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Eight different nations ruled the 13 mile long barrier island in northeast Florida called Amelia Island. As the only place in the USA claiming this distinction, Amelia Island businesses incorporate the “eight flags” theme whenever possible.
Among the many cool things to do in Amelia Island is experience and explore Old Florida (history and nature), eat amazing fresh seafood, and mingle with some of USA’s most artistic and quirky people.
Avast ye, more pirates trolled the shores around Amelia Island than anywhere else in the US. Who can say whether any privateer or buccaneer descendants still abound? Local legend says pirate booty is hidden somewhere on Amelia Island. Shiver me timbers!
McCool Travel tip: while South Florida and Central Florida experience an overwhelming number of visitors between January and April, Amelia Island is relatively quiet but still has great weather.
Thank you to Amelia Island tourism for inviting me to experience cool, happy and fun things to do in Amelia Island. I was not otherwise compensated and this content represents my independent thoughts about Amelia Island.
8 Great Things To Do in Amelia Island Florida
Beaches on Amelia Island
Amelia Island beaches regularly appear on lists of top beaches so you know they must be gorgeous. They are! Amelia Island beaches are wide, have white quartz sand (feels great on the feet!), and, in certain areas, are firm enough for 4 wheel drive vehicles to drive on (the beach, not your feet). The City of Fernandina Beach lends beach wheelchairs to residents and visitors. How cool is that? Keep reading for the McCool Travel inside scoop on where to find shark teeth. Yes, shark teeth!
The historic downtown of Fernandina Beach houses the oldest bar in Florida and the oldest hotel in Florida. In fact, the National Register of Historic Places recognizes and protects 50 blocks and 400 structures in downtown Fernandina Beach. Allow plenty of time to walk the historic district and shop, eat, drink, and view the architecture. Take a photo of Kate’s Tree, a magnificent canopied oak in the middle of the street, named for the woman (Kate Bailey) who refused to let the town remove it.
Amelia Island Trolleys provides narrated tours of the historic district and Old Town. Coastal Living‘s readers voted Fernandina Beach as the Best Historic Downtown and #4 Happiest Seaside Town. Pelicans in the marina and a Pétanque tournament (with participants from more than 12 countries) entertained me during my latest visit.
Places to Eat in Amelia Island
Experience a dizzying range of culinary amazingness on Amelia Island. Salt (at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island) is one of only three AAA 5 diamond restaurants in the entire state of Florida—there are only 51 AAA 5 diamond restaurants in the entire US. In the heart of the historic district, Timoti’s serves only wild caught seafood. Slider’s is a local favorite, right on the beach, with a tiki bar, live music, and a fun playground for the kiddos. The setting, vibe, and local presence at Green Turtle Tavern reminds me of Key West. Allow time to drink a beer at The Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest bar.
Fort Clinch State Park occupies the northern end of Amelia Island. Look across the water to see Cumberland Island in Georgia. More than just an historic fort, though, the 1,400 acre state park provides many recreation opportunities. Hike and bike the oak canopied trails, fish or swim in the ocean water, camp in an authentic “Old Florida” setting, and search for shark teeth on the 3 miles of shoreline. I found a shark tooth on the beach in front of the fort!
Kayaking in Lofton Creek highlighted my Amelia Island visit. Amelia Island Kayak Excursions provides all the equipment and a passionate, knowledgeable guide who enhances the adventure. My 2 hour tour glided by gorgeous, natural, old Florida—no housing developments, traffic, or commercial enterprises. Tannic acid runoff from decaying vegetation causes the black water of Lofton Creek.
Where to Stay in Amelia Island
After staying at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation and The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island properties on this trip, I created the term relaxed luxury. With rooms facing the ocean, massive and pristine beaches, amazing recreational opportunities, and phenomenal cuisine, both resorts epitomize relaxed luxury. Other enticing places to stay in Amelia Island include several other hotels, vacation rental properties, and magnificent inns in the Fernandina Beach historic district.
Another Amelia Island lodging option is a vacation rental, including a condo, apartment, or house. >>> To receive $40 off your first Airbnb rental, click here.
The largest sand dune in Florida is located on Amelia Island. It is named Nana and protected as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (a National Park property). Visit Nana in American Beach, just south of The Ritz-Carlton property. A little further south, across the bridge, is Big Talbot Island State Park. Magnificent 100 foot driftwood trees adorn Boneyard Beach.
In addition to kayaking, boating, and hiking, many visitors love bicycling around Amelia Island. Choose from several miles of bike paths, including many with gorgeous oak tree canopies.
What would you add to this McCool Travel list of things to do in Amelia Island?
Amelia Island Resources
Guide to Amelia Island from TripAdvisor
Amelia Island: “It’s simply perfect” from Atlanta Magazine