Shortly before they were featured in the UK's Daily Mail as a family who had "done an extreme Brangelina by adopting eight children from a Sierra Leone orphanage," Mike and Hayley Jones brought the family to Amelia Island for their first family beach vacation. A group of Amelia Island residents, led by local artist Sandra Baker-Hinton, had learned about the family and rallied to welcome “The Jones Dozen” and show them the best the Island has to offer.
Here are a few of of the activities that they enjoyed (and that your family might too.)
Cruise off the Coast of Cumberland Island
Leaving the Fernandina Beach harbor on an Amelia River Cruise, you’ll see shrimp boats, storied historic sites, and even the “Pippi Longstocking” house, but don’t forget to keep an eye out for the dolphins and manatees that gather here. Let the kids count the cannons atop the perfectly preserved Fort Clinch, then chart a course that will take you over the state line into Georgia and the unique gem that is Cumberland Island - a National Park that was the retreat of some of America’s most storied families. Spy wild horses the ruins of the Carnegie’s Dungeness Mansion, and enjoy the salt marshes rich in wildlife. It’s a day on the water you won’t forget, and, thanks to the expert and entertaining historians on board, you’ll all learn something.
Grab a Bite Downtown
Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach is home to numerous family-friendly restaurants, many with outdoor seating. The Jones Dozen enjoyed Tasty’s, Lulu’s at the Thompson House, and the Salty Pelican. Timoti’s Fry Shak even has its own pirate ship playground. After you eat, souvenir shopping down Centre Street makes for a great walk (and also passes by Fernandina's Fantastic Fudge, famous for ice cream and other sweet treats.)
Forest and Fortress
Fort Clinch is set in a spectacular state park where you’ll drive through a canopy of beautiful trees to reach the Fort itself, one of the best-preserved Civil Era forts in the US. Living history re-enactments take place the first weekend of each month. On your way to or from the fort’s entrance, follow the trail that leads from the parking lot to enjoy a shady playground and picnic area.
Tee Up Some Fun
There are three spots where the whole gang can enjoy mini-golf: Island Falls Adventure Golf, Putt-Putt at Main Beach, and at Heron's Cove Adventure Golf at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation.
Bounce Away the Afternoon
An especially good option when it rains, Fernandina Party and Play is packed with inflatables where you can slide and bounce away, plus a video game area and a small arcade. Parents play free - and they regularly offer drop-off opportunities if parents would like to play elsewhere.
Capture the Perfect Family Portrait
Our beaches and marshes are gorgeous backdrops, and Amelia Island is home to many talented photographers such as Kellie Boston, who photographed the Jones Dozen. Great ending to a day on the beach, too.
Get a Good Paddling
Kayak Amelia offers a variety of ecotours for families, plus you can try out the hottest craze on the water, Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs.) The guides are experts in making it a fun trip for a range of ages and abilities- and they end every excursion with what have to be the best chocolate chip cookies on the East Coast.