The Sunshine State has seemingly limitless opportunities for a great family or romantic getaway, but if you haven’t yet visited Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach, you are missing out! No matter the season, Amelia’s pristine beaches, historic charm, and outdoor adventures—all just a 5-6 hour drive from Atlanta—make it a quintessential Florida destination. We’ve listed recommendations of how to enjoy the Island like the locals do.
Beaches & Outdoor Adventures
Sample the Many Public Beaches
Amelia has oodles (and by that we mean 40+) of public beach access points, making it easy to enjoy the waterfront no matter where on the island you’re staying. Slather on the sunscreen and splash around in the waves after looking for good shells.
Go Horseback Riding on the Beach
Speaking of beaches, is there anything quite as romantic as a ride with ocean views? Make date night unforgettable by booking a ride with Happy Trails Walking Horses or Amelia Island Horseback Riding.
Check Out the State Parks
For a relatively small island, Amelia is packed with some amazing Florida State Parks. We recommend Fort Clinch, Big Talbot, Little Talbot, and Amelia Island State Park. These parks offer a variety of ways to enjoy the island’s natural beauty, from lush forests to beach access to walking and biking trails with plenty of chances to spot wildlife.
Bike the Island Trails
Maybe you’re a mountain biking enthusiast, or maybe you prefer to cruise through a more leisurely ride. There’s room for both and everything in between, thanks to the miles of bike trails that cover the island. Renting a bike is easy if you don’t want to bring your own, and we recommend having a camera at the ready—you’ll want to capture the views along the routes!
Explore by Boat
Whether guided or unguided, the many waterways that encompass this barrier island are ideal for kayaks, canoes, and SUP. Plenty of rental options are available. If you’re venturing out on your own, be mindful of the tide schedule!
Spot Some Wildlife
Amelia Island is an ecotourist’s dream, from its pristine landscapes to its abundance of Florida wildlife. A walk along any trail or beach is primed with opportunities to see sea turtles, dolphins, cranes, alligators, crabs, rabbits, deer and more.
Stay Fit at Egan’s Creek Greenway Park
If you’re the type who likes to keep up with their exercise routine while on vacation, you’ll love Egan’s Creek Greenway! You’ll find new outdoor fitness station along the greenway where you can add some cardio into your walk or bike along the paths. Be sure to check out the labyrinth by the fitness area, too.
Sea Turtle Watching
While it’s extremely rare to see sea turtles nesting or hatching, it is common to see cordoned-off nests in the summer, and visitors are allowed to observe Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch volunteers conduct nest excavations. Be sure to pack up your beach furniture each day – this can be a dangerous obstacle to turtles trying to get to the water!
You’ll want to keep your binoculars and camera handy in Amelia Island’s parks and beaches, where you’ll have the chance to see a variety of species, including pelicans, skimmers, plovers and pipers.
The Kids Will Love It
Voted the island’s best playground on Trip Advisor, this playground at North Beach Park is accessible to children of all abilities. Young ones will love the unique play structures that also incorporate history, art and music into the experience.
Take your pick from a selection of mini golf sites, including Island Falls Adventure Golf, where we’ve been going for the past 10 years. After a long day on the beach, it’s a classic way to unwind after dinner!
Historic Reenactments at Fort Clinch
A state park with beautiful natural scenery, Fort Clinch is perhaps best known for its historic interpretation performances that take visitors back to Amelia Island during the Civil War. Visit the fort the first weekend of the month to see a whole garrison of soldiers who will teach you about fort living, including cannon firing.
Fish off the Pier at Amelia Island State Park
The mile-long George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier is dotted with devoted anglers every day of the week, but especially on weekends. Cast a line with the locals and enjoy gorgeous views of the Nassau Sound.
Fly a Kite
Make the most of those ocean breezes with a mini-kite festival on one of Amelia’s beautiful beaches.
Take the Ferry from Little Talbot to Jacksonville
If you’ve got little ones who love planes, trains, and “things that go,” they’ll be charmed by the St. Johns River Ferry, just $5 for cars to board. Continue south to Jacksonville for a day trip to the city’s best family-friendly attractions.
Historic Downtown Fernandina
Shopping and Storytime at The Book Loft
Located in Historic Downtown Fernandina, this independent bookstore is sure to charm readers of all ages. The Book Loft boasts a multi-genre selection of local and national favorites, plus children’s story hours and author signings.
