The barrier isle on Florida’s northeast coast may be a go-to for golfers, but it offers so much more, including small-town charm, luxe spa treatments and eye-popping natural beauty. Read on for three ways to see it at its salty-air best.
A TOWN TOUR
Founded in 1811, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island’s main village, is Old Florida unleashed, complete with the clopping of horses pulling carriages over the cobblestones. Locals stop in for a leisurely brunch at slow-food favorite 29 South, where organic and locavore dishes include fried-green-tomato BLTs and pulled-pork eggs Benedict with Creole hollandaise. Amid the somewhat touristy boutiques on Centre Street, the Book Loft is a rare find: a favorite of locals for 25 years thanks to its 10,000-plus-tome selection. You can find vintage books here, including a 1905 set of Dickens novels. Another great find? Go Fish Clothing & Jewelry Co., which sells fair-trade products made by artisans around the globe (look for mango-wood bowls from Thailand, hand-blown glassware from Mexico and even painted wooden giraffes carved out of fallen trees in Indonesia).
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort may recently have emerged from an $85 million face-lift, but you don’t have to stay there to enjoy one of its most alluring offerings: the 16-room spa. Hidden away behind towering Florida oak trees, the spa has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on a manicured garden—the perfect place to sip organic Florida orange water before your treatment. In the Seaside Sensory Journey, you’ll be rubbed down with exfoliating peat and wild cherry blossom under a Vichy shower before your massage.
Centuries before it became an R&R mainstay, Amelia Island was a favorite landing spot of pirates and privateers, who no doubt loved its unruly tidal marshes and thick oak forests hung with Spanish moss. Bike its 13 miles of coastline, or book a kayak tour of Simpson Creek with Kayak Amelia to paddle along the estuary of the Timucuan preserve. You’re likely to spot egrets and ospreys and occasionally one of the area’s resident bottlenose dolphins will glide elegantly by.
29 South: 29 S. Third St., Fernandina Beach; 904.277.7919; 29southrestaurant.com
Book Loft:: 214 Centre St., Fernandina Beach; 904.261.8991
Go Fish Clothing & Jewelry Co.: 205 Centre St., Fernandina Beach; 904.491.7979; shopgofish.com
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort: 39 Beach Lagoon, Amelia Island; 904-261-6161; omnihotels.com
Kayak Amelia 13030 Heckscher Dr., Jacksonville; 904.251.0016; kayakamelia.com
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.