Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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Amelia Island showcases Florida’s history and heritage, boasting 13 beautiful miles of shoreline and charming streets that make this barrier island so captivating. Here you can visit natural wonders, go horseback riding on the beach and explore the local arts scene all in one day, as this region in northeast Florida is the perfect place to get away from it all and enjoy the simple pleasures. Home to one of Florida’s small town gems, read on to discover the best things to do in Amelia Island.
Amelia Island boasts 13 miles of Atlantic coastline, where you can watch a sunrise at Main Beach Park then go sunbathing and wave watching at Peters Point Beachfront Park. While the fishing pier at Amelia Island State Park is a great place to reel in a catch, it’s the beaches Appalachian crystal sand that lures in sun-seekers time and time again. If you’re traveling with the family, go horseback riding at sunset or spend time strolling the beach for colorful seashell treasures or pearly white shark teeth.
Perfect for a leisurely day, take a walk through the 50 blocks of cobbled streets of historic downtown Fernandina Beach to soak up the charming ambiance. Around 400 of these buildings with Victorian-era architecture are featured on the National Register, while its Centre Street is dotted with local shops, antique markets and quaint restaurants. Stop by the Palace Saloon for a drink in Fernandina Beach, the longest operating saloon in Florida, then hop on a trolley tour of the area to learn more about the 4,000 years of history on display.
Fort Clinch State Park is both a nature lover’s paradise and an interesting spot for history buffs, as you’ll find a large, well-preserved Civil War-era fort surrounded by a three-mile stretch of protected beaches. It’s also flanked by 1,400 acres of woods, where you can enjoy a day of exploring the hiking and biking trails. You might find reenactors showcasing blacksmithing, masonry and fire cannons, while on a clear day you can see Cumberland Island in Georgia.
Florida’s first spoken history museum, Amelia Island Museum of History is a family-friendly attraction that offers guided tours, fascinating exhibits and an interactive children’s area. Housed in the old Nassau County jailhouse, you can explore a re-created jail cell and learn about life as an inmate. Let the kids pilot their own ship at the Discovery Ship, learn about the area’s first residents at the Timucuan Village and browse through the artifacts and stories relating to the Spanish Mission Period of Nassau County’s history in its permanent display.
The calm waters of Amelia Island’s salt marshes are perfect for both novice and expert paddlers, where it’s not uncommon to spot great egrets, herons, ibis and colorful fish. Amelia Island Kayak Excursions can take you to some of the best spots in the area on two-hour guided tours, while those looking for an entire day of adventure can hop on the 5-6 hour river paddles and overnight excursions. Just minutes from Amelia Island is Lofton Creek, where you can enjoy a day out in nature under the leafy shade of majestic cypress trees.
You can treat yourself to a delectable array of seasonal New American cuisine at the award-winning Salt Restaurant. Located at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, it is one of only three AAA 5 diamond restaurants in the entire state of Florida, of which there are only 51 AAA 5 diamond restaurants in the entire United States. The cuisine here will blow you away, as the artful and creative presentations are as beautiful as they are delicious, and the “Dine with the Chef” experience allows you to sit at the chef’s table in the kitchen.
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is a beautiful resort that features three championship courses and is a dream escape for fans of the sport. The postcard-perfect courses provide a combination of coastal dunes, pine forests and gorgeous marshes, while the fairways sport a deep green hue and are dotted with colorful flower displays and towering ancient oaks. The Oak Marsh course offers a challenge for all skill levels, while Ocean Links offers oceanfront views and Long Point is situated against lush marshes and dramatic sand dunes.
Little Talbot Island State Park boasts more than five miles of pristine coastline and is one of the few undeveloped barrier islands remaining along Florida’s northeast coast. Head to the boneyard to see its unique collection of washed up trees, or indulge in a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing and fishing. Spacious pavilions provide the perfect respite for a beachside picnic, while wildlife enthusiasts might even catch a glimpse of a river otter or marsh rabbit.
You can sample some of the unique offerings at Marlin and Barrel Distillery and learn how Venture Vodka, made with Florida sugar cane, and Bearing Light Rum are made. They also produce hand zested all Florida grapefruit and orange liqueur, a Smoked Pepper Vodka perfect for a Bloody Mary and a Vanilla Bean Espresso Rum that is slightly sweet. After the tour and tasting, you’ll want to take a bottle home as a souvenir so that you can create the famous Bandera Espanola, a rum cocktail that is served at The Palace Saloon.
A perfect dose of culture, visit the Amelia Community Theatre for a memorable night out. Founded in 1831, you can choose from six of its productions that are put on each season on its main stage, from Harvey and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the Addams Family Musical. There’s also shows and special events that are held on the studio stage, including the darkly comic rock-fable Fly by Night and Norton Juster’s classic children’s story The Phantom Tollbooth.
Dedicated to preserving the legacy of the classic game of pinball, the Fernandina Beach Pinball Museum showcases machines from the early years of the 20th century to present day. A throwback to simpler times, a day spent here can be spent enjoying its nostalgia and sharpening your skills at its collection of more than 20 machines that you can play at your heart’s content.