Hop in the car headed north and two-and-a-half hours later, just a few miles from the Georgia border, you’ll find Amelia Island. Named after Princess Amelia, the daughter of Spain’s King George II, the 13-mile-long barrier island hugs the coastline of Nassau County and was once a haven for pirates, bootleggers and smugglers.
While today’s invaders tend toward eclectic downtown boutique and cafes versus buried treasure, the island continues to be rich in history. One of the best ways to take in the checkered past of Amelia Island is via a horsedrawn carriage tour through fun and funky Fernandina Beach. Considered the island’s dining and shopping hub, Fernandina Beach features 50 square blocks in which every house, hotel and watering hole has a story to tell and architectural elements to show off. Visit ameliacarriagetours.com for more details.
Before you get too enchanted by the island and its many offerings, check into the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, a perfect oceanfront refuge for some much deserved ‘us’ time.
A 1,350-acre master-planned community and resort featuring 54 holes of golf, 23 tennis courts and 21 swimming pools, the Omni hotel boasts 404 oceanfront, beach inspired guest rooms, each with views of the sparkling Atlantic ocean and glorious morning sunrises for those lucky enough to be awake for them.
Stepping into the hotel lobby, you’ll immediately see the space that will likely dominate most of your time: a gargantuan oceanfront pool with an expansive deck ideal for hours of lounging in the sun. Sip mojitos, enjoy gourmet meals and snacks, and let your worries fall away inside the adult, infinity-edge Serenity Pool overlooking the pristine waters of the coastline.
Continue the bliss at the Spa & Salon at Amelia Island Plantation, a delightful little hideaway located a stone’s throw from the main resort. Featuring 16 treatment rooms, the gem of the spa is its couples suite, which houses a room for his/her massages as well as a private relaxation lounge where couples can slowly enter back into reality after their treatment.
Weekend rates at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort are currently starting from $170.10/night. More details here.
Of course, a stay at the Plantation can include fun and adventure, too. For these elements I recommend booking one of the daily Segway tours offered by Amelia’s Wheels. After a quick training, you’ll soon be gracefully zooming through sections of the 1,350-acre property, gliding across tree-canopied trails and streets dotted by luxury vacation homes. Amelia’s Wheels, located on Omni’s property, also rents bikes for traversing more than seven miles of onsite trails.
You might consider going on a horseback tour along Amelia Island’s beaches. Visit ameliahorsebackriding.com for more details.
For shopping, head to Fernandina Beach, which can easily be explored on foot and features bountiful array of antique markets, galleries and one-off boutiques. Be sure to also make a stop at The Shops of Amelia Island Plantation. Here you’ll find clothing shops, gourmet provisions, art galleries and Marché Burette, an ideal pit stop for wine, freshly prepared meals, coffee and ice cream.
As you begin your day, head straight to the breakfast buffet offered at the resort’s Sunrise Café. Dubbed “The Art of Breakfast,” this delectable breakfast offering features house made charcuteries, jams, honey and nut butters alongside an omelet station and pots filled with breakfast staples like bacon, pancakes and potatoes. You’ll enjoy this all-you-care-to-eat morning feast, including coffee and freshly squeezed juice, for $28 per person. The ocean views are on the house.
Head into Fernandina Beach for lunch at Timoti’s Seafood Shak. Located on 3rd Street, this unfussy café with counter service features baskets, wraps, sandwiches tacos and bowls with fresh, wild-caught seafood taking center stage. During a recent visit, we enjoyed a killer lobster roll crammed with sweet morsels of lobster.
Back at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, make a reservation for dinner at Verandah. Set under live oaks, this upscale but cozy restaurant specializes in seafood, farm-to-table fare and fabulous wine pairings.
Finally, before you head up to your room, be sure to snuggle around an oceanfront fire pit to roast s’mores or sip a cocktail under the stars. The waves crashing on the beach will provide the perfect soundtrack for this moment.
A few more restaurant recommendations:
Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen
Celebrity Chef Kenny Gilbert has returned home to open a neighborhood-driven Deep Southern American restaurant with rotating monthly menus showcasing different culinary themes. Plans to open a second restaurant is right on the horizon!
Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro
Chef Ricky is amazing as both a chef and a personality – bought the building to open the restaurant because of his father’s artwork that remained inside.
David’s Restaurant & Lounge
Absolutely delicious food and a very cool space.
The drive to Amelia Island from Tampa will be less than 4 hours.
For more information, such as getaway ideas and planning tools, visit ameliaisland.com.