daily complimentary breakfast or the coffee readily available in the lobby.  The hotel is located directly on the harbor, with a train track behind the hotel facing the harbor.  If you have children, they will love to watch the trains come and go. If you prefer to sleep past 7 am, I would request a street view or a pair of sleeping earplugs at the front desk.  The concierge communicates readily via text, so any and all requests and questions are quickly responded to. 

During our walks, we spotted many darling Bed and breakfast Inns that would be an excellent and charming choice for lodging. 

If you forego staying in Fernandina Beach and choose Amelia Beach, I suggest The Ritz, The Omni, and several condos available on VRBO.  I have stayed at The Ritz and various condos and have loved both options. 

Dining ~

We had several excellent meals, and I would recommend them all. The first section is where we dined, and the second section lists those locals recommended. 

T Rays Burger Station - fried shrimp every Friday (locals rave)
The Patio at 5th and Ash - the almond cheesecake is not to be skipped
Garden Street Bistro - order the mimosas
Salt Life Food Shack - sit upstairs for the best view
Salt, The Ritz Amelia Island - omg, the soufflé, actually every single bite
Amelia Island Coffee - beach babe iced latte is a chef's kiss
Peppers Mexican Grill & Cantina - sit on the patio for the breeze

(These came from Wilson at The Plantation Shop, a man with impeccable taste)
Wicked Bao
The Boat House
Kitchen 251
First Love Brewing

Shopping ~

The shopping is plentiful, and every street that isn't residential is packed with one incredible shop after another. These are just a few of the ones I visited and loved. There is no way to list them all; the walking and shopping are just that good. You can go to any place you park and start your shopping adventure!

The Plantation Shop - my mom and I found this shop years ago, and it still earns 5⭐from me!
Fifi's of Amelia - excellent high-end consignment (Anne and I scored!)
The Resale Project - stunning shop and estate sale company (check for sales)
The Bristly Thistle - needlepoint shop, a must if you stitch
Amelia Liquors - we bought champagne and discovered Tanqueray Negroni (delish)

Antique shops ~

I spotted many thrift stores in Fernandina Beach.  We visited one antique store, but two were recommended to me by Wilson, who owns The Plantation Shop.  If you are looking for stunning furniture, Wilson is your man.  Anything he suggests I visit. 

Eight Flags Antique Market
Trailer Park Collectibles  

Activities ~

When Anne and I were researching what to do on the island, we both used this resource. It was extensive and gave us many options to think about and decide between.  

Local Events - There are so many events happening on the island.  Here is a comprehensive list you can check before your visit.  You could tell they were preparing for Shrimp Fest while we were there as the shrimp flags began emerging.  I can tell you the fresh shrimp we had there was delicious, so I can only imagine how amazing it will be during the festival. 

Fernandina Beach Market Place Farmer's Market—Open every Saturday from 9 to 1; this is a wonderful market filled with fresh fruit, veggies, and artisan items from locals. It's a great way to grab a few things to build on for a picnic on the beach. 

Bike Rentals - I recommend The Beach Store & More; super easy to find and easy to reserve with a quick call.  There is so much to see on a bike, plus I love the idea of biking in the morning, stopping for lunch, and then biking again.  This was booked for us and I think the idea was brilliant. Make sure you use plenty of sunscreen and a hat, Florida is hot and you will get some sun for sure. 

Kayaks - We discussed renting kayaks and did not choose them with our time limit.  Both of us thought this sounded amazing and the possibility of seeing manatees was exciting for Anne.  I will tell you they are amazing and gentle creatures, and if you have time, I would definitely add this to your list, especially if you have children. I had one swim past me on an island a few years ago, and once I realized I wasn't in danger, it was magical. The booking website says this frequently sells out, so book ahead of time. 

Fort Clinch State Park - Explore Fort Clinch, one of the most well-preserved 19th-century forts in the country. Learn about the fort’s history at the museum, roam self-guided nature trails to discover native plants and wildlife, explore a trail through the park with views of the most enormous sand dunes in Florida, or scour the shoreline for shark teeth. This area is historical and educational and a great way to spend time as a group or family.  Check out the bike trails, watch for birds, turtles, and nests,  and don't forget to look for those shark teeth.  

Amelia Island Lighthouse - The island's highest point, this lighthouse is still managed by the Coast Guard and is the oldest in the state, dating back to 1838.  When the lighthouse sent out its first signal the land was not yet the state of Florida. You can visit and look out over the ocean or find a tour online.  While visiting, we noticed a family of turkey vultures that had created a nest in the top tier.  You could see one flying back and forth to keep watch and small heads poking up high in the air. Their wing span of 6 feet was highly impressive. 

Private Boat Tour—This would be fabulous for a group of up to six. For two hours, you get a private tour of Amelia Island, Fort Clinch State Park, and Cumberland Island. If you are familiar, Cumberland Island houses many wild horses, and I have heard it is stunning. 

Walking historical tour of Historic Fernandina—The hotel gave me a free booklet, and I highly recommend it. I walked some of it after breakfast with iced coffee in hand. You can stop and start at your leisure. The website I have linked has four walking tour options.

Please email me and let me know what you added to my list so I may update it.  As a place special to me, I hope you have a truly magical time!


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