Winter doesn’t come with a fast-forward button, but here’s an easy way to hit pause: grab the family and visit Amelia Island, a beach-lined barrier island located less than an hour from Jacksonville, Florida. Besides the weather, here are ten more reasons to make the trip.
The Great Outdoors
Remarkably pristine, the creeks, waterways, and marshes that weave through Amelia Island are alive with fun-to-spot creatures like manatees, dolphins, alligators, turtles, and egrets. Or, go for a hike. Filled with sprawling, centuries-old live oak trees, magnolias, and palmettos, Amelia Island’s cool maritime forests are some of the oldest in the US. And, since many trails start or end in a state park, you’ll find lots of interpretive exhibits and information as you stroll.
The Divine Downtown
Compact and pretty, with a riverfront promenade and sunny plazas, the Fernandina Beach area is welcoming and chock-full of activities. Take a guided tour by trolley or carriage, or set out on foot, and learn about the Spanish settlers who arrived in the 1800s, and the pirates that once hid out in the watery maze behind the island. Afterwards, stop by the many shops and galleries in the historic district; grab a drink at Florida’s oldest tavern, The Palace Saloon; or hop on a charter boat for a coastal tour or fishing trip.
The Great Events
Amelia Island’s calendar is packed with events all winter long. Car enthusiasts flock to The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island each March for the Concours d’Elegance, a week-long celebration of classic cars that includes the Amelia Island Vintage Grand Prix; automobile auctions by RM Sotheby’s; displays of rare vehicles on loan from private collectors; luxury auto test drives; and more. Amelia Concours Week extends the automotive exhilaration through March 19 with events including Porsche Club of America's Werks Reunion, Festivals of Speed, and The Amelia Island Vintage Gran Prix. Artists on the program for this year’s Chamber Music Festival, which runs through April, include Itzhak Perlman, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Anne Akiko Myers, and the Dover Quartet. Performances are held at a variety of venues around the island. The 54th Annual Shrimp Festival kicks off on May 4 with a Pirate Parade; there are also history exhibits, vendor booths, activities for kids, fireworks, and, of course, shrimp galore.
History Come to Life
Ghosts, pirates, and other characters give Amelia Island a history that’s as colorful as the brightly painted Victorian homes within the historic district. Docent-led tours and pub crawls with the Amelia Island Museum of History bring them to life. History and nature come together at Fort Clinch State Park, a 1,400-acre site that’s anchored by a Civil War-era fort. Daily history tours are led by rangers and offer a glimpse into the life of a Union soldier. Outside, shark’s teeth dot the beach, which fronts one of the island’s best surf breaks.
Cyclists of every ability level can ride Amelia Island’s bikeways. Try the seven-mile, kid-friendly path that meanders through Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, the technical trails at Fort Clinch State Park, or the paved, 6.2-mile route between Peter’s Point Park and Amelia Island State Park. There’s also a path between Fernandina Beach -- where bikes are welcome -- and the island’s public beach. Learn why Amelia Island is known as one of Florida's best places to bike.
The Food SceneThe modern shrimping industry was founded on Amelia Island, so it’s no surprise that seafood is the star here. Traditionalists love fried baskets of shrimp, fish, or oysters at Timoti’s, where tacos and salads round out the fresh menu. For a night out, head to Le Clos for elegant seafood with a French twist served in a candlelit cottage. Burger lovers refuel at Tasty’s, where the Carolina-style slaw dog is also a good choice.
Hospitable Hotels and Resorts
Fresh from an $85 million renovation, the
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort appeals to both families and couples with 404 oceanfront rooms and suites, 54 holes of golf, 23 tennis courts, programs for kids, on-site bike rentals, an adults-only infinity pool that offers a unique rum and tequila tasting experience, and Segway tours of the more than 1,300-acre property.
Each of the 446 rooms at the elegant Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island have private balconies with water views and a free shuttle into Fernandina Beach makes it easy to explore the town. At the resort, you can take cooking classes, explore the night sky with an on-site astronomy class or cozy up at a private bonfire. Kids’ programming comes courtesy of the Jean-Michael Cousteau Future Oceans Society.
Golf and Tennis GaloreGolfers know that Amelia Island is a top destination, but they might not realize that the island is home to a whopping 117 holes designed by some of the best in the business, including Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye, Bobby Weed, Mark McCumber, and Tom Jackson. Area resorts offer tennis instruction and round-robin tournaments on clay and hard courts; there are plenty of public courts as well.
A Glorious Beach
Amelia Island’s 13-mile-long beach is the stuff of dreams -- wide, flat, and lapped by warm, calm water. And if you’ve always dreamed of cantering along an empty beach on the horseback, you’ll want to add Amelia Island to your bucket list. It’s one of the few places in Florida where you can do just that. Can't wait to get there?
Tour the wide open beaches now.
And Yes… The Weather
Winter temperatures on Amelia average in the high 60s to low 70s, making it perfect for outdoor activities and laidback beach time.Watch this video to learn more about Amelia Island: