Explore Amelia Island

Things to do on Amelia Island

Do you want to feel far away in a magical, new destination while still having all of the comforts of home just minutes from a major airport? The warm humidity enveloped us from the moment we stepped off the plane in Jacksonville, FL, welcoming us to a dreamy southern setting. We arrived in Amelia Island, Florida, in just a few minutes. Our off-season visit provided us with a peaceful, uncrowded visit to north Florida, complete with southern hospitality and stunning seaside scenery.

Amelia Island, Florida has been named among the Top 10 North American islands by Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards.

Also making the Reader’s Choice Awards is The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. The 444-room beachfront resort was ranked #21 among the Top 50 US Mainland Resorts.

Located just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is a barrier island rich in colorful history and breathtaking natural beauty. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Intra- coastal Waterway, strong-current Nassau Sound, and one of the East’s largest and deepest inlets – Cumberland Sound – Amelia Island is edged with natural Appalachian quartz beaches and framed by dunes as high as 40 feet.

Thirteen miles long and two miles wide, the northern and southern tips of the Island are park preserves that makeup nearly 10 percent of the entire Island.

Amelia Island is the last in the string of sea islands along the U.S.’s southeast coast. Only 13 miles long and two miles wide, the little island offers visitors an eclectic mix of things to do. This quick travel guide highlights the top five.

Amelia Island Beaches

Amelia Island’s beaches are ideal for families, couples, solo travelers, and dogs. The wide beach gives everyone room to stretch and find their own place. Parking is free with plenty of public access. A favorite pastime of Amelia Island beachgoers is collecting fossilized shark teeth.

American Beach is a must-see. It was originally an African American community founded during Jim Crow-era segregation. Today, American Beach is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s funky, kitsch, and a nice contrast against the chichi resorts. During its peak, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, and Hank Aaron were some of the celebrities who visited American Beach.

Ghost Tours of Amelia

A few spirits lurk in Amelia Island’s Fernandina Beach. Tales of the supernatural are revealed year-round on ghost-walking tours. Tour participants may come face to face with one of the salty sea captains who navigated through Amelia Island’s waters during the 1800s. Or, they learn about some of the 30 ghosts believed to be haunting the Florida House Inn, which happens to be Florida’s oldest continuously run hotel. The Amelia Island Museum of History offers tours each Friday and Ghost Tours of Amelia offers tours every Friday and Saturday.

Fernandina Beach travelers wanting to spend quality time with the island’s spooky inhabitants can spend a night at the Florida House Inn or the Williams House Bed & Breakfast. President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, slept at the Williams House but it’s the spirit of a friendly ghost with a disdain for candlesticks who haunts, err, entertains, inn guests.

Horse-drawn Carriage Tours

Fernandina Beach’s historic district is reminiscent of a Victorian village and it’s only befitting to see horse-drawn carriages. Thirty-minute tours take visitors through neighborhoods to look at historic landmarks and listen to tales of ghosts, pirates, and other characters from Amelia Island’s past. Amelia Island Carriages offers tours year-round.

Kelly Seahorse Ranch

Amelia Island is one of the few places in Florida to ride a horse on the beach. Kelly Seahorse Ranch fulfills the romantic dream of riding a horse along the surf. The one-hour tour in Amelia Island State Park is appropriate for beginners and riders must be at least 13 years old and four feet six inches tall.

Tee Up. Amelia Island may only be 26 square miles but the little sea island packs a punch with 117 holes of golf divided among four courses. The two public courses are the Fernandina Beach Golf Club and the Royal Amelia Links. The only PGA Tournament Course on Amelia Island is the Golf Club at Amelia Island at Summer Beach. The courses with the most spectacular views are found at Amelia Island Plantation with courses designed by Pete Dye and Tom Fazio.

Uncover the Past

Flags of eight nations have flown over Amelia Island, the only U.S. territory with this claim. The French, Spanish, and English have shaped the island into the eclectic destination it is today. While walking the streets of Fernandina Beach, it’s easy to imagine the rogue pirates and Victorian ladies who called the city home.

Amelia Island Museum of History

Housed in an old jail, the Amelia Island Museum of History shows and tells the island’s history. In addition to ghost walking tours, other historical walking tours are offered. Fort Clinch State Park preserves Amelia Island’s Confederacy Civil War history. The fort was later used as a World War II outpost and today is a state park.


Amelia Island’s small size belies the host of activities she offers her guests. From golf and tennis at world-class resorts to kayaking, sunset sails, and horseback riding on the beach, Amelia Island provides an array of activities for those who want to keep busy. For those who want pure rest, relaxation, and quality time with loved ones, there is no better place than Amelia Island.

