There's More to Florida Than Theme Parks: Why You Must Visit Amelia Island

May 10, 2021
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Be honest. If you don't live in Florida or you're not from Florida, what's the first thing you think of when the name Florida is mentioned? I'm guessing it's either the theme parks of Orlando or the crowded beaches of Miami. But, Florida is so much more than that. We're a state full of history, nature and wildlife in addition to the beautiful beaches and theme parks. I'm also guessing that Northeast Florida isn't the first place that comes to mind when looking to visit our great state. But, it should be. Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Amelia Island... the southernmost jewel in the Sea Island chain and the northernmost of the barrier islands on Florida's Atlantic coast.

1. We're Easy to Get to

Amelia Island is only 30 minutes from Jacksonville International Airport linking NE Florida to cities all over the world. Air Canada, Delta, American, Frontier, United, JetBlue, and Southwest (just to name a few) are among the carriers that service JIA. If you're driving from the north along I-95, we're the first 2 exits in Florida so the excitement when traveling with kids is guaranteed to reach a fever pitch right after you cross over from Georgia into Florida (it won't be long now!). The drive up from the south is gorgeous along historic A1A where ocean views turn into river views after you board the Mayport auto ferry just south of Jacksonville to continue on to Amelia Island. If you have your own plane, the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport is designed to accommodate a Gulfstream IV aircraft or smaller.  

2. We have Attractions

Do you think the "House of Mouse" is the only Florida destination with attractions? Nope. We've got them right here. Ours are animated in a different way but they're every bit as fun. Take a horseback ride along the shore where the beauty of the ocean and its wildlife will take your breath away. Experience the sunset with a tour of Cumberland Sound and the Intracoastal Waterway on an AMELIA RIVER CRUISE.  Zip along the ocean, marsh and canopied trails on a Segway tour at Omni Amelia Island Resort. Take to the skies on a powered hang glider where you can get a bird's eye view of Amelia Island and Cumberland Island. Tee it up on the links of Amelia Island where 99 holes of stunning, world-class golf await. Learn to surf, rent a kayak, or see the water on a hydro bike, there's so much to do on our little island! 

3. We have Parks

Amelia Island's parks aren't themed per se but savvy travelers know to seek them out for their history, natural beauty, and array of activities. FORT CLINCH STATE PARK is set on 1,400 acres and is home to historic Fort Clinch, one of the most perfectly preserved Civil War forts in the United States. AMELIA ISLAND STATE PARK is set on the southernmost tip of Amelia Island where the views are never anything short of amazing. GEORGE CRADY FISHING PIER STATE PARK is located just beyond Amelia Island State Park and connects Nassau County to Duval County. This one-mile long pedestrian-only bridge spans the Nassau Sound and is where anglers can expect to haul in a variety of fish including whiting, jack, drum and tarpon. Located on the northern end of the island is FERNANDINA PLAZA STATE PARK.  Although small in size, this park contains centuries of Florida history. Get out and explore!

4. We have Pirates

Ahoy Maties! It's no secret that Amelia Island was once a hub for pirates, smugglers and bootleggers that called our island home. In fact, in the 17th and 18th centuries, Amelia Island was bustling with pirates. Because the water was so deep in the Port of Fernandina, it was easy for Pirate Ships to sail into port on their way to or from the Caribbean. Although we don't condone the behavior of pirates, we have sort of adopted them as the island's mascot and pretty much flaunt them wherever possible. Whether it's spending the afternoon at Pirate Playground where lil pirates-in-training go to have fun, grabbing a Pirate’s Punch at Florida’s oldest bar the PALACE SALOON, or going out to sea on a rod-bending, reel-screaming, adrenaline-pumping, good time with 'YE OLE PIRATE' FISHING CHARTERS, pirates are just part of the landscape here.

