Amelia Island, Florida

 

A few years (and several hairstyles ago!) David and I took a great little summer vacation to Amelia Island, Florida. I had not heard much about Amelia Island prior to our trip but wanted to get away from the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys since we had already visited these areas. We wanted something new and different this time. So we flew into Jacksonville, rented a car, and began our adventure.

Amelia Island is an Atlantic coast barrier island on the northeastern corner of Florida, very close to the southeastern Georgia border. It is the perfect place for anyone wanting luxury resorts, golf courses, sandy beaches, shell collecting and small crowds. It is also very rich in history and has been under Spanish, French and British rule at one time or another.

We stayed at the wonderful Elizabeth Pointe Lodge located right on the beach. Our room was perfect and we kept the windows open every night and enjoyed the calming sounds of the ocean. The owners David and Susan (coincidence, right?!) had a wonderful staff and we had 24/7 room service available. We enjoyed  fantastic breakfast buffets every morning and a Happy Hour every evening with wines, cheese & fruit trays, and heavy appetizers. Drinks and snacks were always available throughout the day. The owners and manager were always available for a chat, to give suggestions for restaurants or activities, or to book reservations for dining or excursions. One of the best things about Elizabeth Pointe Lodge (besides being adults only) was the gorgeous private beach and the complimentary chairs and umbrellas – all just steps away from our room. You gotta love a hassle-free vacation!

The drive into town from the lodge only took a few minutes and there were so many things to see on the way. We actually began our first day at the Amelia Island Museum to understand more about this area and the history. We explored Fernandina Beach’s historic district and found neat little artisan shops, boutiques, and bistros. We drove to the Amelia Island Light which is the oldest existing lighthouse in the state of Florida (built in 1838). David and I noticed there were no chain restaurants and we enjoyed trying several of the small local eateries – many that served fresh seafood that came off fishing boats from the harbor that very day. We had some wonderful food!

We dined on fresh seafood at Brett’s Waterway Cafe (at the main harbor) where you board the fishing boats or sightseeing cruises. Manatees were spotted here regularly, but we were not lucky enough to see one this day. We had a wonderful lunch at Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro another day after shopping in some of the little downtown shops. One of my favorite meals was a dinner at Espana Restaurant & Tapas where we sat at the bar and drank some fruity sangria and ate some very unusual and wonderful seafood-inspired tapas. We ate fresh crab cakes another night at Lulu’s, a New Orleans inspired restaurant located in a cozy old coach house. On our final night, we dined at David’s Restaurant (yet another David!) and had some of the best cucumber and basil martinis ever. They served a fantastic baked brie with homemade bread (in a little wooden chest) with pesto and oil & vinegar for dipping….Yummy! Every meal we ate was fresh, delicious, reasonably priced and was indicative of the local fare.

We booked two excursions while on Amelia Island and they became the highlights of our trip. The first was a boat ride on Amelia Cruises with Captain Pajama Dave. This Capt. Dave was exactly what his name promised! He was a big ole red-bearded guy who wore funny printed pajama bottoms and had an over-the-top personality to match. He told jokes, stories, and was the perfect source of information regarding the history, sights, and wildlife in this area. We sailed from the harbor at Amelia Island up the Cumberland River and off the coast of Georgia to the beautiful Cumberland Island.

We saw the house where Pippi Longstocking was filmed. We sailed past Fort Clinch and had a great view of this well-preserved Civil War fort, complete with a sea wall and cannons. We sailed west of Cumberland Island and saw dolphins, sea birds, and wild horses on shore. We glimpsed the historic Greyfield Inn, mansions, campsites, and the place where John Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette had their secluded wedding next to a pig farm. It was a most interesting and very enjoyable day with smooth sailing the entire way.

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Fort Clinch, the old Civil War fort

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a herd of wild horses on Cumberland Island

The second excursion that we enjoyed was a segway tour. Ecomotion Segway Tours of Jacksonville had a wonderful tour of Ft. George Island and Kingsley Plantation that turned out to be such a fun day and a unique way to explore the island off the beaten path. We joined a couple of other families and had a group segway lesson learning how to operate, steer, and stop our vehicles on a practice field with traffic cones. (I almost flunked out and got placed at the back of the line with someone to watch over me!) Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have issues with balance. Unfortunately for me, riding a segway is all about balance and I am lucky that I did not end up in the ocean, a swamp or a ditch! When all was said and done – I must say that I did quite well. 🙂

These segways were specialized vehicles with huge all-terrain tires that certainly came in handy later when we traversed the roots, logs, rocks, sandy hills, and “jungle” type trails we explored.  We wore ear pieces under our helmets and our leader was miked to communicate with us. He was most informative and relayed interesting facts about the area and the history of the island as we rode along. He also pointed out local plants and wildlife we came across on the trail. We rode single file through dense forests and dodged Spanish moss hanging from branches. We saw tortoises, butterflies, gorgeous flowers, sea birds and spiders. We came across a baby tortoise crossing our trail. We stopped and watched a gopher tortoise furiously burrowing into the sand. We ventured to Kingsley Plantation where we rode past the slave quarters, each formed by hand and decorated with sea shells. We took a break off the segways to explore the plantation house, the surrounding buildings, barn, gardens, and the waterfront where porpoises were playing close to shore. I highly suggest this tour for anyone, any age. It was a remarkable experience and I am still alive to tell about it! Yay!!

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Kingsley Plantation house

Nearing the end of our trip, we explored some of the luxury resorts on the island. We had drinks at the Ritz and booked a massage at the Amelia Island Plantation. The resort hotels and golf courses here were gorgeous and covered lots of prime real estate. All the resorts had private beach property, large pools, playgrounds, bars & restaurants, etc. and were more family oriented. The landscaping and lush floral plant life in this resort area was a sight to behold and everything was meticulously cared for. It was all very beautiful and very expensive!

We spent most mornings in the ocean, had a late lunch in town, then spent the afternoons exploring. The sunsets were beautiful and we spent several evening on the beach (photos below). There was so much to do and I am certain we only scratched the surface of all this area had to offer. You could do as little or as much as you want to do here and have a great time.

This was a most enjoyable trip and I highly recommend visiting Amelia Island for anyone who enjoys the beach, ocean views, quaint restaurants & shops, and a bit of history. We could have found much more to do and more places to explore if we had had more time. We just may have to go back one day…..

 Please feel free to leave comments and let me know of your experiences if you have been to Amelia Island or if you would like to visit. Happy travels!

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One thought on “Amelia Island, Florida

  1. This is a hidden gem of a place. Beautiful beaches, great food, neat things to do and see, and lots of quaint southern charm. Maybe we should go back!

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