The Island offers all types of accommodations, restaurants, and shops to meet the needs of the most discriminating traveler or budget-minded family. The Island is home to Florida’s only spoken history museum and a Civil War fort where monthly reenactments are conducted.

Summer Beach Resort

Summer Beach Resort offers close proximity to the beach, breathtaking ocean views, and a variety of fun activities. For a portion of our stay, we were able to enjoy budget-friendly meals “at home” in our clean and stylishly cozy condo. A short walk through the protected dunes on designated boardwalks gave visitors a glimpse of the island’s best features, the pristine sea, and clean sandy beaches. We saw gopher tortoises, sea shells, and shark teeth while watching families play and fish in the waves. Miles of walking and biking paths provided a picturesque setting for morning runs through the dense live oak canopy.

Ritz-Carlton Spa

The inviting atmosphere of the Ritz-Carlton Spa entices guests to stay for more than just a treatment. Come early for a soak or steam in the waterfall hot tub and the dry cedar or wet eucalyptus saunas, then stay late to relax in one of the lounge areas or the private pool. Heaven in a Hammock, created exclusively for the Amelia Island Ritz Carlton, was a one-of-a-kind spa experience. While wrapped in the specially designed lightweight hammock, you receive a 360-degree massage from above, beside, and beneath. To say the least, they are memorable, as they elongate your spine with hanging and relax you with soothing rocking rhythms.

The Hadashi was another one-of-a-kind spa treatment. Instead of the usual hands-on treatment, the therapist balances from bars while performing deep, soothing strokes with his feet in this feet-on treatment. It was easy to lose track of time while relaxing with these non-traditional massages.

Amelia Island Plantation

The Amelia Island Plantation invited us to take a Segway tour of their property. We got a close-up tour of Amelia Island by driving over bridges, around golf courses, through upscale neighborhoods, along the beach, and through the scenic marshlands. We were surprised at how simple it was to learn to ride. The Segway was a relaxing but enjoyable way to explore Amelia Island.


The restaurants we were fortunate to visit were exciting for us as tourists, but they also felt like local favorites. Espana Restaurant offered a taste of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, with excellent interpretations of traditional paella and other seafood specialties, such as the Shrimp Mozambique—a spicy, coconut-milk sauce over delicious prawns. The quaint atmosphere and bustling courtyard of the Happy Tomato Café greeted us with a smile. We tried the house specialties, which included pulled pork, chicken salad, smoked ribs, and shrimp salad. We rolled out as happy as the tomatoes, topped off with lemonade and a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

Fernandina Beach

The charming Fernandina Beach historic district should not be missed during your visit to Amelia Island. This area is ideal for an evening stroll, a day of shopping, or settling in for a delicious meal, with its 50-blocks of beautifully restored buildings, restaurants, charming stores, and tree-lined roadways leading to the waterfront. As we arrived, the Fernandina Beach Farmer’s Market was in full swing, and we were treated to gourmet baked goods, local honey, and delectable desserts in addition to farm-direct produce. (Open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays)

The island is home to Fernandina Beach, once a vibrant Victorian seaport village, and now a charming downtown district of eclectic shops, attractions, and eateries.

Fernandina Beach is also known as the “Isle of 8 Flags” for it has had the flags of France, Spain, Great Britain, Spain (again), the Patriots of Amelia Island, the Green Cross of Florida, Mexico, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. flown over it since 1562. In fact, it is the only municipality in the United States that has flown eight different national flags.

To celebrate a part of the town’s history, The Fiesta de Santa Maria takes place in Fernandina Beach each year in September to celebrate its historic Latin heritage. Visitors enjoy Latin cuisine from area restaurants, music, and dancing, plus a marketplace with a variety of vendors.

Fort Clinch State Park

The weather ruined our plans for a bicycle tour of Fort Clinch State Park with Kayak Amelia the morning we were supposed to go. We did, however, go to their headquarters, which is located in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. This “urban park” is technically within the city limits of Jacksonville, which is surprising given the solitude and peace found in these quiet marshlands. Our next visit will undoubtedly include a stop by Ray, Kayak Amelia’s enthusiastic owner who wants everyone’s first paddling experience to be just the beginning of many.

We were blown away by the area’s quiet natural treasures, which were made even more appealing by the area’s accessibility and affordability. We could see why Amelia Island is so popular among North American island vacationers. We’ll see you again soon, Amelia Island!

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