5. We're Near the Big City

The main reason that most folks come to Amelia Island is to unwind and relax by the sea on uncrowded beaches. So, even though we don't want to act like a big city, we would like to be close to one. The city of Jacksonville is just 40 miles away and offers notable attractions such as: The Museum of Science and History - home of The Bryan-Gooding Planetarium where folks can explore deep space and the observable universe without ever stepping foot off our planet. TIAA Bank Field - home of the Jacksonville Jaguars where families can take in a Sunday NFL game. The Florida Theatre - One of only four remaining high-style Movie Palaces built in Florida in the 1920’s. Attend a concert, ballet or play in this gorgeous theatre listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

6. We love Kids and Kids love Us

As far as kid friendly resorts in Florida go, we have some of the best. For those planning a luxurious getaway, book a stay at THE RITZ-CARLTON, AMELIA ISLAND or OMNI AMELIA ISLAND RESORT where kids are a priority. Both resorts overlook an expansive stretch of beach and offer award-winning kids programs, babysitting services, an array of pools to play in, naturalist-led nature programs and nearby shopping and dining. If that isn't exactly what you were hoping for, look over all of our accommodations and decide what is best for your family. As far as kid-friendly things to do, what is more fun than a family game of putt putt? Lucky for you, we have courses from one end of the island to the other. Or, rent bikes and hit the miles of bike trails located around the island. Your kids will be begging you to come back to Amelia Island year after year.

7. We're Wild for Nature

Made up of 13 miles of seashore with 40-foot sea oat dappled dunes, Amelia Island is a beach and nature lover's dream. The year round mild climate allows for relaxing beach walks or hikes in Egan's Creek Greenway. Speaking of which, Egan's Creek Greenway runs north to south along Egan's Creek right smack in the middle of the island. When hiking the greenway, expect to see gorgeous marsh vistas, a variety of birds, alligators, snakes and local flora & fauna all in over 300 acres of beauty, nature and wildlife. Fort Clinch State Park also offers nature trails for hiking and biking that wind around a series of freshwater ponds where sunbathing turtles and alligators are often seen. Amelia Island has so many great places that honor her natural beauty that you'll want to visit all of them. Here's a little extra help to make your decision easier.

8. Our Restaurants are Eclectic and International

With more than 90 distinctive restaurants to choose from, it's a safe bet that you won't go hungry while you're visiting. Choose from waterfront hangouts, fine dining restaurants presided over by award-winning chefs, mom & pop burger joints, or the quiet intimacy of a romantic bistro. There's something for every taste and palate. Foodies especially love the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival held every year in May where our beloved crustacean is served just about any way you want it. Amelia Island Resaurant Week is also another favorite with locals and visitors alike. Held each January, Restaurant Week offers a ten-day culinary showcase of savory prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner along with delicious events. 

9. We're Steeped in History

Amelia Island is rich in history. Did you know that we're the only place in American where eight different flags have flown? Crazy, but true. Check them all out here. Go beyond the beach to the hidden history of Amelia Island, yours to discover at five different museums, all open year-round and welcoming to all ages. These museums feature everything from pinball and pirates to our shrimping history and the historic African American journey of vision, struggle, joy and triumph. Step back in time to the year 1864 at Fort Clinch State Park where soldiers reenact life during the Civil War or take a walking tour of the downtown historic district and learn about David Levy Yulee who created the first trans peninsular railroad in Florida. He's also considered the "Father of Fernandina".

10. We're Loaded with Treasure

Amelia Island is loaded with treasures of all kinds. Whether it's shopping in our downtown historic district, at the Shops at Omni Amelia Island or at the Palmetto Walk Shopping Village, the perfect souvenir awaits. Of course, treasure doesn't always come in a store. Some treasures come from canvassing the sandy shores and combing the surf for that perfect shell - or enjoying the thrill of finding a shark's tooth on the beach. Both of those pasttimes are fun year-round and hunting for them often takes on a life of its own. Whatever treasure means to you, we've got you covered.

We're way more than a theme park or crowded beach. We're Amelia Island in beautiful NE Florida!


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Located just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is easy to reach, but hard to forget. With 13 miles of beautiful beaches, abundant native wildlife, and pristine waters, this barrier island has long been a beloved destination for visitors and residents alike.