A Nightcap at The Palace Saloon
One of those “do it to say you did it” sort of experiences. Florida’s oldest bar, this storied building is worth stopping in for a pint or nightcap, and read up on its history before you go to truly appreciate it.
Selfie at Fernandina Harbor
Enjoy the views of the Amelia River along South Front Street – the perfect place to snap a sunset selfie. If you’re looking to dine along the waterfront, try the Salty Pelican.
Get a History Lesson from the Amelia Island Museum
From Native Americans to pirates to the Spanish, Amelia Island has a fascinating history of residents and rulers, and you’ll learn all about it from the docents of the Amelia Island Museum of History, located in a renovated community jailhouse. Head a few blocks up the street to check out the partner museum, the Fernandina Beach Shrimping Museum and Welcome Center, for a deeper dive into the community’s maritime history.
Admire the Historic Homes
For even more history and local charm, don’t miss the Museum of History’s annual holiday home tour, which showcases downtown’s finest Victorian homes, all professionally decked for the season.
Patronize the Local Businesses
Downtown Fernandina is the perfect place to spend a few hours shopping at local boutiques for the perfect date night outfit, charming antiques, and nautical-inspired home decor, among other goods.
Enjoy the Local Farmer’s Market
We love to stop by the Saturday morning Fernandina Beach Market Place to stock up on snacks and treats before heading to the beach. These local goods also make great take-home gifts and souvenirs!
Holidays and Festivals
Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival
Who knew you could throw such a big party in honor of such a little sea critter? Featuring a pirate costume contest, a beauty pageant, a parade, exhibitors, a kid zone, and more, this community event has been drawing people from across the Southeast down to Amelia for over 50 years.
Atlantan’s who are accustomed to the annual Peach Drop will be charmed by this maritime-themed New Year’s celebration. Enjoy live music, activities for the kids, and a firework show, in addition to the sparkling shrimp that falls to welcome the New Year..
Dickens On Centre
Enjoy Christmas in the style of the Victorians at this enchanting weekend celebration that transforms the historic downtown into an English village, complete with costumed carolers. Don’t miss the Holiday Cookie Tour through the historic bed and breakfasts, either!
Wild Amelia Nature Festival
An island teeming with fascinating ecology, you won’t want to miss this festival that takes place each May. Take guided eco-tours and a narrated river cruise, peruse the eco-expo, and top it all off with a rehabilitated sea turtle release!
Amelia Island Jazz Festival
Celebrate the genre with a week of performances by acts large and small in venues across the community. You’re sure to be impressed by the many different flavors of jazz the festival organizers bring to the island, from bebop to Latin.
Where to Eat
We Scream for This Ice Cream
We can’t resist a stop at DeNucci’s for some soft serve. Their brightly colored building has a walk-up window and little playground that the kids will love.
Snag a Picnic Table at Tasty’s
This gas station turned burger joint is located right in downtown, with plenty of outdoor seating. A great place to stop after a bike ride back from Main Beach or Fort Clinch!
Perk Up at Amelia Island Coffee
Another downtown favorite, we recommend the Ultimate Frozen Mocha to satisfy your sweet tooth and your need for caffeine. You won’t be sorry.
Lunch Like a Local
Savoring lunch on Cafe Karibo’s terrace is a must for any visit to Amelia. We love their fresh, bright menu and local brews!
Dinner at Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen
Just a few blocks from the downtown core, UK offers upscale Southern fare, perfect for a date night. Word to the wise: the drop biscuits and Anna’s mac and cheese are to die for. Wear loose pants.
Shop and Savor
Tucked inside an inconspicuous health food store is a little local gem: the Mustard Seed Cafe. Preparing natural, organic daily specials, you can tuck into a bounty of nutritious dishes that taste as good as they look.
Where to Stay
Sleep at a Historic B&B
For a true Amelia experience, we recommend staying in one of downtown’s many bed and breakfasts, where you’ll be in walking distance of shops, restaurants, and the river.
It’s no secret that Amelia can easily be a luxury destination. The island offers deluxe resorts, including the Ritz-Carlton and Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, to more modest beachfront hotels and motels.
Keep it Natural
For those who prefer a more rustic experience, check out the campgrounds at Fort Clinch State Park. You’ll find both full-service modern sites and more primitive areas, and both offer all the beauty of the park’s natural surroundings.
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